Peacast IX: 'Avengers Assemble' or 'The Avengers' in the US

by Wardog

Kyra and Dan are talking about Thor and Avengers Assemble, or 'The Avengers' in the US (and that observation doesn't get any funnier...)
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Sorry for the backlog of peacasts; there will be actual written matter coming soon, I promise. This time we're talking superheroes. Needless to say spoilers abound.

At about the time I was editing this, Melissa G. sent me a rant about Woman Guy, ahem, Black Widow and since it wasn't long enough for a full article, she's given permission for me include it here:

Thoughts on the Black Widow from Melissa G

I've already seen The Avengers twice, and I'm going to go see it again on Sunday after an all-day marathon of the preceding movies. I tell you this because I want to make it clear that I love comics and that I greatly enjoy this movie. However, on my second viewing of the movie, I noticed something about Black Widow.

Her entire motivation for participating in the Avengers is about a man.

She is resistant to join until Coulson tells her that "Barton has been compromised". Then she springs into action, freeing herself from her captors, and is now totally on board. This happens a second time after Widow has fought with the Hulk. She is sprawled, trembling, on the floor (more on this later) totally spaced out and terrified after her encounter, but as soon as she hears Fury say where Hawkeye is, she is snapped out of her trance and hurries to go find him.

Do I even have to explain how problematic it is that of all the characters on the team, the (only) woman is the sole character who is motivated by a love interest? And don’t try to pretend like there wasn’t a romance going on there. Her whole “love is for children” was clearly a case of the lady doth protesting too much. And even if he wasn’t meant to be a love interest and was in fact just her close friend and coworker, it still means that a woman couldn’t get into combat for her own reasons but only due to the influence of a man. This is extremely troubling to me.

The second thing that bothered me about Black Widow was how her character was presented. Black Widow is a super spy; a Russian badass. She is stoic, cold, emotionless, unflappable. She was not these things in The Avengers movie. She was played as having such a weak, chewy center that I was barely able to recognize the original character. She appeared to be a woman who put up a tough front and played soldier, but inside she was a fragile, weak little girl. And the sad thing was that there were opportunities in the script that had they been played differently would have worked to the correct end.

One example: Black Widow shouldn’t have been scared that she had to go recruit the Hulk; she should have been annoyed because dealing with Hulk is a pain in the ass. Small adjustment, but it would have made a big difference.

Basically, I felt that Black Widow was played far too weak. There was an opportunity within the script for her to have an arc where she joins, realizes she’s in over her head, and then regroups and realizes she is in fact capable of fighting alongside these super soldiers and contributing something. She, remember, is the one to close the portal at the end. However, when you have her starting out over her head from the moment she meets the Hulk, you lose the potential for this arc to really land. When she pulls the gun on Banner in her second scene, there is so much fear in her eyes. In my opinion, that reaction should have been more calculating fear rather than straight up terror. Black Widow was so defanged through the entire movie that I can’t help drawing the conclusion that feminist hero Joss Whedon thinks a girl can’t actually be tough in her own right. She can only be tough when she’s doing it for someone else - in this case, for a man, for love. This is something that I find truly insulting.

Thor is fighting because Loki is his responsibility and it’s the right thing to do. Iron Man is fighting because he is suspicious of Fury and wants to be involved for that reason. Cap is fighting because that’s what heroes do; also, he is so lost in this new world and this mission gives him purpose again. Banner is fighting because he knows he’s the only one who can and it’s his responsibility to do so. Hawkeye, when he comes back in, is fighting for personal revenge against Loki. But Black Widow? She’s fighting (at first) to save her man and (secondly) because Loki messed with her man and she wants revenge. She is never fighting for herself.

And seriously, what’s up with that?

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