Everything that’s right and everything that’s wrong with Black Widow, a character I dearly love
If you haven’t seen the movie yet, I promise not to spoil it, because it’s worth seeing on the big screen with your own eyes. But we do need to discuss the ongoing trend of not exactly knowing what to do with Black Widow, the strongest and most prominent female character in all big, giant superhero movies. It’s also worth nothing that she’s the most prominent female because, quite frankly, she was the ONLY female for so long — Scarlet Witch is still brand new to our movie screens.
With Civil War, this is the fifth time we’ve seen Black Widow in a Marvel Cinematic Universe Movie. Iron Man has still appeared a few more times, coming in with seven different movies, while Captain America has appeared…five times. Right now, both Captain America and Black Widow have appeared the same number of times in MCU movies, yet one of them has their own stand-alone franchise, while the other continues to be reduced to a background sidekick.
WHICH IS A CRYING SHAME. Black Widow is so much MORE than just a second string Avenger, yet time and time again, that’s what she’s reduced to. Our go-to spy-turned-assassian is second fiddle to the big boys. While I really did enjoy Civil War (REALLY!) it’s hard to shake the fact that no one knows what to do with Black Widow. We know no one knows what to do with her, and hasn’t known what to do with her this whole time, because her hair has drastically changed a ridiculously amount over the last five movies and six years.
Here’s Black Widow’s “thing:” She’s a double-agent. That’s her only shtick. In Iron Man 2, she was a double agent. In Captain America: Winter Soldier, she was a double agent. In [tiny Civil War spoiler] Civil War, she was a double agent. And after a while, it’s like OK WE GET IT SHE’S REALLY GOOD AT BEING A DOUBLE AGENT. But for a while, that’s not the route the character was taking, so IDK where it jumped the tracks.
In Iron Man 2 let’s be honest: Black Widow is half eye-candy, half awesome MCU Easter egg, which was fine at the time. Like, listen, back in 2010 no one was really so focused on building the giant MCU, so just getting a tiny glimpse of this character was fine. By the time The Avengers came out in 2012, she had truly been developed, and had an actual backstory: We learned she had a lot of “red in her ledger” and was trying to wipe it out. That translates to: Black Widow realizes she’s killed a ton of people and wants to start going straight, and has teamed up with The Avengers to right her past wrongs. Cool!
Except that whole idea of “righting her wrongs” has yet to be realized. The idea comes up again briefly in Winter Soldier, but Winter Soldier is all-Bucky-all-the-time, and Black Widow doesn’t get her time in the sun. By the time we make it to Age of Ultron, Black Widow is like “ugh why even bother trying to right my wrongs, let’s just run away Bruce.”
And listen, that’s fine. If given the option, I’d run away with Bruce Banner, too. I was kinda rooting for them to run away together, TBH, because then that would at least have given Black Widow something to do, and it would have given her something actually concrete. All along, she’s just been talking about doing these things, but she’s never really done any of them. Has she righted her wrongs? Has she wiped out the red? Has she decided to leave this life behind and settle down? Aside from kicking butt, and switching teams so many times it’s given me whiplash, WHAT HAS SHE DONE?
The answer is, sadly, nothing. But there’s potential for her to do so much more, and it’s time to start begging for that. Recently, Fandango ran a poll and asked Civil War ticket holders what Marvel movie they’d like to see next; 42% said they’d like a Black Widow Movie. In a recent interview with Deadline, Marvel President, Kevin Feige, stated:
Cool! But right now, this is all talk and no action, just like Black Widow’s plans to make something of herself.
The reality is that currently, there is no space for a Black Widow movie — have you seen Marvel’s current slate right up through 2019? So for right now, all we’re going to get is watching Black Widow fight with Iron Man, and then fight with Captain America, but she’s yet to actually fight her own internal battles for what she wants. What do you want, Black Widow? I desperately want to know.