Natasha Romanoff, Monsters and Agency – Part Two

[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.

Source: MCU Wiki.
Source: MCU Wiki.

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.

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  1. That scene still pisses me off. I do think it’s mainly a dialogue problem — her being a “monster” refers to many things other than not being able to have kids — but they still had to bring it up as such a huge deal. She could’ve referenced it without making it the whole point.

    To be fair, this is an especially sensitive issue for me because I’m utterly opposed to the idea of having kids myself, but NO ONE just lets that be my opinion. It’s always “You’ll change your mind when you’re older and everyone else is doing it and your biological clock starts ticking.” There’s no room for me to want anything else. And it’s infuriating for me to see Black Widow, arguably the strongest most-awesome female character on my TV, one who up to this point was totally in control of herself and her relationships etc., to be broken up about how she can’t have kids. She was the one character who was defined by herself instead of her relationships. I was just kind of stunned when the scene happens, but the more time passes, the more I just hate it.

    On the plus side, the romance itself was fine. She was not pining at all and the arc made sense from step to step.

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    1. I think that a woman’s choice to have children, or not have should be her own. At the same time, I find it horrifying that somebody else may take the choice away from someone, like Natasha being sterilized like the other assassins. Of course, she could adopt but she was still stolen from an important part of herself, regardless whether she wanted to have children or not. Even if she never wanted to have kids, or even biological ones, it is horrible that she wasn’t given a choice. The scene was heartbreaking to me because this kind of topic is extremely difficult for me. I guess that we all bring our own history to what we read or see.

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  2. I hear you about the Black Widow merchandise! My eight year old daughter loves Avengers and can’t understand why she can’t get anything. Recently she was Black Widow in a dance performance and we had to cobble an outfit together as there’s just nothing out there. Come on Marvel, get your act together!
    PS Haven’t seen Age of Ultron yet but looking forward to it 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The lack of merchandising is beyond annoying! That’s wonderful how your daughter was Black Widow in a dance performance! I know that Her Universe has several Marvel clothing items, including in the Children line, but I don’t know whether they have anything Black Widow yet for kids. (heruniverse.com) I hope you enjoy Age of Ultron!

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      1. Thanks Natacha – it was pretty cool, we even sprayed her hair red (which really suited her). I did find an incredibly expensive costume online, but as we already had the black bodysuit all I needed was the utility belt and bracelets, so we ended up substituting. I will check out Her Universe though, thanks for the link! Yes, hanging out for Age of Ultron, will have to see it soon. A friend of mine worked on the set but she’s not giving too many secrets away 🙂

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  3. Maybe it’s just me but I have a hard time seeing Natasha reduced to a wanna be mother or a women lamenting the fact she can’t have kids. She’s just so complex and we always seems to learn something new about her with each movie she’s in.

    Hubby and I were discussing a Black Widow movie and he’s not sure he can see it being done after Winter Solider. He said he sees her movie as the same kind of movie WS was, so now it feels redundant. If they do one, we will go see it still.

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    1. I don’t see how she can be reduced to this either. To me, the revelation about her past and that she can’t have children was one scene in the overall movie, in all the scenes she has had since she appeared in the movies. It was a poignant aspect of her, but not the only one and certainly not her only facet. I find it interesting how she wasn’t even the one to start the discussion on this topic.
      I hope they make a Black Widow movie. but I am unsure of how it would be so similar to Winter Soldier.

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  4. That’s a ‘hell yes’ from me regarding a solo movie and merchandise! I agree with your thoughtful considerations regarding Nat’s role and how she views herself (all the red in her ledger). It didn’t completely come across in the movie, as you said, but overall they reflected her great strength of character. And I loved that line…’I adore you…but I need the Other guy!’

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    1. The erasure of female characters in merchandise angers me. They even dared replace Black Widow by Cap in one of the recent merchandise from the movie reenacting one of the scenes (save for the switch of character that is just unbelievable!) Marvel and Star Wars merchandise must improve in female characters’ representation!

      This line is one of my favorite in the movie! It was so Natasha (and so not damsel in distress or pining woman!)

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