Opinion: Let’s stop asking female actors stupid questions

I wonder how important it was for Robert Downey Jr., Mark Ruffalo, Chris Evans, Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Paul Bettany that their characters in Avengers: Age of Ultron were intelligent as well as being sexy?

I’ll be waiting a long time for the answer, since no one asked them that insulting question at the London press conference for Avengers: Age of Ultron.

Someone did, however, ask Scarlett Johansson. Here’s the question in full:

Your character could have easily just been written off as the sexy one in the team. How important is it for you that she’s actually smart as well as hot?

I guess the journalist who posed the question thought it was ok to ask, because female actors are first about sexiness, and then everything else.

Well, screw that. I don’t often get ranty on my blog, but I think this is a good enough reason to lose my temper.

What kind of a question is asking a woman if it was important for her to play a character that is intelligent as well as sexy? Of course it’s important, in fact, I’d say the intelligence comes first. Because yes, Johansson’s Black Widow is hot, but first and foremost she’s an assassin, a warrior, a world-class interrogator, a team player, and so much more. Sexiness is about 100th on the list.

Not for the male journalist who asked the question though, who clearly couldn’t see past the Black Widow costume to realise that she’s a character who could make him cry with just one look.

Johansson handled herself really well in answering the question. If I’d been her I’d have told the guy to go back to 1815 where he’s clearly from, using a lot of colourful language.

It is not, repeat not, okay to ask female actors whether they expect their characters to have brains as well as looks, especially if you’re not asking male actors the same question. To do so implies that you think women aren’t supposed to be the brains of the operation, and that you don’t hold women in that high a regard.

Maybe the journalist who asked the question had a good reason for asking, and I’d like to hear it if so. In the meantime, this is 2015, let’s stop asking female actors stupid questions.

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