• Fri, Apr 11 - 10:33 am ET

There Are ‘No Girls Allowed’ In This Avenger’s Toy Set Because Black Widow Is A Dumb Girl

Sometimes I get a reader E-mail that gets me so excited because not only do I love you readers, I also love how you guys look at the world and think about things and bring things to our attention. This one comes courtesy of our amazing reader Rachel Sea, who you are all familiar with from her hilarious and amazingly smart insights in our very own Mommyish community. Rach sent me an Email late yesterday and here is what she had to say:

That Lego article this morning got me thinking about something that pissed me off last night.

I saw Captain America: Winter Soldier last night, and while the movie was awesome, it made me really angry about another Disney product. I had been shopping for Avenger’s stuff for a friend’s kid’s birthday, and came across this: 6372046021403

Initially I didn’t ascribe anything to it, but notably absent from that set is Black Widow, the only female Avenger. In Winter Soldier, the only character with more screen time than her was Captain America himself, which makes her a much more significant character in the franchise than either Hulk or Hawkeye. If there is one thing that Disney does more and better than anyone else, it’s product tie-ins. There is no way the developers responsible for this set didn’t know that Black Widow was important in the movies.

Sexism when it comes to comics is nothing new, but Disney/Marvel has been doing a pretty good job of breaking that tradition, with Joss Whedon, champion of strong female roles, having set the tone in the first Avengers movie. Apparently there is no such champion of diversity when it comes to toy design.

Goodness knows, it’s not unusual to create a character, or a line of toys with gendered appeal, but to cut a major character, seemingly just because she’s female, is an insult to the girls they are pushing away, and the boys for whom they think female hero is unnecessary.

If a bunch of superheroes charged with repeatedly saving the world agree that Black Widow is an invaluable asset (she’s so smart she tricks Loki, the trickster god – who wouldn’t want her on their side?), who is Disney to disagree?

-Rach

I have not seen the movie yet but I’m with Rachel here, and I’ll be doing what I normally do on a Friday, trolling the Disney corporation using the hashtag #Wheresblackwidow?

According to IGN, there is talk of a Black Widow movie in the works, but is that what happens before we get to see her in playsets along  with the boys? Doing a quick web-search, I was only able to find one Avengers set where she was included, and I agree with Rachel, there’s no reason for a major Avenger to be missing when our kids deserve a chance to engage in imaginary play with a strong female character who is just as tough as the boys.

Thank you Rachel for the head’s up on this one.

(Image: Disney Store)

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  • http://nessyhart.wordpress.com/ pixie

    Sad. I haven’t seen the new Captain America movie yet, either, but I enjoyed her in The Avengers.

    On a similar note, related to yesterday’s Lego article with mention of the Bechdel test, my friend posted on Facebook a link to an article offering an alternative called the “Mako Mori Test” (named after a character from “Pacific Rim”) where the criteria are: 1) There is at least one female character, 2) with her own narrative arc, and 3) that is not about supporting a man’s story.
    If y’all are interested, here’s the link: http://www.dailydot.com/fandom/mako-mori-test-bechdel-pacific-rim/

    • Katherine Handcock

      Widow and Agent Hill are both critical to Winter Soldier, and since my daughter is getting into superheroes, I seriously want some toys to give her for these two awesome characters!

      And totally see Winter Soldier. It is my new favorite of the Marvel movies, and considering how much I enjoyed Avengers, that’s saying a lot.

    • http://nessyhart.wordpress.com/ pixie

      That’s awesome! And I really, really want to see it, but there’s no theatres near me. (Well, there’s one, but it only plays independent and foreign films)
      My 11 year old cousin, who’s normally a total girly-girl, was planning on dressing up as Black Widow for halloween last year. I don’t know if she did or not, but I was so proud of her.

    • http://fakegeekmom.com Aimee Ogden

      ME TOO. I wrote the other day about how nice it is to have a superhero film that a.) has a fairly diverse range of hero characters: a white man, two black men, three white women; and b.) is freed up from having to be another origin story and can dive right into being a pretty sweet thriller! Also I love Anthony Mackie. LOVE HIM.

    • Kay_Sue

      It’s the best so far. The absolute best. I’ve seen it twice and I will probably drag my husband to see it again this weekend because I have nothing better to do. And not a snarky “nothing better to do”, a legitimate “there is nothing better to do than see this movie again because it’s so friggin’ awesome”.

    • Katherine Handcock

      I would TOTALLY go to see it again, except I need to save our entertainment budget for the National Theatre production of King Lear they’re broadcasting at the end of May. Although I do have enough reward points for one free ticket…hmmm. Sean could watch the kids for a night, right? ;-)

    • Kay_Sue

      He can!

