Marvel’s Kevin Feige Calls Black Widow Backlash ‘A Little Strange,’ Says Marvel Women Are ‘Smart, Intelligent, Powerful’

Studio president responds to accusations that female characters are sidelined in the Marvel Cinematic Universe

Marvel Studios Kevin Feige

Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige has fired back at those criticizing the Marvel cinematic universe for its portrayal of female characters.

Feige, who has overseen the boom of Marvel movies since 2007, told the press at an event in Los Angeles that “our films have been full of smart, intelligent, powerful women.”

The Straits Times reports that the topic came up while he was promoting “Ant-Man,” in which Evangeline Lilly‘s character, Hope van Dyne, is stopped from performing heroic actions by her protective father Hank Pym (Michael Douglas). The reporter conducting the interview asked why female characters had been sidelined in a majority of the studio’s films.

“They haven’t been the title characters up to this point and that has changed now that we’ve announced ‘Captain Marvel,’ in which the title character will be Carol Danvers,” Feige said.

While Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow is a major part of “The Avengers,” “Captain Marvel” will be the studio’s first solo adventure for a female superhero when the movie hits theaters in 2018.

Moreover, he claims that the decision to make a movie starring a female hero wasn’t a reaction to any outcry from fans and the media, but Marvel has simply always “gone for the powerful woman versus the damsel in distress.”

Black Widow in “Avengers: Age of Ultron” was a topic of debate earlier this year after co-stars Chris Evans and Jeremy Renner joked during an interview that the character was a “slut,” because of allusions to romantic relationships with both Captain American and The Hulk. Fans were also disturbed by a scene in the film in which Black Widow reveals she was forcibly sterilized. In the scene, she called herself a “monster” because of it, and that outraged some.

“In terms of essays written about Black Widow in ‘Ultron,’ I think they’re all valid,” Feige said. “Everybody’s opinions are valid. […] To suggest that female characters can’t have multiple dimensions is also ludicrous. That Black Widow went through a program in which she was forced to have her reproductive organs removed is probably a little upsetting to her. So that people would be upset that she’s upset — that’s a little strange.”

In 2014, Feige was in the hot seat when he said he would support a female-lead superhero film but didn’t make any solid plans to make a film. According to Time, Marvel Studios also faced criticism when Black Widow wasn’t mentioned at last year’s Comic-Con, and when Marvel erased Wasp — a female founding member of the Avengers team — from both the “Avengers” movies and the upcoming “Ant-Man” film.