Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Black Widow’s feminist heroism

One of the great delights of Avengers: Age of Ultron is the way the movie pokes at our assumptions about what’s happening when a man and a woman appear close on-screen.

Personally, I never mind it when female protagonists are sexy or even sexual. My problem, in terms of this debate, is rather when women are treated as sexy or sexual and little else. I think Black Widow gets a lot of feminist flack for being curvy, wearing leather, and being overtly sexy. And, while I’ll agree that, particularly in the beginning, she’s often those things, there’s nothing actually wrong with being any or all of those things, so long as they aren’t the only things she’s allowed to be. And, with each passing film–Avengers, Cap 2, Avengers 2–we’re allowed deeper and more interesting peeks into who she is as a character. 

In fact, going into the movie, I was a little bit wary for a few reasons. One, the sexist slut-shaming jokes from Chris Evans & Jeremy Renner interview made me wonder if–even if it was written by Joss Whedon, whom I’ve come to trust to steer clear of that BS–maybe there was some actual Captain America or Hawkeye jealousy written into the film. And, two, I’m a HUGE Science Bros fan and I really didn’t want any relationship that might be between Banner and  Romanoff to replace or overwrite or somehow act like some completely unnecessary homoerotic-cancelling buffer for the bromance between Banner and Stark. 

And, after having seen the film, I gotta say–avoiding any actual spoilers–there wasn’t any of that. In fact, per usual Whedon-ness, the movie handles both those issues beautifully.

And, as for the so-called feminist critique about the “graduation ceremony,” she was a teenager who–through the character’s own words–had her childhood and innocence stolen from her by the KGB. This wasn’t something that she chose. This isn’t a family life vs career issue; this was her choice–her bodily autonomy–literally taken from her as a child by her government. And, yes, I agree with the article here, that loss creates fantastic depth into her character in so many ways. Particularly, because she created her own family–while maintaining a kickass career, by the way–in the face of such a violation. 

All this is exactly why we want more Black Widow merch and would like to see a Black Widow movie. Because, through the talent of her writers and directors and Scarlett Johansson’s portrayal, Natasha Romanoff as a character has more than earned both those things.