    • the_ether

      Out of the WHOLE organisation, Hill is the ONLY one Fury trusts! You don’t get more integral than that.

    • K.

      I LOVE the Bechdel test.

      I love so, so many movies that do not pass it, but I still love the test.

    • http://nessyhart.wordpress.com/ pixie

      I do like the Bechdel test, too, but I also like this alternative as well, because it give the criteria for a female character with her own narrative arc.
      I think the main argument is that if a movie passes either test, that movie is not necessarily a “feminist movie”, and it’s not fair to base a movie’s enjoyability/overall message if it fails either test. (It would be nice if more movies passed either/both tests, though!)

    • http://fakegeekmom.com Aimee Ogden

      I also like the new metric I read about recently on Comics Alliance for “team” movies/comics, which is the Harvey/Renee index: http://comicsalliance.com/superhero-diversity-index-harvey-renee-teams-marvel-dc-gender-race-diversity/

    • http://nessyhart.wordpress.com/ pixie

      That’s really cool.

  • femalenerd

    The Black Widow is not the only female Avenger…in the movies yes, but in the comics there were many women who were and are Avengers. In fact, the first female Avenger was The Wasp (Janet Pym). However, the Black Widow was the leader of the Avengers at one point. Yes my nerd is showing.

    • Katherine Handcock

      Am I remembering correctly that they were casting for Wasp for the upcoming Ant Man movie? I’d love to see her in film form too!

    • http://fakegeekmom.com Aimee Ogden

      They’re casting Janet Van Dyne at least (Rashida Jones and Evangeline Lilly have both been rumored so far) but it’s not clear yet whether she’ll be the Wasp, or just Janet!

    • K.

      REALLY wanted you to end that with ” ***Good DAY, Sir*** ” :)

    • Rachel Sea

      Yeah, I’m hoping at least one of the other female Avengers gets brought in in the next movie. Joss Whedon has a good track record of gender balance, but so far the Avengers are a bit of a sausage factory.

    • the_ether

      Must be the season of the (Scarlet) Witch

  • Robotic Socks

    Rachel I totes agree. I mean, who wouldn’t want an anatomically correct toy of Scarlett Johansson?

    • LadyClodia

      Like this one? (Too bad it’s a couple of hundred dollars.)

    • Robotic Socks

      *checking bank account statement

  • Angelica

    Yes! After the first Avengers came out, my daughter wanted a Black Widow birthday party. It was nearly impossible to find anything Black Widow related! After scouring the internet, I was finally able to find a small action figure I bought to use a cake topper. I guess a girl who kicks ass is intimidating to the dudes who run the toy companies.

  • Alex Lee

    Can’t wait to step on Black Widow in the middle of the night on my way to the kitchen. #widowstung

  • darras

    What’s even sadder is that there were at least another three female Avengers from the comics that they could have put in the films instead of just having a ‘token’ Black Widow. Abyss, Wasp and the newest Smasher were all pretty kickass..

  • http://fakegeekmom.com Aimee Ogden

    ARGGHH. I have an adult ladies’ Marvel t-shirt that also only has Thor, Iron Man, Cap, and Hulk; and we got given a book of “5-minut Marvel stories” for the twins, without a single story featuring a female protagonist (even though Black Widow is one of the heroes on the cover). Marvel, get it together and make toys of your lady heroes too. I want both my son and daughter to have awesome lady character toys to play with!

    P.S. If you like comics or have a nerd-girl-kid in your life consider getting you or her some of the pretty excellent female-led or -created comics out right now. Kelly Sue Deconnick’s Captain Marvel recently relaunched with a new #1 issue; She-Hulk is on #3 (and actually revolves moreso around her lawyering than superheroing, which is fun); I haven’t picked up the new Black Widow ongoing yet but Phil Noto’s art is always amazing. And then for the grown-up crowd there’s Saga with art by the immensely talented Fiona Staples, with a mom-and-dad-and-baby-daughter crew as protagonists and a lot of other pretty cool female characters filling in large parts of the supporting cast.

    HAHAHA my P.S. is longer than my original paragraph. I JUST HAVE A LOT OF FEELINGS ABOUT COMICS OKAY.

