Friday, June 15, 2012

On the deadly bite of the Black Widow

Okay, so over at Feministe, I posted about my love of the Black Widow in The Avengers and my frustration with reviewers who completely dismissed her as eye candy despite ridiculous amounts of evidence to the contrary. (Warning: That post, and this one, are chock full of SPOILERY SPOILERS THAT SPOIL.)

According to movie reviewers, she's also a "token sexy female," who "spends a lot of time looking puzzled or confused" and "clench[ing] her brow," "repels invading aliens through the sheer force of her corsetry," and provides "images of Scarlett Johansson in a black bodysuit."

The funny thing is that that very reaction is one of the things that makes the Black Widow so effective at what she does. She's a sleeper--constantly underestimated and manipulative. She acrobatically defeats a team of Russian arms dealers--with both hands and a chair tied behind her back--because they had no idea what she was capable of. While normally I'd find Loki's derision of her as a "mewling quim" to be utterly horrendous, I kind of liked it here because it underscored the fact that our alien demigod villain was falling for her act and giving her everything she needed.


One great thing about the Black Widow is that the penalty for dismissing her and making assumptions about her generally involves blood loss. Now, far be it from me to say that violence is the answer (although I’m also not saying it isn’t...), but it would be nice if the real world had more tangible penalties for sexism. Like criticism by one's peers, censure in the public arena, or a reflexive expectation of public apology for misogyny. Or the public calling-out of idiot movie reviewers who obviously struggle with viewing comprehension. Or being hung upside down by one's ankles. Whatever.

And on that point, I'm of course completely right. In the subsequent discussion, several commenters mentioned that they'd love to see Natasha Romanoff interacting with other badass women, like Agent Maria Hill, in the next movie. I'd like to see that--and in addition, I think the Blu-ray extras for the movie would be a great place for a scene with them interacting casually, maybe blowing off some steam at the firing range after a mission. Something like this, for instance.


NATASHA ROMANOFF and MARIA HILL are at the firing range, destroying targets like it ain't no thing. Between them sits a half-full pitcher of mojitos and two tall glasses.

HILL. You know what I'm sick of? Robots. Why is it always robots?
ROMANOFF. I have a theory. I think it's the economy.
HILL. Go on.

AGENT BOB enters and positions himself two spaces down from the women.

BOB. Hey, Maria.
HILL (sighing). Hey, Bob.
BOB. Looked good out there today.
HILL. Thanks, Bob.
ROMANOFF. With the economy down, all the supervillains are having trouble recruiting minions, so they have to build their own.
HILL. Sure. "When I take control of the moon and hold the earth's tides for ransom, you'll be showered with riches" just doesn't pay the power bill.
ROMANOFF. Exactly. Switch?

They trade firearms and start shooting again.

HILL. So, I have a confession.
HILL. In New Mexico, when the tunnel was coming down… I was a little freaked out. Just a little.
ROMANOFF. That's not a confession. That's a statement of fact.
HILL. All this time I've been working for SHIELD, and I've never felt like that. Does that ever happen to you?
ROMANOFF. Well, I've been doing this since I was eight. It's not as much of an issue anymore.
HILL. Yeah.
ROMANOFF. But I'll tell you, being trapped like that in the Helicarrier when Bruce hulked out? Scared me out of my mind.
HILL. I once saw him crush an Abrams tank like a soda can.
ROMANOFF. Exactly. He's basically instant, crunchy death for anyone who isn't supernaturally invulnerable. If you’re not scared, it’s because you’re stupid. But I knew I didn't have the luxury of being afraid right then, so I powered through it. Like you did in the tunnel.
ROMANOFF. Also, I imagined him in his underwear. Here, try this one.

She hands Hill another one, and Hill pops off a few rounds.

HILL. Wow, this is nice. What is this?
ROMANOFF. It's Tony's latest.
HILL. It’s great. I want one of these.
ROMANOFF. He's actually working on an upgraded version, if you want to hold out.
HILL. Eh. As a rule, I don't use Tony Stark prototypes.
ROMANOFF. That's a good rule.
BOB. Hey, Maria, have you been working out? You're looking pretty good in that jumpsuit.
HILL. Bob, that's really inappropriate.
BOB. What? It's a compliment.
HILL (to Romanoff). Do you get this stuff?
ROMANOFF. They're afraid of me. Have you tried the G26 with the extended mag? Fury's bugging me about it, but it just seems so unwieldy.
HILL. I hate it. I think it throws the weight off. It's better than a bow and arrow, though.
ROMANOFF. I know, right?
BOB. I'm a big fan of the… extended mag.
HILL. Bob--
BOB. If you want, I can take some time later to… teach you how to handle it.
HILL (to Romanoff). Are those your Widow's Bite?
ROMANOFF. Yeah. Up to 30,000 volts. It's fun.
HILL. Awesome. Can I try?
ROMANOFF. Yeah, sure.

As Romanoff hands Hill her wristlets, the camera pans away down the range.

HILL (OS). Hey, Bob.
SFX. bzzzt
BOB. (groans)
ROMANOFF (OS). It has different settings, too. Look.
SFX. bzzzzzt
BOB. (unintelligible moaning)
HILL (OS). I should get some of these.
ROMANOFF (OS). No, they're mine.



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