Powerful Women: Black Widow

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Powerful Women seeks to find well-rounded strong female characters in the media, whether that is in movies, television, video games, or books. I find these women using three basic categories which I rank on a scale from one to five: diversity, development, and flaws. Diversity entails how well the character embodies realistic people, such as diversity in race, sexual orientation, or class. In other words, does she get away from straight, white, middle-class woman that seems to dominate our culture? Development looks at how well-rounded she is, and whether or not she’s shown change over time. Flaws, what I consider to be my most important category, looks at whether or not she is displayed as perfect or whether she actively makes mistakes and screws up.

This week I’ve chosen Black Widow, aka Natasha Romanoff from the Marvel franchise. She appears in Ironman 2, The Avengers, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and The Avengers: Age of Ultron.

Diversity: 2/5

Unfortunately, Black Widow doesn’t score very well in terms of diversity. She’s white, has only had a chance to flirt/be interested in men (she’s basically the only lady Avenger), and her background was pretty much a mystery up until the most recent film. Her background is what scores her the points though. After a brief flashback scene in Age of Ultron, we see a woman (presumably her mother) convincing her into assassinating, in a way that hints at a very negative, if not abusive relationship between them. We also find out in that film that Natasha is sterile due to an operation done while training to be an assassin, so I think she deserves a two.

Development: 4/5

Over the four Marvel films she’s been in, Black Widow has gotten tons of development. When we first meet her, she looks like a normal, attractive personal assistant, who saves the day by breaking in and kicking ass. She’s introduced as a stereotypical attractive woman assassin, but in the following films that shifts as she opens up to her teammates. We see her worrying about Hawkeye when he goes rogue or gets injured, see her joking with Captain America about getting a date, and we see her cry over the death of her boss. This goes to the extent that in Age of Ultron we see her fully open up to the Hulk, about her past and the negative feelings she has for herself. With every reappearance, we get better insight into her. Natasha would have gotten a perfect score here, except for a number of inconsistencies between Winter Soldier and Age of Ultron. For example, in Winter Soldier, Natasha is fully capable, helping Captain America break into places and spy. They manage to break into a high security vault with tons of guards and yet, in Age of Ultron, Natasha can’t even break out of a broken down jail cell without the help of a man. I feel the shift sent her character back a bit, so she only gets a four.

Flaws: 3/5

I’d say Black Widow falls in the middle on my scale of flaws. When she’s first introduced she’s so cold and rude towards Ironman that he immediately sets out to push her boundaries and expose her identity. She doesn’t seem to have much in terms of flaws in Avengers, except for that we see her lying turn on her, when she tries to calm the Hulk falsely, only to have him get angry with her. And while I felt I lacked continuity, we do see in Age of Ultron that Natasha can’t handle every situation on her own, she needs help to escape and join the fight. Her flaws appear throughout the films, but they never take center stage or have a large influence on the plot, so I give her an average score.

About The Author

Just an English nerd drowning in words. English major with a Film and Media Studies minor. Aspiring to write many novels, films, television shows, and video games. Avid reviewer of movies, theatrical productions, videogames and pretty much anything you can possibly review.