Black Widow: Not Just One of the Boys.
The representation of Natasha Romanoff a/k/a Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) in The Avengers (2012) paints a feminist portrayal of a super heroine rooted in anti-communist rhetoric of the cold war. In 1964, following President Kennedy’s assassination and increased paranoia of Soviet nuclear missile strikes, the Russian super-spy made her first debut. She was first presented as antagonist to Iron Man in Marvel Comics, Tales of Suspense (1964). She is a mortal human, her enhanced abilities liken her to an X-Men mutant, they are; slowed aging, enhanced immune system, peak athletic condition, hypnosis, extensive military, martial arts, and espionage training. Black Widow defects to the United States. In doing so, she brings Eastern European enticement to interact with Daredevil, Spiderman and Iron Man, the super heroes of a democratic youth readership. The physicality of her costume is one of taboo, skin tight black leather with bust revealing underclothing evokes a Germanic dominatrix. Early in her career she enlists, through her sexuality and perhaps hypnosis, Hawkeye, the archer extraordinaire, to her aide.
Here marks a distinction of Black Widows persona from classical Hollywood feminist roles. Her choice in aligning with Hawkeye as her ally reveals both Black Widows power as well as her flaw. Unlike some classic submissive female protagonists, she creates a self-imposed impenetrable armor over her heart, thus she becomes incapable of lowering her guard toward the object of her affection. This sets up internal conflict in her yearning for Hawkeye, indeed, she exploits this devotion while divulging and tricking Loki into believing she is willing sacrifice all to save her beloved. Such uses hypnotic trickery over simple minded males through feminist allure, in addition to advanced tactical weapons skills, is what make Black Widow an Avenger team player. If we consider, that Black Widow’s character is rooted in the Specter of the cold war, which is a mythical enigma, perceptibly lacking a soul and devoid of conscience. Then we may define her femme fatale traits in cinema character portrayal. In The Avengers this places her above male subjugation, as opposed to say Tony Stark’s trophy girlfriend Pepper Potts. Potts possesses all the independence of a modern woman, yet remains an self imposed isolated princess locked away within Stark tower. Tony emptily promises Pepper that one day “We will build a tower that says Potts on the outside”. Ultimately, Black Widow must be subjugated in a manner that punishes her for her rogue feminist portrayal. The Hulk, as big green rage-aholic personification of male domination hunts her down like prey and leaves her cowering and fearing for her life. She is clearly shaken by the ordeal, but later forgives him when he has changed back to the mild mannered Doctor Banner. This vacillation is not unlike battered women’s syndrome, in which, the woman may refuse to leave an abusive situation. Preferring instead to adhere to magical thinking that perhaps her Dr. Banner will not have another “Incident”. It appears that fear is the line of demarcation that defines the feminist glass ceiling in super hero world. It sends a message that women may be kept as trophies in Stark Tower (Pepper Potts) or that they are cunning and manipulative (Black Widow) and must be controlled though intimidation. The Avengers is an excellent film, as an informed viewer, I hope that you will consider the role of feminist portrayal that it imparts to the spectator.