Unpopular Opinion: Black Widow is Overrated

I know what you’re thinking: “How dare you say anything bad about Natasha Romanoff! She’s a feminist icon and all female superhero fans love her because she’s amazing!” While I won’t deny that, somehow, this character is very well-liked in the nerd girl community, I find that Natasha is, indeed, far from amazing and I wouldn’t dare refer to her as an icon. Let’s look at the facts, shall we?

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Natalia Alianovna Romanova, commonly referred to as “Natasha Romanoff” or “The Black Widow,” is a former Russian assassin trained in the infamous Red Room. Overall, she’s a badass with a seductive smile and a few charming one-liners. She’s beautiful, clever, and extremely skilled in both armed and unarmed combat.

Great.

And?

She can kill a dude with her thighs. Wonderful. You know who else can do that? Pretty much any other female character with any form of training in a superhero movie: Mystique, Mockingbird, Catwoman, Harley Quinn, the list goes on and on. So what makes The Black Widow so special?

Well, most people like to immediately point out her dark past. (Now, for the record, I know it’s much more complex  in the comic book world, but since most Natasha fans don’t actually have any knowledge of her comic book life outside of what some idiot said on tumblr, I’m focusing primarily on her current MCU story.) Natasha was trained from childhood to murder, obey orders, and show no mercy.

Cool.

You wanna know a secret? She’s not the only one. The Red Room trained dozens of assassins just like Natasha. Sure, we don’t see any of them on screen as of now, but why is it that she is, for some reason, a cut above the rest? On top of that, she’s not even that great of an assassin, if Captain America: The Winter Soldier was any  indication.

People like to argue that part of what makes Black Widow so interesting is the fact that she overcame her dark past to become a hero.

Okay.

So did everyone else.

If anyone tries to make an argument that Natasha is so special because she came out of a dark, villainous place and made herself a hero, I’ll point them to Mystique, Harley Quinn, The Winter Soldier, The Scarlet Witch, Ant-Man, Black Panther (if you count Team Iron Man in Captain America: Civil War as villains like I do), the entirety of the Guardians of the Galaxy, and countless other characters throughout both cinematic and comic book history. In fact, many of these characters changed their ways for legitimate reasons. You know, not just because Clint Barton was going to kill them otherwise. An argument could be made that Natasha eventually came around to heroic ideals, which is accurate. Her friendship with Steve Rogers and attachment to Nick Fury makes that obvious. But why? What caused her to change?

We don’t know. Because it doesn’t make any real sense.

Maybe it’s because she’s so suddenly in love with Bruce Banner that her entire world turned upside down, because that isn’t horribly stereotypical and misogynistic in any way. (Thanks, Joss Whedon) Maybe it’s because being exposed to heroes for so long made her miraculous see the error of her ways like it has for so many others. But we have no way of knowing, do we? Because she’s never explored as a character and shows no signs of development. Why is that, you may ask?

Because she’s so flat and two-dimensional, that she cannot exist outside of the “I’m-a-girl-and-I-can-kick-ass-and-am-funny-so-that-makes-me-great” stereotype. Sure, she is smart. She’s done many clever things and knows how to use her femininity to her advantage. I wouldn’t dare say that she is a character without purpose.

She’s just a character without substance or personality. I personally feel this way about her in comic book world as well, but that’s an argument for another day. The fact of the matter is, outside of the stereotypical “dark-and-brooding” past combined with the “I-can-fight,” stereotype, Natasha isn’t a character that I would consider real. If anything, she’s dull and a poor excuse for a female character in the genre.

“But Mary, what about her infertility? That’s gotta count for something, right?” Wrong. Why is it that the ability to have children has to play a role in every woman’s storyline anyway? That’s beside the point. The fact is, of all the things Natasha could have seen as her worst nightmare — being separated from her family, losing people she loved, killing dozens of innocent people, near-death experiences, etc. — she focuses on the most stereotypical female thing in the world: the fact that she can’t have kids. It’s tragic, truly. As someone who has also lost fertility, I understand. However, it doesn’t even compare to everything else that this character has been through, you know, the stuff that could have actually developed her somewhat as a genuine character.

Also, the fact that she had the nerve to compare that to turning into a giant green monster that kills innocent people without Bruce Banner’s consent is highly offensive and should have signaled from Bruce to run away instead of kissing her.

So, all in all, Natasha Romanoff is a sad character in the MCU that doesn’t deserve half of the love she gets. She doesn’t deserve the title of “icon” and certainly does not deserve the product placement she gets in place of Scarlet Witch.

You want a good female character in the MCU? Look at Wanda Maximoff, Peggy Carter, Bobbi Morse, Jessica Jones, and so on. Natasha Romanoff is not the end-all-be-all of feminist characters.

