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Fans Who Attack Critics of 'The Avengers' Completely Miss the Point of 'The Avengers'

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by Matt Singer
April 26, 2012 10:31 AM
33 Comments
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"The Avengers."

The Internet is a haven of free speech. You can say pretty much whatever you want -- as long as you don't say something that pisses off comic book geeks. Then they come after you hard, harder than the adamantium in Wolverine's claws.

Their target in this case is Amy Nicholson of Boxoffice Magazine, who dared to do two things: 1) write a mixed-to-negative review of "The Avengers" and b) be a woman who wrote a mixed-to-negative review of "The Avengers." As outlined by Melissa Silverstein at Indiewire's Women and Hollywood blog, her review prompted dozens of angry comments, both on BoxofficeMagazine.com and at Rotten Tomatoes, where it was the first negative review aggregated on the site. Nicholson's ruination of "The Avengers"' short-lived critical consensus prompted an outpouring of angry nerd vitriol. This isn't all that unusual -- the poor sap who posts the first negative review of any hotly anticipated geek property on Rotten Tomatoes inevitably suffers a shower of proverbial rotten tomatoes themselves. What was unusual in this case was the disgustingly misogynistic nature of the attacks. Apparently Nicholson's lack of male genitalia makes her incapable of evaluating a movie based on a comic book. (Sample: "She asked her boyfriend what score she should give. Just stick to rom-coms, bitch.")

When I read this kind of hateful garbage, I feel like Jonah Hill in "21 Jump Street"; the high school nerd who grows up, returns to high school, and discovers that the nerds are suddenly the cool kids (the rest of the time I feel like Jonah Hill in "Moneyball"; the high school nerd who grows up, stays a nerd, doesn't ever talk to women, and spends a lot of time on the computer). The Internet has empowered a crazy role reversal: the bullied have become the bullies.

I've loved comic books since before I could even read; "Spider-Man" was, no joke, one of the very first words I ever spoke (although it sounded more like "Meh-Meh" at the time. What do you want from me? I was 1). I remained a casual observer of comics until eighth grade, when I got heavily into reading and collecting them.  If you'd asked me at the age of 12 why I suddenly started obsessing over comic books, I'd probably have told you that I really enjoyed the stories that were being published at the time, particularly "The Amazing Spider-Man" by David Michelinie and Mark Bagley and "X-Men" by Chris Claremont and Jim Lee. If you asked me now, I would observe an interesting coincidence: that eighth grade was also the year when I received the harshest bullying of my entire life.

The abuse I endured wasn't especially serious, but it was serious enough to understand how bad it hurts to be teased or called a name because of how you look or act.  I was less than five feet tall through most of my freshman and sophomore years of high school. I didn't hit puberty until I was 16. I had big glasses. I wore white sneakers and tapered jeans. I may as well have walked around with a gigantic target on my backpack.

What did I do instead? I found comic books. Apparently I was an extremely prophetic baby, because as I got older, the character of Peter Parker, the 98-pound-weakling who suffers endlessly at the hands of his jockish peers but harbors an incredible secret, began to appeal to me in profound ways. Same for the X-Men and their tales of persecution at the hands of a society that hates and fears their mutancy. I could relate. If only my incredible secret was as a cool as the proportionate strength of the spider. All I had was the ability to sing a surprisingly tender rendition of Bryan Adams' "(Everything I Do) I Do It For You."

That's what upsets me most about angry Internet commenters; these so-called defenders of "The Avengers" have completely missed the point of "The Avengers." The core values of super-hero comics are in direct opposition to bullying.  The bad guys in comics -- Dr. Doom, The Red Skull, Thanos, and, to a much lesser extent, Batroc the Leaper -- those guys are the bullies. The super-heroes are the ones who stand up to the bullies. Many of them -- Peter Parker, Steve Rogers -- were picked on before they were blessed with powers. Others -- The X-Men, The Hulk -- get picked on as a result of their powers. They know what bullying feels like. That's why they fight against it and that's why we love them. But if we start to love them so much that we have to tear down anyone who disagrees with us then it's time to take a good long look in the mirror and consider what we've become. Comic book fans used to be a welcoming, inclusive bunch. Now a lot of them seem like elitist assholes. It makes me ashamed to be a part of this community.

I haven't seen "The Avengers" yet.  When I do, I hope I disagree with Nicholson, but if I don't, I won't lash out at others about it (okay, maybe at my wife, but just a little). Spider-Man teaches us that with great power comes great responsibility. And the ability to write whatever you want on the Internet, anonymously and with little fear of reprisal, is truly a great power. It demands great responsibility. Great empathy couldn't hurt either.