    • Katherine Handcock

      Also keep your eyes open for the new Justice League United story arc set in Canada, which introduces a teenaged Cree superheroine named Equinox. Jeff Lemire, who wrote the arc and created the character, was inspired by Shannen Koostachin, a Canadian Cree teen who was an education activist. It sounds like he’s created a pretty fascinating character, and the First Nations teens he spoke to in the process of creating the character are apparently pretty excited by what he’s shown them:

      http://www.cbc.ca/news/arts/equinox-new-cree-teen-superhero-joins-dc-comics-lineup-1.2588623

  • LadyClodia

    My 5 year old son really likes Black Widow, but yeah we don’t have anything with her on it. We don’t even have her Lego minifigure because she had only been in one set that I couldn’t find (we don’t have Captain America either, though.)
    I am looking forward to seeing what Joss Whedon does with the Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch in the next Avengers movie.

    • Rachel Sea

      I’m really curious how they’re going to deal with the Scarlet Witch. I get the impression they’re going to start her as a villain, but mainstream film doesn’t like to have men fighting women, so either they are going to break with that rule, it’s going to be Black Widow’s fight, or they’re going to have to bring in more female Avengers.

    • LadyClodia

      Yeah that’s true. Although Joss doesn’t usually shy away from having men fight women, so we’ll have to see what he can get away with.
      I’m also curious as to what the explanation for her and Quicksilver’s powers is going to be since they’re not allowed to say that they’re mutants.

    • Kay_Sue

      If they didn’t start her as a villain, I’d be kind of peeved. It’s part of her character development. It will be neat to see how they handle it on the big screen though. I’m excited. :)

    • Rachel Sea

      She starts as a villain with the X-Men though, and that whole franchise is off limits. If her introduction is in the middle of her comic book arc, it could go either way.

    • Kay_Sue

      I doubt they’d drop her in the middle of the arc–that would be the first time they’ve done it to date in this franchise, and I think they realize they’d miss a lot of what developed her in the first place. Her experiences on the other side helped shape how she sees and perceives things as an Avenger. She’d lose part of that, which would already be difficult to translate to the screen, if they simply lopped it off or alluded to it. They can do that with Natasha, because of the mystery surrounding her and the idea that she constantly recreates herself. Scarlet Witch doesn’t necessarily do that–she’s pretty consistently herself aside from the occasional breaks with reality, so I don’t feel like lopping off that part of the story would do the story any justice. They’ve played with the timeline for a couple of scenarios to make it work. I’m really and truly excited to see what direction they take it. I think it’s my favorite cliffhanger so far! ;)

    • Rachel Sea

      It’s what they’ve done with Hawkeye, and Hulk. Neither of them have fleshed-out origin stories (yet…I’m really loving Mark Ruffalo’s Hulk, and I’m hoping they give him a movie).

      I don’t remember The Collector as being a major character (all my childhood comic books came from second hand stores when I could find them, so there are lots of holes in my knowledge of the stories) but I’m assuming that if he has them then Interesting Things are being implied to have happened already.

    • Kay_Sue

      I can’t remember what Hulk’s origin was in the Edward Norton version, but I thought that it touched on it. It’s actually the “prequel” for Hulk to the Avengers, even though they recast Norton (I love Ruffalo too though).

      Hawkeye’s story has completely changed to make it more relevant to the 21st century, so I don’t consider his necessarily the same either.

      It’s going to require a shift in the timeline, but that’s not something they haven’t dealt with before to bring things into a more modern era. I’m still of the opinion that you lose something of Scarlet (and Pietro’s, for that matter) development if you skim the surface of their history. One movie to really delve into that would work out well and bring them inline for the last planned Avengers film. Although they could always do an “origin” film to cover the same territory, but I haven’t heard for one for the twins. I really wish they would, as they’re among my favorite characters.

    • LadyClodia

      The thing I’m confused about with Wanda’s and Pietro’s appearance in the MCU at all, though, is what of their histories are they going to be able to keep intact? Their father being Magneto is a pretty big part of their history as well as them being mutants, and it also doesn’t seem likely that they’d introduce the High Evolutionary to explain their origins because that’s probably even more confusing. At the moment it seems like they’re going to be Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver only because they’ll have the same powers.

    • Kay_Sue

      I agree. It’s going to be tricky to navigate. My solid belief is that they’ll keep a similar story arc–they’ll take them through their time as villains before progressing into “redemption” and joining up–without touching on very many specifics from their established. That is pure speculation. That could also go the way of mucking it all up and giving them a different back story altogether, which would be a travesty. They may just choose not to go into parentage at all to avoid crossover between the franchises. They definitely won’t do the High Evolutionary, because there won’t be enough time to do that with convoluting the story too much.

      My honest to god fangirl wet dream though is that the final Avengers movie will have a mind-blowing ensemble that will pull in X-men, Avengers, and Guardians of the Galaxy, and I will die in a post-orgasmic puddle in whatever seat I am in after the movie. I know it won’t happen (I don’t think even Disney has the kind of budget required to have that many A list actors in one movie), but sometimes, when I am feeling lonely, I daydream it. ;)

    • darras

      I love a good bit of comic book nerdery. Ladies, I salute you!

