avengers: natasha rolling hating

(Another) Ode to Black Widow

I saw Avengers again this weekend. It lost a little impact on second viewing because I think a lot of the film's power comes from misdirection, like [spoiler]thinking Natasha really needs rescuing in the opening scene or [spoiler]worrying that Thor can't pick up the hammer because he lost his power. That said, I mostly marveled at how perfectly the line before each cut leads to the next scene. Also, Tony Stark is really, really entertaining.

And Natasha Romanoff is awesome. I am lucky with my flist because I have seen nothing but unabashed Natasha love, but I am disappointed by rumors that some people think she's sexist beause she shows emotional vulnerability. marinarusalka has a much more articulate post about that here, but on the whole, I am disturbed by the assumption that showing emotion inherently makes a woman weak. There's a really creepy double standard in these criticisms of Natasha -- all the characters in the movie show emotional vulnerability at some point, but when Natasha does, she's singled out as weak, even though she's the only one who's able to use her feelings to her advantage. Everyone else has to get over their anger, sadness, grief, frustration, whatever, but she puts her guilt and regret to work in her favor. When she shows fear, it doesn't stop her from doing what she needs to do. And that's what makes her awesome. She doesn't have any superpowers of her own; she's an assassin and a spy, and she's way out of her depth. Like most human beings, she has feelings about this, and that's what makes her interesting to watch. In fact, it's what makes her feel like she's at the very center of the movie. I don't want my female characters without emotion. They'd be reduced to slinky robots wearing black leather, and that will do nothing to eradicate female stereotypes. Strong female characters who have moments of vulnerability will do much more to end the perception that having emotions makes women weak.
Yes to everything about Natasha! I think women are subjected to the same double standards in the real world. It's certainly very telling that all the people hating on Natasha for showing emotional vulnerability (when she's trapped in a room with the Hulk, no less. I'd be terrified too!) don't think any less of, say, Loki or Thor for shedding Manly Tears.
That's really, really weird. I've seen almost the flip side of that argument before--that Joss Whedon does what he almost always does and emotionally tortures the woman significantly more (on-screen) than the men, which I'm still on the fence about (I'd need to see the movie again), but the thing about it is, assuming it's true, that Natasha can handle it more than the men.

Some of the incidents referenced in the post you linked sort of support this: one comment, and Tony either runs from the room or loses his shit. (And this is 'stable-ish' Tony, although he's still always a bit volatile.) Natasha goes through a full five-minute scene with Loki being particularly horrible and then continues kicking serious amounts of ass.

I would never argue that she's weak, because she damn well isn't, or that she didn't use everything that happened to her to her advantage, because she clearly did. I'm just thinking that maybe if they had more women, then they might be able to spread the emotional torture out a little bit more.

I mean, overall, though, I was pretty happy with the general lack of sexism/misogyny. Generally the movie needed more female characters, and more female characters interacting with each other, but other than that, women kicked ass and were awesome about it.

eta: tl;dr Huh, weird; Natasha is awesome.

Edited at 2012-05-22 03:33 am (UTC)
Follow up: I think the really great thing about the way Natasha was written was how integral to the plot she was. Events would have unfolded very differently without her actions, showing how much agency she had. Also, had her part in the story been written for a male character, they wouldn't have written it any differently. She didn't do anything that is normally regarded as an action only female characters are written for, such as seducing another character.

Also, someone pointed out that her 'quest for redemption' story arc is one normally reserved for male characters, and I LOVE that.
Yes, that is a clear doublestandard, because all the characters are emotional... Natasha is portrayed as having worked through her issues, whereas a lot of them still have issues to work on. :)

I really liked Natasha .... I was never an Avengers fan as a kid (my favorite Avengers are ones that will probably never make it on screen -- Scarlet Witch and the Vision, Damon Hellstrom, and Doctor Strange) so I don't know anything at all about her or Hawkeye from my background in comics.... I guess I need to watch the Captain America movie? Is she written any differently there?

Anyways in this movie I enjoyed how she becomes a part of the team and at no time does anyone ask her to sit it out... Even though she is clearly outgunned going up against the aliens without major firepower, she then gets to be the one who commandeers a flying sled, yay!

I liked her friendship with Clint, their comrade in arms relationship. I read the story you recc'd where the two of them are called "siblings in arms" which was awesome. :D They do seem to be two sides of the same coin -- and it makes me happy to think of Natasha helping Clint in the aftermath of his Loki-mindslavery..... I really liked that their relationship onscreen was not necessarily romantic, that it could go either way.

We had three women in the movie -- Hill, Pepper, and Natasha, and of the three, Natasha gets the most time. I thought Pepper was pretty much underutilized. It would be great to have, you know, an opportunity for two women to say hi to each other. :)



i watched it a second time on Saturday... blamed the lack of impact on the fact that I had to keep junior (9) to look at the screen - his attention span didn't quite work out as I thought but yeah, it could be because the misdirections were known about

Natasha had me really fooled in the scene with Loki!
There's a really creepy double standard in these criticisms of Natasha -- all the characters in the movie show emotional vulnerability at some point, but when Natasha does, she's singled out as weak, even though she's the only one who's able to use her feelings to her advantage.

I haven't seen the movie but I think emotions are fine in both male and female characters. I don't know why female characters get judged so harshly but they do.
Can I just...second everything? Because yes. I heart Natasha SO HARD, and I love love love that Joss is completely unafraid of making his girls just as strong as his boys, and possibly even a bit more badass (because the boys all either have superpowers or superweapons, and she's that awesome with her pistols alone!) It's brilliant to see a girl so utterly on top of her shit, having taken what probably would have broken others and worked through it and learned to USE it to make herself strong, and be believable with it.

I would say I wish there was a Black Widow movie, but...that's sorta what Avengers was. (I wouldn't mind hearing a little more though, to quote Jayne...)