Yesterday afternoon, Moviefone.com (a division of AOL) posted an article by Jessie Heyman initially entitled “Girl’s Guide To The Avengers: What You Need To Know If You Know Nothing.” After the internet community got a hold of the article (including yours truly) and the outrage began to spawn on Twitter and other sites, the title was amended to “One Girl’s Guide…” because, according to the Editor’s note that was inserted, the intent was not to make female superhero fans feel marginalized and the satirical nature of the piece didn’t come through. Female superhero fans feeling marginalized? Satire? Really? Is that what you’re going to go with?
As a poster named sshabein notes in the article’s feedback, “In homage to Comic Book Guy: Worst. Backpedal. Ever.”
The article opens with the assertion that women hate action films and must be dragged, unwillingly, to them by boyfriends. The writer then attempts to cover herself with fandom with the following: “(Of course, that’s not a slight against the girls who actually do read comic books — i.e. real fans, actual people with varied interests — but for this, let’s just go with the stock view of ladies, ladies!).” And Heyman and her editor can’t understand why people are offended? At this point, I don’t think the rest of the article would have mattered much. Heyman’s real meaning is obvious: girls who read comics aren’t real people despite her claim to believe otherwise, because we don’t fit the “stock view of ladies” and unless we have varied (read non-fandom) interests.
The purpose of the article supposedly is to present “a streamlined girl’s guide to ward off any confusion or mid-movie what’s-going-on whisperings” [emphasis original]. Heyman then goes on to detail who the Avengers are, why they’ve come together as a team, makes suggestions on who to crush on, and concludes with what not to say (“Do you think Scarlett Johansson is pretty?”) and what comments are safe (“Joss Whedon is the man.”). Yes, Joss Whedon is the man, but the derogatory and dismissive tone throughout can be summed up by her characterization of the Hulk: “After an experiment oopsie…” If the real purpose was present a concise overview of the Avenger’s universe, I don’t think the word “oopsie” would have been needed.
Ms. Heyman and the Moviefone.com editor are missing a crucial point in the outrage. It isn’t just female superhero fans who are offended. Fans and non-fans alike, both female and male readers, are insulted. A friend replied to my tweet about the article with the following: “Yep, that’s insulting. And I actually DON’T know anything about the Avengers.” People are reacting the way they are because the article is just simply insipid. The contempt for fandom and people with functioning brains is clear. If this is satire, Heyman is woefully missing her mark. Intelligent people get satire. Even if the attempt at satire is genuine, the result was a poor attempt at humor that played on stereotypes which weren’t funny when we first encountered them on the playground in grammar school. Those stereotypes were mean and spiteful then and they’re still mean and spiteful now.
P.S. At the time of writing this, the like button accompanying the article reads: “380 people like this. Be the first of your friends.” I don’t know who those 380 people are, but I’m awfully glad they aren’t my friends. Maybe they got the joke.