Mark Ruffalo on Joss Whedon Backlash: ‘He’s a Deeply Committed Feminist’

The press tour for “Avengers: Age of Ultron” has been quite the conversation-starter about gender politics on and off-screen. Just as fans were recovering from the Chris Evans and Jeremy Renner fiasco, Mark Ruffalo weighed in on all the hubbub during his Reddit AMA.

The ever-affable Ruffalo, who plays Bruce Banner/the Hulk in the series, took to Reddit to discuss water usage, but of course he was asked about the backlash against the film’s director, Joss Whedon. Whedon’s decision to pair Ruffalo’s character with Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow along with other creative decisions he made regarding the super-spy were the subject of much heated social-media discussion. The director deleted his Twitter account on Monday, but told BuzzFeed it wasn’t a reaction to any “Avengers” backlash.

“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,” Whedon said. “I saw a lot of people say, ‘Well, the social justice warriors destroyed one of their own!’ It’s like, Nope. That didn’t happen.”

Instead, Whedon said that the social media site was proving too distracting, and he wants to focus on his work. “Twitter is an addictive little thing, and if it’s there, I gotta check it. 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.”

When asked for his thoughts on the criticism against Whedon, Ruffalo replied: “I think it’s sad. Because I know how Joss feels about women, and I know that he’s made it a point to create strong female characters. I think part of the problem is that people are frustrated that they want to see more women, doing more things, in superhero movies, and because we don’t have as many women as we should yet, they’re very, very sensitive to every single storyline that comes up right now.”

Ruffalo went on to defend Whedon’s interpretation of Black Widow, positing that the backlash is unfounded.

“I think it’s a misplaced anger,” Ruffalo said. “I think that what people might really be upset about is the fact that we need more superhuman women. The guys can do anything, they can have love affairs, they can be weak or strong and nobody raises an eyebrow. But when we do that with a woman, because there are so few storylines for women, we become hyper-critical of every single move that we make because there’s not much else to compare it to.”

Ruffalo ended his reply on a positive note, suggesting that conversations about gender in film are important to have. “The fact that this is a debate that’s coming out of this movie is probably a positive thing,” Ruffalo said.

“I know Joss really well. I know what his values are. And I think it’s sad, because in a lot of ways, there haven’t been as many champions in this universe as Joss is and will continue to be. And I know it hurts him. I know it’s heavy on him,” Ruffalo added, asking fans to keep things civil: “I just don’t think that people should get personal with Joss, because he really is — of anyone — an advocate for women. He’s a deeply committed feminist.”

Whedon controversy or no, “Ultron” is expected to pull in a healthy sum for its second weekend in theaters after bowing with the second-biggest opening ever.

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