I had no intention of writing a blog post this morning. I feel terrible. I’m having menstrual cramps, which pretty much means I’m allowing myself to lounge in bed and be self-indulgent for a while. And because I love to watch Steve Rogers jumping onto and off of things, I’ve spent a good portion of the morning watching The Avengers for the millionth time. Seriously, I’ve seen it so many times that by this point, I can recite nearly every piece of dialogue as I listen to the soundtrack. Just bragging, but my text message sound right now is Steve asking, “Are you sure about this?” and Natasha replying, “Yeah, it’ll be fun!” My IM sound is Tony Stark snarking, “Of the people in this room, who is A) wearing a spangley outfit, and B) not of use?” My phone lock screen and wallpaper are pictures of Captain America looking fine. Ahem. Anyway!
I’ll be honest: as deeply immersed in my fandoms as I am, I don’t make a habit of interacting with the larger portions of the fandoms themselves. I mostly limit my fangirling to people I know in real life or people I follow on Twitter and tumblr. So, generally, I don’t know about whatever asshatted thing fan-people are doing or saying this week unless someone posts a link or I see it in a review of article I’m reading.
I’m sick of the callousness and vitriol that women and our fannish activities receive within the larger arenas of fandom itself. Like, seriously, how can people brush off and dismiss Natasha Romanoff as being “useless” and “eye candy” and “T and A” in the Marvel Cinematic Universe? Oh, wait. NEVERMIND. I KNOW WHY THAT IS.
True confession time. When I heard that Scarlett Johansson was cast as my favorite female Avenger, my response was… not enthusiastic. And a lot of the writing in Iron Man 2 left me cold. I didn’t enjoy it. It’s probably the only Marvel film I haven’t watched multiple times. I kind of want to rewatch it just to see if I still have the same “……….” reaction, but at the same time, I’m like, Uhhhh, maybe later….
Which is totally a tangent to my original point. Damn. Anyway, from her portrayal of Natasha in The Avengers and Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Scarlett has totally earned my support. I will shut down anyone who tries to badmouth her for that. But I’ve been thinking for the last few weeks that even outside of Black Widow, a lot of fans and critics don’t know how to view the female characters outside of the usual movie roles. Jane Foster gets slammed for becoming a stammering mess when Thor rakes his shirt off. I remember hearing people say that they anticipated her and Sif become rivals for Thor’s affection in Thor: The Dark World, which was a plot point that thankfully got sidestepped. I’m not even going to talk about what happens to Frigga, because I AM STILL MAD. FOREVER MAD. Tony Stark is a character I find difficult to like, but his interactions with Pepper Potts and the high esteem he obviously has for her warms my heart. Bless RDJ for insisting that she be included in The Avengers. Maria Hill’s deleted scenes from The Avengers are probably my favorite part of the film.
However, back to Black Widow, because it’s my observations about her that inspired this semi-rant. It’s incredibly frustrating to have a film like The Avengers do so well and yet feel like a large part of the fandom saw a completely different movie from what you did. Sometimes it feels like it doesn’t matter how the creators present characters because fans refuse to see them in a different light than what they’re used to. From Natasha’s very first scene, she shows us that she’s all about flipping the script on women in action movies, but I feel like people refuse to let her.
I’ve seen friends say that they know people who say things like how they’re confused about why Natasha was even in The Avengers. It’s not like she really did anything. They laugh at her little bitty guns; which okay, yeah, they’re visually very funny, especially in scenes like this. But there’s almost this air of, lol, silly girl, can’t she do any better? Why yes, she can! She can commandeer a Chitauri staff! She can take up Loki’s Disco Stick of Doom! As an added bonus, she uses it to close the Tesseract’s interdimentional portal. Hell, she tricks Loki into revealing his plan for being on the Helicarrier. But you sort of forgot about that bit, didn’t you?
Something I love about what the creators have done is that they’ve stated multiple times that their intention with Black Widow was to make her the “smartest Avenger.” In many ways, it only makes sense. She and Clint are the squishiest, most-baseline-human members of the team. And while no-one on the team can be considered a dumbass, Natasha’s sheer adaptability is almost terrifying. Tony Stark may have the closest backstory to Batman’s, but Natasha in so many ways IS the Batman of the group. She makes plans upon plans. She uses people’s own natures to her advantage, because in many ways, that is her nature… Or at least, it’s the one she’s allowed us to see.
Also, to continue the use of DC metaphor, if we see her as Batman and Captain America as Superman, the boy scout of the group, it only makes sense to me that they would become close friends. I could wax poetic about Natasha and Steve‘s interactions in CA:TWS. She may duck behind him when shit starts exploding, because okay, he’s a huge super-soldier with a nigh-indestructible shield, but I really believe that she trusts him to have her back. Not even in a calculating way; I believe that in spite of herself, she sees Steve as a friend. Sure, she jokes with him and they support each other during missions, but she goes from, “I only act like I know everything,” to “Would you trust me to save your life?”* in a surprisingly short amount of time. Even the way Steve accepts her: “This isn’t your style, Rogers.” “You’re right. It’s not. But it is hers.” leads Natasha to be able to go out in search of herself at the end of the movie. I really appreciate that even with all of this and covert undercover kissing, the movie thankfully side-stepped a totally unnecessary romantic subplot for them. I’m mostly quite happy with the way the MCU is treating its female characters**, but I’m still hoping that viewers and critics start to change how they treat them.
*which, okay, isn’t the actual line, but I don’t remember it, and Google is being unhelpful.
**Yeah, I’m still bitter about “mewling quim,” especially in view of the way Joss talked about how much le loved Natasha. Plus, they can do a lot, LOT better re: the Bechdel Test; Natasha and Maria Hill had a handful of scenes together in CA:TWS, yet, they spent them talking around each other to the men also in the room.