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More: The Avengers, Amy Nicholson

33 Comments

  • Whatever | June 15, 2012 8:53 AMReply

    We really enjoyed the movie and that's all that matters to us.

  • Xavier | April 29, 2012 4:56 AMReply

    Honestly people?! What's the hype.

    The first half of the film is slow, so slow... the dialogues are lame and pathetic. With the exception of Robert Downey Jr., Tom Hiddleston and Mark Rufallo the actors perfrom really statically. Even the usually excelent actress Scarlett Johansson performs underwhelingly. Evans and Hemsworth are not even worth mentioning.
    And then the Technobabble... Ionic compensator here, Flux field modulator there... It was like listening to a random Voyager episode... Someone in the audience said "Boring" and people started to laugh...

    The SFX sequences are great, and as soon as the aircraft carrier is attacked the film finally gains speed and action but until then the 70 minutes feel tiresome and boring. Dialogue seems forced and the whole direction like a TV show rather than a big budget blockbuster movie.

    I enjoyed the effects (ILM once again), but I did not find the character chemistry so many here talk about. Even worse: Some characters just behave like idiots. When Iron Man fights Thor, Loki is waiting... for what? I mean he could get away within those 10 minutes of fight (which feel like an hour or so)...

    The score is lame and exchangable.

    For me it was a huge letdown. Actually I went in there to just enjoy the visuals (especially after the mediocre movies THOR and CAPTAIN AMERICA), but I had to fight through the first hour to get what I wanted...

    What a disappointment. And this review comes from a guy who is about to marry a beautiful blonde girl, and who loves action and comic book movies. Here you go...

  • Krazy Joe | May 7, 2012 10:26 AM

    The fact that you called the superb 'Thor' 'Mediocre speaks volumes. 'Thor' was one of last year's best films.

    You, sir, are a nutjob. The movie was beyond awesome, and not boring for a second.

  • Phil | April 27, 2012 6:57 PMReply

    I'm fairly certain it is her comparison of the Avengers with Transformers 3 that angered the fans most. A negative review is not much of a shocker- all movies get em. A problem arises when you draw half thought out parallels between vastly different franchises. Of course, she's entitled to her opinion. But as a person whose opinion is read and scrutinized by thousands of other people, it is also expected that there will be those who will disagree. It's important critics never lose sight of that and try to give accurate, unbiased, and coherent reviews, lest they be singled out for criticism. Because hey, like another poster said: she can certainly be critical of any film she wants, and fans can certainly be critical of any critic they want.

  • Liam | May 1, 2012 4:57 AM

    Fine but to disagree in such a manner is just shameful really. Maybe she just wasn't the target audience for this film but it was most certainly NOT because she's a woman. Most of those comments are inexcusable.

  • Antz | April 27, 2012 4:59 AMReply

    Amy Nicholson of Boxoffice Magazine if has her say so do people being critical of a critic.

    But honestly, yes one should not go personal which people have gone in the feedback, however she her write up was bad. it made no sense. she gave a 3.5 star and then removed .5 and made it 3. and if 3 out of 5 is like 60% is also not fresh ???

    Morever umm not to mention movies like Green Hornet and Burlesque were given Fresh by her. Birdemic: Shock And Terror i havent heard of this movie , but she gave same 3/5 rating and called it FRESH. You dont have to be Einstein to see something strange is on.

    and as someone mentioned.... you write well no doubt. But this isnt a feminist issue Sam Bathe is the second writer and ya he is a guy he got bashed up as well.

    You start by saying internet is free space all feel they as much as well say anything. from reviews these people wrote it feels exactly the same. they are writing whatever they want. Sam gave Green Lantern movie 4/5 FRESH rating. So people got annoyed with that too, because my 8 yr old cousin even felt the animated GL was more fun.

    so it was not just fans of Avengers who need to be questioned, I also want to question did she write review to stand out from the crowd?

    And to support someone coz most have bashed the person, or to bash something coz all others have supported it........ is worse than openly speaking what you feel

  • Laura | April 27, 2012 12:35 AMReply

    I haven't seen it yet, but I'm pretty excited to watch it. So far Iron Man has been my favorite Marvel Comics movie and I love S.L. Jackson as Nick Fury, he's just too freaking cool! I also have high hopes that Scarlett holds her own in the movie because I think we need more female leads in comics and media based off of them.