    • Katherine Handcock

      Think about how much money the Avengers made…and X-Men. If the Guardians movie does well, I can totally picture Disney doing the math and doing it.

      And yes, it will be awesome and I will be there opening night.

    • Kay_Sue

      You! Quit getting my hopes up! They are nearly dangerously high as is! :-P

      I would be there with bells on. ;)

    • LadyClodia

      Well and the way the MCU has been handling the idea of other people with super powers has been a bit spotty. Especially on “Agents of SHIELD.” In one episode they’ll say there aren’t any people with powers, but then they’ll show someone with powers and never explain why, or they have a code for something unexplained that could be anything including someone with powers apparently. “Agents” has been influenced by the recent films, but I wonder if they aren’t planning to set up something with Skye in the show about humans having super powers and have a similar justification for super powers the following films. It definitely seems like they’ve been hinting at something like that, but there’s nothing definite. It would be risky to plan for something like that, though, since the show hasn’t been picked up for another season yet.

      And yes, that would be totally awesome if there was a huge Marvel movie including everyone!

    • Kay_Sue

      I haven’t been able to get into the show, so I can’t speak to it. I want to, but it’s like the timing has never been quite right and now they are so far into it that I don’t even want to try to sort it all out. Maybe Netflix will pick it up. *crosses fingers tightly*

      Obviously they have to address the idea of superpowers somewhere in the mythology though, because there is no other explanation for the Twins without really deviating from their storyline. It would be the first time they had done that on this side of the franchise though. That had actually never occurred to me until reading your post.

    • LadyClodia

      We’ve been watching Agents from the beginning, and it was rough for quite awhile. I wasn’t sure if I was going to stick with it or not. The last few episodes have been pretty good, but the most recent episode was super spoilery for The Winter Soldier which we haven’t had the chance to see yet. It wasn’t really anything I hadn’t already seen online even though I was trying to avoid spoilers, but my husband had no idea so it did somewhat spoil it for him.
      It would probably be best to shotgun watch the season anyway because a lot of the problem was that it aired sporadically making it seem disjointed.

  • Kay_Sue

    For what it’s worth, Marvel doesn’t control their toys (neither does Disney). They don’t decide what’s made. They actually license the characters to the toymakers. Hasbro is a relatively big one, or was when I was in the toy business.

    I do hope the surge in popularity means that we’ll see more female characters available. I’d also looooooooove to see the superhero sections no longer segregated for “boys” in toys stores (both retailers that I worked for did that). I will say that we own a couple of Black Widow figures and my son has several shirts that feature Black Widow along with the rest.

    I will also say, judging by the Hawkeye that movie Widow has little to do with this set. This is a set based off of the comics, and actually could conceivably be from before Widow ever joined the team. Hawkeye was recruited for the Avengers in the second wave, sometime in the 1960s (well, not so much recruited–he kind of broke into their mansion…) and Widow did not join until the 70s. Hulk, Thor and Iron Man were the founders and predated both Hawkeye and Widow. So don’t hate it too much guys. They could have actually been accurate according to the timeline. If anything, it’s really Ant-Man, Wasp, Quick Silver, Scarlet Witch, Swordsman, Hercules, Black Panther, Vision, and Black Knight that should have an issue here, as there’s no timeline that can explain away their absence. ;)

    • Rachel Sea

      But this set was made for Disney, sold exclusively from Disney stores. If it were being sold at comic book shops or regular toy stores then I’d agree with you, but the target audience of this toy is Disney’s Avengers fans.

    • Kay_Sue

      Then why not use the Hawkeye costume from the comics? If you’re primarily a fan of movies, you’re not going to see that guy and think Hawkeye. He looks nothing like movie Hawkeye. And the Avengers Assemble cartoon currently running also runs a different Hawkeye costume, so it’s not even appealing to fans of that cartoon.

      This set may be exclusively sold at Disney stores now, but it was not originally. In fact, we carried this same set at my Toys R Us in 2010. That’s a full two years before the Avengers movie was released, although it is after Disney acquired Marvel.

    • Robotic Socks

      Kay you should market your own Black Widow toy modeled after your Halloween costume!

    • SarahJesness

      I also want to point out that retailers influence toy design, and characters, quite a bit, A store might refuse to sell an action figure set if there is a female character. Apparently the first Princess Celestia (from my Little Pony) toys were pink (instead of white like in the show) because the toy stores insisted on it.

    • Kay_Sue

      Really? I didn’t know that, actually. It’s kind of sad that they can actually change the design of a toy like that. It’s going to sell regardless if it’s a popular character.

