Mark Ruffalo has come to the defence of his The Avengers director Joss Whedon, insisting the filmmaker is a "deeply committed feminist" amid accusations of sexism.
Whedon came under fire just days after the sequel to the superhero blockbuster hit cinemas on Friday (01May15), as women's rights activists slammed him over the depiction of Scarlett Johansson's character, Black Widow, in Avengers: Age of Ultron.
On Monday (04May15), Whedon deleted his Twitter account, leading some to believe his decision was prompted by the barrage of abuse levelled at him on social media. Whedon has simply explained he quit the microblogging site in order to focus on his creative projects and not be distracted by critics, but it appears Ruffalo, who plays Black Widow's possible love interest The Hulk in The Avengers sequel, isn't buying that - and he's standing up for Whedon.
In a Reddit Ask Me Anything webchat on Wednesday (06May15), a fan asked Ruffalo about the sexism claims, and the actor responded, "I think it's sad because I know how Joss feels about women, and I know that he's made it a point to create strong female characters.
"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. But 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.
"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."
He continued, "I know Joss really well. I know what his values are... and I know it hurts him. I know it's heavy on him. And the guy's one of the sweetest, best guys, and I know him - as far as any man can be a champion for women, he is that. So it's been a little disheartening.
"But I also see how much people love that aspect of it. There's an equal amount of people who find the love interest between Banner and Black Widow to be a big standout.
Ruffalo's comments come days after he called for more products featuring Johansson's superhero alter ego in a tweet that read: "Marvel, we need more Black Widow merchandise for my daughters and nieces. Pretty please."