As I mentioned yesterday, one of the things I disliked about Avengers: Age of Ultron, was the plot element that Natasha’s Soviet masters sterilized her before sending her into the field. This is presented as one of the multiple obstacles to a ‘tasha/Bruce Banner romance, as she feels it denies her the normal life she sort of wants.
This post on NPR captures what bothered me: it’s not that the idea is a bad one itself, but with so few women on screen, making a major female superhero’s character element center on her woman-parts feels stereotypical. The writer, Linda Holmes, then points out that if the Widow had been given any of the other character arcs, it would still have raised gender issues. The Hulk is subject to out of control emotions; Tony causes trouble by not listening to wiser advice; Cap prissily worries about language. Holmes conclusion is that the only way past it is when we have enough women that the characters don’t have to stand for All Womanhood (I’ve touched on this topic myself).
For a much less satisfying analysis, we have Sonny Bunch in the Washington Post, (not a direct link) tackling the fact (which many people have pointed out) that even as they’re fighting Ultron, the Avengers place a high priority on protecting and rescuing civilians. In contrast, Man of Steel has Superman demolishing half of Metropolis without apparently giving any thought to endangered civilians. There’s a lot of Internet speculation A2 was at some level intended as a This Is How To Do Superheroes to the earlier film.
Bunch’s take is that when the heroes started rescuing civilians instead of smashing the robots, he became very impatient (“[expletive deleted] the civilians!”) because the mission had to come first. And that people who prefer A2 “prefer soothing falsehoods to harsh truths” because Man of Steel “more closely reflects the way war is fought today”—it’s gritty and realistic and accepts that yeah, you can’t fight a war without killing innocent people (Bunch, unsurprisingly, writes for a number of conservative outlets). And besides, everyone had already left Metropolis when the fight started, so nobody was at risk! (Bunch pulls this out of his butt, declaring that “obviously” nobody would stick around. But if we’re going with gritty realism, there’s no way millions of people can clear a big American city fast. Or even a small community. I’ve had experience on that).
The obvious flaw in this is that )super-hero films aren’t war movies. Man of Steel isn’t a metaphor for modern war, it’s a super-hero story. A Superman story. And Superman does put a premium on saving innocent lives, as one of the Kryptonians taunts him during the movie. Because he’s about more than getting the mission done and taking out the bad guys. He’s just better than that, at least if he’s done right. And MoS director Zach Snyder is clear,, that the scream at the end is “Superman realizes he doesn’t want to kill,” not, as Bunch claims, “Superman realizes sometimes you gotta kill people.”
Plus, moving to the real world again, the “civilian casualties are inevitable” mantra has blurred suspiciously into “There’s no point in caring about civilian casualties, no point trying to prevent them” and I disagree on both counts (should we write off a 68 year old woman hit with a drone strike as just inevitable?) So all things considered, I’ll side with the team that actually cares about the bystanders.