[SPOILERS for Avengers Age of Ultron below]
This post is the continuation of the discussion I started in my previous post about Natasha Romanoff’s portrayal in Age of Ultron.
Regarding the actual blooming romance with Bruce Banner, I found their discussion at Barton’s house extremely interesting and more egalitarian in terms of gender approach than I had expected. I am aware that this might be my own reading and I wouldn’t be surprised if the script was written with a less feminist angle than how I perceived it. The motif of Avenger as freaks of nature, as monsters, for the different reasons behind how they became to be who or what they are, is a recurring one.
The way we found more about Natasha’s past, both through the flashback/nightmare sequence (which was even more terrifying to me with the female educator involved, which reminded me of how patriarchy can be promoted by women too), and thanks to her conversation with Bruce. It is notable that he is the one bringing up how having a family, having biological children, isn’t possible for him. It isn’t Natasha who brings up this topic. Yet, it prompts her to react in telling him about how the rite of passage in how she was trained was to be sterilized. The female body, and especially reproduction, is often tied to the monstrous, in horror narratives, or related. This is an easy and limiting cliché, but the way Natasha talked about her being a monster as well, like Bruce is, didn’t simply resonate in line of her being barren. The monster label felt like encompassing all her assassin training, and the abuse she had suffered from, which gave her more depth than being simply victimized.
While women must never be reduced to mothers, or even wannabe mothers, the way both Bruce and Natasha address parenthood and how biological parenthood is impossible to them was something that made me think. To me, it must have been even more difficult for Natasha to know that she was robbed from this possibility, when she was getting regular reminders of this. Indeed, she is shown as involved in Barton’s family life, as “auntie Natasha”. Her interaction with the children and how the third one would have been named after her if a girl are testimonies to this involvement. Maybe this was written as a way to reduce Natasha as a potential mother, but I didn’t experience the scene as such. Motherhood doesn’t mean a woman has to stop working or being the individual she is. Dealing with the impossibility of having children when you might want to have one or more at an unknown time in one’s future, is a hardship. Natasha displayed vulnerability through this, because of her history. Her vulnerability wasn’t all centered on Bruce and their (im)possible romantic relationship. The wound runs deeper than this and understanding more about her history comforts her in how strong, not just physically, but mentally and emotionally too, she is.
Natasha’s approach about getting the job done above all else shows even in her reunion with Bruce towards the end of the movie. After she kisses him, she pushes him off of where they are standing, knowing that it will force him to turn into Hulk. She says that as much as she likes Bruce, right now the situation calls for Hulk to help save the day. If all Natasha was about was pining over him, she could have waited to do this and/or agreed to leave to wherever with him. She did differently, proving her commitment as a hero, as an Avenger.
All in all, I agree that Natasha’s role could have been improved (though this isn’t the only part of the movie that could have benefited from such things). Yet, I found her portrayal had some great development, whether as an individual, in her friendships with Barton, Rogers and Fury (1), or her blooming romance with Bruce. It is far from perfect, and I still have problems with the actual writing but the delivery of the scenes, thanks to Scarlett Johansson
Now, I want to see Black Widow merchandising and a well done solo movie. What about you?
(1) When the Avengers spend the evening at Barton’s house with his family and Fury, Natasha is the one who outright mentions that as much as she is glad to see Fury, she would have appreciate more information than what he is able to provide at this moment.