You want a good character with a redemption story arc? I have two words for you: Bucky Barnes. Of course, I’m biased since he’s my favorite comic book character, but that’s real redemption. That’s a real character with feelings that make sense.

And one thing is for sure: As a massive Winter Soldier fan, if the MCU so much as attempts to add WinterWidow — without massive changes to Tasha’s character, at least — into the movies, I’m going to be highly offended.

– Mary

The Top Five X-Men Movies

With the recent release of Logan, arguments are being made that 20th Century Fox needs to stick with this new trend of R-rated superhero films. While I’m not entirely sure how I feel about this, it’s safe to say that their films have significantly improved over the years — many of that being due to the fearlessness of the R-rated movies — but the fact of the matter is that X-Men movies are just fun. Anyway, here is my list of the top five films in the franchise.

 

5. X2: X-Men United (2003)

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Of the Original X-Men trilogy, X2: X-Men United is easily the best. The plot alone is more complex than the other two and it’s much less obnoxiously smothering — not to mention just poorly done (*cough cough* Dark Phoenix *cough cough*). X2 was also the introduction to Pyro, advancement in the ever-so-important relationship between William Stryker and Wolverine, and a strong introduction to Nightcrawler.

On top of that, X2 exhibited Magneto’s power when he used the iron in a man’s blood to carry out my favorite prison break in cinematic history.

 

4. X-Men: First Class (2011)

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This is my go-to movie whenever I’m feeling particularly bad (you know, it’s either this or Captain America: The First Avenger). X-Men first class was the first in the prequels and the only X-Men movie that can exist in both the first and second timelines, since the split didn’t occur until Days of Future Past. The film navigates fans through the origin stories of Charles Xavier, Erik Lensherr, and the X-Men as a team.

This movie is among my favorite due to the wonderful portrayal of young Charles and Erik. I’ve been a long-time lover of Magneto as a character, but Michael Fassbender’s portrayal added a new layer of development to him, helping to create a wonderful, very human character that calls for our sympathy. It also chronicles the friendship between Erik and Charles, something crucial to both of their stories and to the remainder of the series.

Also Kevin Bacon.

3. Deadpool (2016)

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I know, I know. How could I place Deadpool so low on the list? Shouldn’t he be at least at number two? Well, to answer your question, no. Deadpool was the beginning of R-rated superhero movies and, while it was brilliant, the overall story falls just short of the last two on my countdown.

Anyway, Deadpool was more than just a hilarious comedy staring the wonderful Ryan Reynolds, but it was a well-made piece of cinema. The story was easy to follow and the struggles were — at least in part — easy to relate to. We’re all at least a little bit insecure about how we look, and who wouldn’t be vindictive if some asshole named Francis showed up and ruined how pretty you once were? Wade’s insecurities and emotional journey didn’t slap you in the face, but it was definitely there.

2. X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014)

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Of all the movies in the franchise that are centered around more than one character, X-Men: Days of Future Past is clearly the best. The plot is the most complex, yet still relatively easy to follow, and the journey was exciting. There wasn’t a boring moment in the entire film. Sure, it was another Wolverine and the Pips film, but it was brilliantly carried out with beautiful special effects and the introduction to a few amazing characters, no matter how brief their screen time.

Among my favorite aspects of this film is the wonderful portrayal of Charles Xavier and his struggle with his abilities. We often think of Charles as this sort of mutant Holy man who was always in control of his powers and always dedicated to helping people. We often forget that he’s only human and that his mind is in touch with the pain and emotions of pretty much everyone on the planet. It is important to understand how much he had to fight what seems like a mental health issue in order to rise above his own pain and make the world a better place.

Also, Evan Peter’s Quicksilver — though inappropriately named Peter Maximoff — was brilliant and one of the most fun sections of the entire film.

1. Logan (2017)

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There’s no disputing this one for me. Logan is not only one of the best made comic book films of all time, but one of the best films I’ve ever seen. I remember sitting in the theater and I really, really had to go to the bathroom, but I endured. There was not a single moment where I wasn’t on the edge of my seat and desperate to know what happened next. The action sequences were beautifully executed, though brutal, and the storyline was absolutely perfect.

This is, however, one of the most painful movies I’ve ever seen. I’ve dedicated much of my life to superhero films and the X-Men franchise was a massive portion of my childhood. Charles and Logan, though fictional, became like family to me. So (*Spoilers*) losing both of those character, especially in the brutal, heartbreaking manner that was portrayed on screen, was like losing my grandpa and my favorite uncle. It was the death of two major comic book icons that helped shape my life.

Then there was the wonderful portrayal of Laura Kinney, a.k.a. X-23. Needless to say, I can’t imagine a valid argument to put a single X-Men movie ahead of the cinematic masterpiece that is Logan.

– Mary