Film and TV

Apologizing On Twitter Is The New Growth Industry

We (okay, I) have been talking a lot about Avengers: Age of Ultron here lately. It had the second biggest box office opening ever last weekend, coming in second only to its predecessor. 

But rather than bask in these financial accomplishments, Joss Whedon — the writer/director of both movies — found himself embroiled in controversy over the perceived "hatchet job" performed on the Avengers' primary female character (Scarlett Johansson's Black Widow, no longer the *sole* female thanks to the addition of Wanda "Scarlet Witch" Maximoff) and a throwaway yet nonetheless off-putting rape joke.

Whedon, in response, deleted his Twitter account (see above screencap). Other celebrities, like Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn and comedian Patton Oswalt, have come to Whedon's defense. All of this, perversely enough, comes on the heels  of gaffes made by various Avengers cast members during the press tour leading up to the movie's release. Whedon's departure is unusual (and he recently clarified his reason for leaving, he's trying to get some writing done), not because it's an understandable response to anonymous internet abuse, but because it so rarely happens.

Consider the aforementioned Avengers examples. The most famous of which was when Jeremy Renner (Hawkeye) and Chris Evans (Captain America) responded to a dumb question about Black Widow's romantic attachments with a dumb response, referring to her character as a "slut" and a "whore." The reaction was predictable, and Renner and Evans both apologized (though Renner has since walked that apology back in unfortunate fashion).

Saying, "I'm sorry" on Twitter for your gaffes has become commonplace. Everything from J.K. Rowling, who just apologized for the killing of a fictional person, to AT&T saying sorry for exploiting 9/11 to sell phones. One can make arguments for or against just about any of these, and also question their sincerity. Or whether or not the atonement in question was merely part of a larger advertising strategy.

Is all of this part of a larger problem? Have we — on both sides of the political spectrum — become so knee-jerk about perceived slights they'll lunge at anything, whatever its intent? I don't have the answer. I do know there have probably been more words written about the lack of development of a comic book character, or the apparent vast feminist video game conspiracy, than Winston Churchill wrote about World War II.

I use Twitter almost exclusively to selfishly retweet my own articles and to drunkenly amuse myself during awards shows and Olympics opening ceremonies, so I am admittedly not getting the quote-unquote most out of the tool. However, I think I have an idea that will save us all some time in the future.

Basically, someone needs to develop an app called "iPology" (for IOS, maybe "GoogleCulpa" for Android). Are you being called out on Twitter for a racial/ethnic/homophobic/misogynistic offense? Simply open iPology, which will search for the tweet in question, integrate it with standard contrition boilerplate, and post it without the user having to put any thought into it. On the flip side, have you come across a tweet that butts up against your accepted worldview? "iAccuse" will reverse this, grabbing the offending tweet and inserting necessary words of outrage.

Soon enough, we'll have all this shit on autopilot and can get back to important stuff, like who wore it best at the Met Gala, and how well Tebow will fit in with the Eagles offense.
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Peter Vonder Haar writes movie reviews for the Houston Press and the occasional book. The first three novels in the "Clarke & Clarke Mysteries" - Lucky Town, Point Blank, and Empty Sky - are out now.
Contact: Pete Vonder Haar