    Some people want to ignore the misogyny and abuse that rears it's ugly head far too often in geek culture. Others want the people who don't like to be discriminated against to "just deal with it". Of course, I have dealt with it, the name-calling, the threats, the stalking, the sexual harassment. I've dealt with it all, a lot and I'm just tired. I'm tired of trying to understand why some people think I don't deserve to love the quirky thinks I care about just because I was born with my genitalia inside my body. I'm usually so cheerful and friendly but I notice lately that I've started avoiding other geeks because I just don't want to be bullied anymore. How bizarre is that?!

    I'm a grown woman, I shouldn't have to be called a bitch, or told how fat I am, or threatened violence and rape, because I dared talk about video games or comics or *whatever* online. Same goes for gay geeks or geeks of color and even just regular ol' white guys shouldn't have to be called fat, gay, virgins for saying they like or dislike something. I wish I had a solution but calling out abuse when you see it is the first step. Keep it up!

  • Derek Sorenson | April 27, 2012 1:13 AM

    Calling attention to it does nothing when people are allowed to hide behind their computers. You are delusional to believe otherwise.

  • CAK | April 26, 2012 5:47 PMReply

    I think Matt has a very valid point and I agree with him, but I will say that Amy Nicholson only scored The Avengers 1/2 a point better than she scored The Human Centipede. Really?

  • Mike C | April 26, 2012 5:06 PMReply

    While there's certainly an argument to be made that a lot of Marvel's output has been anti-bullying, it's not like it's been pro-woman. Misogyny from hard-core fans isn't super surprising given the misogyny inherent in the text (haven't seen the movie, referring only to the comics)

  • Crin | April 26, 2012 6:50 PM

    This is basically the perspective left out of this piece. Thanks for posting this.

  • Derek Sorenson | April 26, 2012 4:56 PMReply

    Umm...there is a man who wrote a "rotten" avengers review and is getting the same amount of insults and flaming. So your whole argument of her getting bullied because she is a woman is false. You and Melissa really didn't have much to write about this week, did you?

  • jack | April 28, 2012 2:39 AM

    He's not getting flamed, yes. He's not getting flamed on the basis that his gender somehow figures into his dislike of the movie and makes his criticism less than legitimate. Have you actually read what was written about the woman? A large portion of it is about her being female and how that makes her automatically unable to appreciate the movie.

  • Derek Sorenson | April 27, 2012 1:11 AM

    This is the internet, people insult each other over nothing. Get over it.

  • Laura | April 27, 2012 12:49 AM

    People are discrediting him because of his gender? I've never seen that happen to a man but I don't doubt it could happen. More often I see shaming done to males, calling them bitches (ie: a woman, inferring it is an undesirable thing to be), or gay, or a virgin. However, of those three common insults, none of those things are actually insults towards straight men. Those three most common insults suggest that all people who are not straight, sexually active men are inferior. On the other hand, most insults that are geared towards women are specifically directed at womankind. Threats of rape and violence are common "insults" towards women to emphasize the two basic differences between men and women: strength and genitalia function. Overall, this is more of a social problem than specifically a geek culture problem. Bullying and harassment happen to everybody, not just to women, but ignoring or brushing off misogyny when it is happening can only exacerbate the problem in my experience.

  • Derek Sorenson | April 26, 2012 9:09 PM

    I'd take you more seriously if you weren't trying to plug your website.

  • DadandBuried | April 26, 2012 5:14 PM

    Actually, his "whole argument" is about comic fans and/or nerds being bullies in general, to everyone who disagrees with them ("Comic book fans used to be a welcoming, inclusive bunch. Now a lot of them seem like elitist assholes."), not about women being bullied by nerds.

    The misogyny angle is just the example he cited to get into the larger issue, which is not gender-specific.

    www.dadandburied.com

  • Marlon Wallace | April 26, 2012 4:08 PMReply

    Matt, I think you give Internet comments too much credit. You say, "the ability to write whatever you want on the Internet, anonymously and with little fear of reprisal, is truly a great power." I would take issue with that, and if I may quote one of my favorite superhero movies, Pixar's The Incredibles, when Syndrome says, "If everyone is super, then no one is." If everyone has the power to comment anonymously on the Internet, if everyone has this power, then it's not really a power. I'd also wonder if her website isn't secretly happy her review is negative because regardless of the hate mail, it means more traffic to the site.

  • Pablo Podhorzer | August 18, 2012 9:04 AM

    Remember that at the core of Pixar lies a dark Randian heart that has been noted only by Armond White and is showing its ugly head just now. I like Wedhon (even when he is trying to shove gay themes into his narratives that nothing have to do with anything), but "Avengers" was a fluffy piece of emptiness that took the budget of several potential good movies that will never get made.