    • SarahJesness

      If it makes you feel better, later versions of Celestia were white because fans of the show wanted it, (though the release of toys based on a new character, a PINK flying unicorn, probably helped) and really, more and more of the toys became focused on characters from the show itself. The show was created with the purpose of selling toys, but when it got popular (with its intended audience in addition to the older one) there was more focus on making the toys like the stuff in the show, whereas things were much looser before. It’s no surprise; when a show that isn’t merchandise-driven gets popular, a lot of merchandise is still going to sell.

      And even toys of the villains were released in toy stores! That doesn’t sound like much, but a lot of toy lines based on girl shows won’t see any villain figures out of the belief that girls don’t do conflict play. Queen Chrysalis and Nightmare Moon have each gotten different toys that weren’t just aimed at the older collectors. Trixie, who played both antagonist and villain, got a regular toy and a plush. Sunset Shimmer, villain from the *ugh* Equestria Girls line got a pony toy and a human doll. A number of villain/antagonistic characters got toys in the minifigure sets as well. (the minifigures have gotten VERY show-oriented, and I’m not complaining)

  • MMW

    We have the same issue with the Justice League stuff – no Wonder Woman. She’s a founding member, but you can’t get her except in one two-pack with Super Man. No shirts (unless it’s a girlified version with supergirl and batgirl), no décor for the room, nada. I’m not super surprised it’s the same with Black Widow and the Avengers.

    • Katherine Handcock

      Not all of these will suit, but the website I work for, A Mighty Girl, has a Wonder Woman character collection that you might want to check out – some great options just featuring her, although many of them are for adults. On the other hand, Funko’s Wonder Woman plushie may have to end up on my daughter’s Christmas…she’s just started watching Justice League cartoons (she’s 3) and for a few weeks, as far as she was concerned it was called “Wonder Woman and th guys.”

      http://www.amightygirl.com/character-collection/superhero-characters/wonder-woman

    • Vikky

      The new JL TV show has 7 members, which include 2 women and an African-American man.
      The toys? 5 white guys.

      I would also like to point out (to the zero toymakers that are reading this thread): Harry Potter had THREE lead characters, not just boy-in-glasses and redheaded-boy.

      This has to be a conspiracy at this point.

  • footnotegirl

    They definitely need to step it up on the things with female superheroes. If you went into the toy store or tried to buy t-shirts at either Old Navy, Disney, or the Marvel Store you might be forgiven for thinking there was no such thing as a female superhero. Also, what few items you can get with female heroes frequently is not in their official colors. I can get Batgirl and Supergirl merch, but it’ll all be in pink. Target put a whole line of Wonder Woman merch out…. in pink and purple.
    But this is all by design. Media companies do not WANT women to get interested in superheroes
    http://www.escapistmagazine.com/news/view/130556-Paul-Dini-Superhero-Cartoon-Execs-Dont-Want-Female-Viewers

    There are so many awesome female superheroes that deserve their own merch/shows/movies. Wonder Woman is the most obvious, but Captain Marvel, The Runaways (some male members, but mostly female), Black Widow, the new Ms. Marvel (Kamala Khan), and Batwoman all deserve more screen time than they get.

  • SarahJesness

    Sucks, but this kind of thing isn’t uncommon. In toy lines based off action series, female characters usually get shoved to the side, if not left out entirely, no matter how much of a role they play. Avatar: The Last Airbender had a number of prominent female characters. Katara, action girl and love interest, is there for all three seasons. Cute blind tomboy and fellow action girl Toph joins in halfway through season two. Suki appears in a few episodes the first few seasons, then officially joins the team halfway through season one. Azula, the second most threatening villain in the show, first appears at the very end of season one and then soon picks up her also-threatening friends, Mai and Ty Lee. None of these characters got action figures. Zhao, a main villain for season one only, got one. Roku, a past life of Aang’s who only made a few short appearances, got one. The Blue Spirit, an alter ego of Zuko who only appears a couple times, got one. Jet, a minor character who only appeared in a couple episodes and had almost no impact on the overall story, got one. FUCKING JET GETS AN ACTION FIGURE AND KATARA DOESN’T?!

    But, yeah. It’s based around the idea that only boys buy action figures, and they won’t buy any representing female characters. It sucks, not just for girls but also, what does it teach boys?

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  • Annon

    Totally agree with this. Black Widow is by far my favorite Avenger (and may be my favorite Marvel superhero, tied with Magneto and Punisher). I was shocked when I tried buying action figures in stores only to see pretty much everyone BUT her offered. Luckily, BW action figures do exist but you have to buy them online :/