By Andrea Towers
Updated May 23, 2014 at 05:30 PM EDT
She Hulk Eliza Dushku
Credit: Disney XD
  • Movie

If you’ve been following the She-Hulk controversy that’s erupted over the past few days, you know that Man of Steel writer (and DC visionary) David Goyer had some pretty negative things to say about Jennifer Walters’ big, green alter ego in a recent podcast — things like “I think She-Hulk is the chick that you could f–k if you were Hulk, you know what I’m saying?”

Goyer’s comments were not only unfounded (She-Hulk is actually a cousin to Bruce Banner, a young and shy girl who was never intended to be any kind of love interest) — they also insult a character who was, by all accounts, supposed to be seen as a sharp and intelligent woman. Created in 1980 in response to the enormous popularity of The Incredible Hulk, at a time when Marvel was looking to create its own version of the “Bionic Woman,” She-Hulk received her powers by way of an emergency blood transfusion from Banner after being seriously wounded. While her powers are similar to those of her cousin and brought on in the same way (by increased anger), when Walters “hulks out,” she also retains her personality — which allows her to stay in control of her emotions and her mind. In fact, she becomes even more confident and witty. She was a member of pretty much all the big and important superhero teams — the Avengers, the Fantastic Four, the Defenders — and was also a member of S.H.I.E.L.D. And she’s a skilled lawyer to boot.

Yet somehow, all this boils down to Goyer thinking that She-Hulk is nothing more than sexual eye candy. Naturally, the Internet rioted. And naturally, it didn’t take long for She-Hulk co-creator and comic visionary Stan Lee to retaliate. Lee told the Washington Post that She-Hulk was created as an “intelligent Hulk-type,” and also shot down Goyer’s suggestion that She-Hulk was meant to be a love interest, claiming “only a nut would think of that.”

So far, Goyer has kept his silence on this whole ordeal. But his podcast host Craig Mazin, who had just as much of a hand in fueling these comments, has released a sort-of apology on the matter. “I wasn’t saying that I think she’s a slut,” Mazin explained in a statement. “I was saying I think the people who created her were at one time pushing a visual image of Hulk as Slut in order to make money. And I don’t like that. My comment was entirely about the illustration of a fictional character. It was not a reflection of my opinion of the mind or actions of the character.” On the surface, this appears to be a nice mea culpa — but it also seems like Mazin missed the point entirely of why the uproar happened in the first place.

Yes, She-Hulk was sexy (as Lee points out, “show me a superheroine who isn’t”). But there was more to her than just her looks. She was free and confident — and when she eventually accepted her She-Hulk form, she proudly chose to permanently retain it, recognizing how it made her a stronger person not just physically, but emotionally as well.

Female superheroes don’t have to have sex appeal to be, well, appealing. Black Widow spends most of her time in a leather catsuit, but it’s her wit and smarts that we should recognize. Wonder Woman does her work in a skimpy iconic costume, but it’s her passion for justice and peace and equality that’s important. We’re at a point right now when the world is clamoring for superheroine-led movies, where a Muslim-American teenager is headlining her own comic book series, where a World War II super-spy with no powers to speak of is getting a focus in primetime television. So sit down, Goyer (and Mazin). Let’s allow She-Hulk to speak — we could learn a lot from someone who is proud to be herself.

The Hulk

  • Movie
  • PG-13
  • 137 minutes
  • Ang Lee