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"Avengers: Age of Ultron" has faced criticism regarding both its depiction of Scarlett Johansson's Black Widow and the franchise's general lack of complex female characters. (A recent "Saturday Night Live" hilariously spoofed sexism in superhero movies by re-imagining the action flick as a rom-com.)
So when Mark Ruffalo, one of the film's stars, joined Reddit for an "Ask Me Anything" Wednesday morning, one participant wanted to know his thoughts on flak directed at its writer-director, Joss Whedon.
"I know how Joss feels about women, and I know that he's made it a point to create strong female characters," Ruffalo replied. "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."
The actor, 47, also praised Black Widow's burgeoning relationship with his character, Bruce Banner.
"I think what's beautiful about what Joss did with Black Widow — I don't think he makes her any weaker, he just brings this idea of love to a superhero, and I think that's beautiful. If anything, Black Widow is much stronger than Banner. She protects him. She does her job, and basically they begin to have a relationship as friends, and I think it's a misplaced anger."
Ultimately, 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 is clearly looking out for Black Widow's young female fans; just last week, he called for more character-branded merchandise for his daughters and nieces.