  • Guest | April 26, 2012 12:54 PMReply

    Fanboys are hysterical idiots. The best part about the whole thing is that Amy's review wasn't even a pan. It was mixed. For such manly men they sure are sensitive little cry-baby bitches! LOL

  • AMMC | April 26, 2012 5:30 PM

    ...and I'm afraid you've also lost points for "hysterical." :/

  • AJ | April 26, 2012 2:24 PM

    Ironically, likening the "manly men" to "sensitive little cry-baby bitches" is pretty misogynistic in itself. :/

  • la.donna.pietra | April 26, 2012 12:16 PMReply

    "All I had was the ability to sing a surprisingly tender rendition of Bryan Adams' '(Everything I Do) I Do It For You.'"

    Circa 1991, that was up there with flying, laser vision, and fancy gadgetry for a certain subset.

  • M Bartyzel | April 26, 2012 12:09 PMReply

    I wish it was only anonymous jerks, or that this was merely a fanboy becoming the bully problem. (Well not wish for those things, but that the trend was that contained.) Comments like "dumb bitch" are the norm, and can even be some of the "nicer" comments a female writer gets if writing about action, geek fare, etc. What really saddens me is to see how many people write rude, sexist, racist, and other offensive comments with their full names, as if it's a badge of pride.

  • Rohan | April 26, 2012 12:02 PMReply

    As a critic you have to be honest and Ms. Nicholson is being honest as far as I see, and I haven't even seen 'THE AVENGERS' yet. Is the film going to be a fun experience? - Yes, it will be, but it's not like it's going to be original and artistic like 'INCEPTION' and far more compelling and dark like 'The Dark Knight.' - Am I a fan of Christopher Nolan? - Yes, I am. But, again, let's be honest people. Joss Whedon is not Christopher Nolan. So you better expect eye candy action and no substance.

  • Pablo Podhorzer | August 18, 2012 9:07 AM

    Do you mean Nolan the fast-food teen nihilist? Or Nolan the hack that cannot direct a coherent action sequence if his life depended on it?

  • You've been owned | April 26, 2012 6:57 PM

    Kill yourself.

  • Bill | April 26, 2012 5:42 PM

    Either: 1) You haven't seen a lot of Joss Whedon's work, or 2) You just don't care for Joss Whedon - which I can't do anything about that. I'm just sick of the internet portraying Nolan as the second coming of Christ to the film world. It seems like The Dark Knight has become a film for elitists.

  • Mike | April 26, 2012 3:50 PM

    Are you kidding me? Joss Whedon = no substance? Do you even know who Joss Whedon is? Joss would not have been behind two of the most loved shows (Buffy, Firefly), an internet phenomenon (Dr. Horrible's Sing A Long Blog), and one of the greatest and most lauded X-Men comic book runs ever if Joss Whedon = No substance.

  • Dean | April 26, 2012 3:47 PM

    I've never understood this 'Joss Whedon is not Christopher Nolan' -- their directing style is completely different. They cannot be compared. Did Nolan write Toy Story? Serenity? Did he create Buffy or Angel?

    To me, Whedon can connect better with an audience, but Nolan doesn't worry about that, and tells a story that fits his characters, not worrying whether or not the audience can understand.

    Plus, Inception was not 'artistic' -- give me a break.

  • wolfkin | April 26, 2012 11:58 AMReply

    utterly fascinating insight.

  • Lars | April 26, 2012 11:20 AMReply

    It wasn't a very good movie. Well, for a comic book one it was one of the better ones, sure. But overall... Meh.
    By the way, funny how all those nerds talk shit about Transformers (for its too long end action scene), and here it almost is exactly the same thing (just way more boring, because well Whedon can't really shoot well), and it's the coolest thing ever.
    Anyway, good dialogue.
    Silvestri wasted unfortunately (not one single good theme in there), awful digital cinematography (not even in cinemascope, still can't grasp that), unnecessary 3D (wasn't bad, just who the f cares), too long, and yeah. Not that well made of a movie.

  • Don | April 26, 2012 10:46 AMReply

    I really wish you were right about what lessons comics teach us, but sadly I think a lot of these folks ARE learning the lessons that comics refuse to STOP teaching us: that women are there for our entertainment and best when they listen to men. Google "Starfire" and "reboot" for one of the most recent horrible bits, but it's nothing new. It's been 13 years since Gail Simone talked about "women in refrigerators" and if anything it's gotten worse.

    The world has gotten better about this, but the big two refuse to follow along. They're paying the price in sales as we long-time fans get older and attrition takes away folks faster than they can attract replacements. But it's little consolation to those of us who see "cape rape" and irrational-women-as-complication continuing to fill the pages.

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