Oh, Joss Whedon, say it ain’t so! The director of the Marvel-Disney blockbuster Avengers: Age of Ultron has abruptly quit Twitter in seeming response to a torrent of abusive tweets from angry fans, mad about a number of things in the new movie, including a number of folks fuming about the depiction of Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow, one of the few female characters in the film.
Though the film has been wildly successful — it grossed $392.5 million worldwide in its first five days — it’s been overshadowed by anti-Whedon sentiment on social media soon after its release.
Whedon claims he left just to get away from all the noise. “I just thought, Wait a minute, if I’m going to start writing again, I have to go to the quiet place,” he told BuzzFeed in an interview. “And this is the least quiet place I’ve ever been in my life. … It’s like taking the bar exam at Coachella. It’s like, Um, I really need to concentrate on this! Guys! Can you all just … I have to … It’s super important for my law!”
Black Widow outrage
Whedon has received a lot of hateful tweets directed at Whedon since Age of Ultron came out. Many of the tweets show anger about the opinion that Johansson’s Black Widow character was portrayed as a love interest for the Hulk in the movie. Some watchers have felt that the big reveals about her character were also disappointing, a problem exacerbated by the lack of female Marvel movies and lead characters.
Other Twitter users, including Hulk actor Mark Ruffalo, have complained that there isn’t enough merchandise out for her character.
— Mark Ruffalo (@MarkRuffalo) April 29, 2015
In recent interviews, Whedon has also expressed some anger toward Marvel about the editing of Age of Ultron. Many of Black Widow’s few scenes of character development were almost cut, he claims.
Black Widow was also shamed by Jeremy Renner and Chris Evans in a press tour interview for the movie back in April. They referred to the character as a “whore” and “slut.”
While Chris Evans quickly apologized for the remark, Renner didn’t entirely back down.
“If you slept with four of the six Avengers, no matter how much fun you had, you’d be a slut,” Renner joked on Conan. “Just saying. I’d be a slut.”
Related: Avengers: Age of Ultron review
Slut-shaming is a long-standing problem on the Internet, and a particular pet peeve of third-wave feminists who believe that women should be able to express their sexuality in whatever way they choose, as long as it’s of their choosing.
Whedon denies feminists played a role
What used to be Whedon’s Twitter account now leads to this message.
During his Twitter tenure, Whedon was well-known for tweeting pro-feminist sentiments, even slamming the upcoming Jurassic World release as being “70s-era sexist.” He later regretted the tweet, saying it was “bad form” to Variety. The Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel creator has also been a long-standing feminism activist.
He denies that he left because of feminists: “Believe me, I have been attacked by militant feminists since I got on Twitter. That’s something I’m used to. Every breed of feminism is attacking every other breed, and every subsection of liberalism is always busy attacking another subsection of liberalism, because god forbid they should all band together and actually fight for the cause,” he told BuzzFeed.
Twitter user John Galt put together a useful montage of just a fraction of the hateful tweets from various parties.
This is the real reason why @josswhedon left twitter. I don’t blame him. pic.twitter.com/Xfk7n0XvGS
— John Galt (@atlasnodded) May 4, 2015
The parties involved in this yelling match
In spite of the feminist involvement in this hullaballoo, there are also other groups that have likely contributed to Whedon’s Twitter exit. Here’s a rundown of the groups that likely contributed to Whedon’s decision to leave, not by their opinions, but by how angry and loudly they expressed them.
Angry feminists: These are feminists who are upset about Black Widow’s depiction in the film. (The Washington Post disputes this idea.) They believe that Whedon ruined one of the only positive female characters in the movie by having her become little more than a love interest for the Hulk. Spot them by tweets like “@josswhedon can f*** off. Never touch marvel again you sexist a**hole” and “@josswhedon you sexist son of a bitch fight me.”
Internet trolls: Trolls will always be around, and judging from some of the vicious tweets, some people just want to pile on the anti-Whedon sentiment. Always looking to add fire to the fuel, this group is known for tweeting stupid things like “@josswhedon unblock me i wanna fight” and “@josswhedon meet me in the pit u dickhead.”
Overly-excited fans: When all’s said and done, there’s still a group that’s truly upset about Black Widow’s depiction from a purely comic book-fan point of view. These are the Marvel fans who just can’t stand any interpretation of a character that strays from the comic books. These people are behind tweets like “i am gonna do everything in my power to destroy your career the way you destroyed natasha romanoffs character you piece of s***” and “@josswhedon F*** you Joss. You cant just come into the Avengers franchise and start killing off major characters. This isn’t Game of Thrones.”
Whedon’s desire for quiet
Joss Whedon has a love-hate relationship with Twitter. He does have multiple Twitter accounts and seemed to quit in July 2013, though he didn’t take his profile down. His last tweet read: “Thank you to all the people who’ve been so kind and funny and inspiring up in here.” He then shut down his account.
In his interview with BuzzFeed, he says he just wants to leave the extremely noisy world of Twitter: “Twitter is an addictive little thing, and if it’s there, I gotta check it,” he said. “When you keep doing something after it stops giving you pleasure, that’s kind of rock bottom for an addict. … I just had a little moment of clarity where I’m like, You know what? If I want to get stuff done, I need to not constantly hit this thing for a news item or a joke or some praise, and then be suddenly sad when there’s hate and then hate and then hate.”
Updated on 5-06-2015 by Jeffrey Van Camp: Significantly altered the wording of the article, fleshed out the controversy, and added quotes from Whedon himself in an interview with BuzzFeed.