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WARNING: This post contains spoilers for The Avengers!
Joss Whedon’s predilection for killing beloved characters is as obvious as it is heart-breaking and infuriating. There was Joyce Summers, Tara Maclay, Anya Jenkins and many others on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Wash and Shepherd Book in Serenity, Winifred Burkle on Angel, Rupert Giles in the Buffy comics. The list goes on.
And while fans fully expected the writer/director to off someone in Marvel’s The Avengers — Black Widow was an early odds-on favorite — once it turned out to be fan-favorite Agent Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg), the reaction was relatively muted. The S.H.I.E.L.D. operative is as much the connective tissue of the Marvel Cinematic Universe as Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury, so you’d think there would be more online outcry about his demise. Maybe audiences expect Coulson’s timely resurrection, a la Buffy, Spike or Angel (I’ve seen suggestions he’ll return as the big-screen version of The Vision). Or maybe they were just relieved Scarlett Johansson’s super-spy lives to fight another day.
Although that may be a mystery, Whedon’s reasons for killing Agent Coulson is not. At a press junket for The Avengers, the director came clean, telling io9.com it was … someone else’s idea.
“In our first meeting [Marvel Studios President] Kevin Feige said, this is what we’re gonna do and I said, ‘Oh, but you have to go out there and tell everybody that it was your idea because this is going to get me so much shit. Because they are all going to be like, “Oh, he did it again!”‘ Whedon said. “It was stipulated from the beginning, and I completely agree that it was the right thing to do, and so did Clark, who said in the early days, when I was busy apologizing for it, ‘In a movie like this, with what’s going on if there isn’t some toll, it’s just irresponsible story telling.'”
So there. If you are upset about Agent Coulson, blame Kevin Feige. Or Clark Gregg. Or responsible storytelling. Just not Joss Whedon — this time.