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Film Review: Avengers: Age of Ultron

So I think that part of the reason I have such a thing for superhero movies is because I can actually tell the characters apart.

I don’t mean to suggest that I’m truly faceblind or to compare my issue with those who actually are. I’ve never had to worry that my family has abandoned me, or any of the terrifying experiences faceblind people must deal with.

But I really do have a hard time telling some individuals apart, with embarrassing consequences in my day-to-day life. I have introduced myself to one particular colleague at work no less than three separate times. And these weren’t introductions in passing; three times I overheard him talking about our mutual alma mater and struck up a conversation, thinking he was a complete stranger each time until he corrected me. Sober. At work. This sort of thing happens with some unfortunate regularity.

I know there’s a stereotype (or possibly a truism) about white people not being able to tell PoC who belong to the same ethnic group apart. But my problem is white dudes. Something about my brain is more likely to properly register an individual if he/she in some way stands out (is a minority and/or female) than if he is a generic-looking white male.

Given our media’s white male standard, my confusion is exasperated watching movies. I routinely have to ask my husband to remind me who a character is, even when he has already been presented to the audience several times. I can’t pick Chris Evans out of a lineup to save my life. I thought the three main protagonists from The Dead Poet’s Society were the same boy for the first forty minutes of the film.

So, superheroes. The uniforms, the colors….it makes it easy. Even when they’re all (mostly) white guys, as in The Avengers.

I absolutely recommend Avengers: Age of Ultron. It’s one of the few sequels I’ve seen that lives up to the original. James Spader is fantastic; Paul Bettany is even better. It doesn’t exactly pass with flying colors on the diversity test, although it certainly opened some doors with Claudia Kim as Dr. Helen Cho and some other surprises I won’t give away.

The one thing that continues to annoy me is The Avenger’s repeated failure with the Bechdel test. It’s such an incredibly low bar, and it leaves me absolutely incredulous that an avowed feminist like Joss Whedon could allow such a repeated failure in his work. Technically, Age of Ultron passes the Bechdel test – for about five seconds, when two women discuss a baby.

In a superhero action movie.

Of course, the Bechdel test is not the ultimate arbiter of feminist characters, and Age of Ultron had some very poignant things to say about gender that I’m looking forward to exploring as a part of Hooded Utilitarian’s upcoming Joss Whedon roundtable.

Until then, go see The Avengers: Age of Ultron, and here’s hoping the next film will pass the Baby Bechdel test or least feature an Avenger of Color.

[UPDATE: It has been pointed out to me that the baby in question was in fact male, and therefore Avengers: Age of Ultron is a FAIL on the Bechdel test. Dammit Whedon.]



    • Haha so I *think* the baby was a girl, but I can’t say why without giving anything away. I could totally be mistaken. Either way, I agree, it should not count as a pass.


  1. Ashley E. says

    So I finally saw the movie this week and agree with you completely on the lack of standalone female characters but I will say that I enjoyed the multiple ways the film engaged with the concept of motherhood (trying to avoid spoilers there).


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