Here’s a Newsweek article discussing the origins of Natasha Romanoff, which have been altered in not very appealing ways since the turn of the century, all in preparation for the new movie starring Scarlet Johansson:
Of course, Natasha is a comic book character, meaning her Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) story may be very different from that which was written for her.
If memory serves, the whole “Red Room” premise was fairly recent, and the movie builds on it, meaning there’s something here for starters that’s the same as the comics containing the elements. And indeed, it’s confirmed further down the paragraphs:
…the most recent version of her history is the current canon, and has been alluded to in past films.
In this version, a very young Natasha is inducted into the Black Widow program in the Soviet Union, where she is brainwashed and taught to fight in the Red Room.
In the 2004 Black Widow comics, where this idea is first discussed, she also received biotechnological enhancement, meaning she can live for a long time, remaining young-looking.
I think Nick Fury underwent a similar operation in stories of past decades. But while such a premise might be fine in itself, the PC-laden stories of the recent era are most certainly not. Things were not made better by a slapdash Time article written by propagandist Eliana Dockterman, the same one who attacked superheroes for being created by whites, that’s resorting to sex-negativity:
lack Widow sauntered into the mainstream consciousness in 2010’s Iron Man 2. Not walked—sauntered. Natasha Romanoff, the Russian agent turned U.S. spy played by Scarlett Johansson, first meets Tony Stark, a.k.a. Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) when he’s working out in a boxing ring with his employee, played by Jon Favreau, the film’s director. Favreau’s Happy Hogan condescendingly offers to teach Natasha how to box, so she slips off her high heels, slinks into the ring and immediately kicks the man’s butt. That’s the joke: Surprise! This unbelievably fit woman can fight.
But it’s the moment after Natasha handily beats Happy that truly rankled fans. Stark turns to his assistant turned girlfriend Pepper Potts, played by Gwyneth Paltrow. “Who is she?” Tony asks. To which Pepper replies, “Potentially a very expensive sexual harassment lawsuit.” Tony, after Googling for photos of Natasha in her underwear, quips, “I want one.”
Victoria Alonso, executive vice president of production at Marvel Studios, never liked the line. “It bothered me then and it bothers me now,” says Alonso, who was a co-producer of Iron Man 2. “I remember thinking, ‘She’s not a thing.’ But how apropos: the world sees a sexy woman and thinks that because she is beautiful, that’s all she has to give.” The scene feels like a relic of a pre-#MeToo Hollywood.
And it was a different Hollywood, and certainly a different Marvel: for 10 years, more white men named Chris headlined Marvel movies than women and actors of color combined. It took 17 movies for the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) to introduce a female villain (Cate Blanchett in 2017’s Thor: Ragnarok) and 21 to debut a solo female lead (Brie Larson in 2019’s Captain Marvel). Now, 11 years after she first appeared onscreen, the MCU’s first major female character is finally getting her own movie.
Black Widow, due July 9 in theaters and on Disney+ Premier Access, is a repudiation of the character’s retrograde origin story. After suffering countless indignities in nine preceding films—written as a seductress, an ogled object, a love interest, a self-described “monster” due to her infertility—Black Widow now headlines a movie that grapples directly with the very things that once oppressed her: sexism, objectification, even human trafficking.
Directed by Cate Shortland—the first solo female director of an MCU film—Black Widow makes a radical new female-dominated action space suddenly seem possible. It’s also a terrific film, a taut and tense spy thriller populated largely by female heroes and villains. Watching it ahead of its release, I found myself fantasizing about a woman-led Bond or Mission: Impossible. There have been efforts at female team-up action films before (Birds of Prey, Terminator: Dark Fate), but rarely executed so well. Critics agree, praising the well-crafted caper for giving an unsung hero her due.
Again, we seem to have here a SJW-influenced product, deliberately appointing a female director, and is the executive they speak of related by any chance to Axel Alonso? Probably not, but this is another example of Time’s writers at their most disgusting. So it’s wrong for men to fall in love with Romanoff, but right if she got sterilized so she couldn’t get pregnant? But that’s the Orwellian crowd for you. Besides, it’s long been apparent there’s only so many instances of film critics who’ll lionize an overrated screenplay just to remain in the good graces of the studios. Oh, since when was Romanoff ever “unsung”? I don’t think she’d ever had a full ongoing series before (though she did have a number of stories published in the Amazing Adventures anthology from the early 70s), but she had her prominent moments in Marvel history till the turn of the century, and this assertion is decidedly laughable. And then, in discussion of the recent investment in female-led action fare, Johansson says:
These weren’t whispered notions. The 2014 Sony email hack contained a leaked missive with the subject line “female movies” sent by then Marvel Entertainment CEO Ike Perlmutter, arguing that such projects were not bankable. The email went viral just as female fans had begun to lobby for a Black Widow movie. But she remained a sidekick. “In the beginning she was used as a kind of chess piece for her male counterparts,” says Johansson. But in those dark years before Wonder Woman or Captain Marvel graced the big screen, feminist fans of genre film clung to her, flaws and all. She was all we had.
In other words, a certain entitled PC crowd was so sobbingly desperate for an icon, they latched onto anything they could find because showbiz is really that big a deal. Well I don’t think so, and there’s reasons aplenty why I won’t be watching this film any more than the Avengers films. It’s practically because I’m an Avengers fan that I don’t want to see those films. What’s the use? They practically turned more PC in the past decade, removing romance subplots almost entirely, just to show how absurd commercialism can become, to the point where character drama is a joke. Something that was once a significant part of Stan Lee’s early story crafting efforts has been pretty much thrown to the winds. It gets worse, as Dockterman tears down on Wonder Woman’s main creator:
When it came to breaking that barrier for women, Warner Bros. beat Disney to the punch, shattering box-office records with Wonder Woman’s 2017 solo debut directed by Patty Jenkins. The character has a complicated 75-year history; Wonder Woman had been a feminist icon, a soldier, a pacifist and a sex symbol. And because the writer of the first Wonder Woman comics in the 1940s, William Moulton Marston, snuck in a lot of bondage imagery, the character’s power has always been intertwined with her sexuality.
The pressure on Jenkins—to satisfy fans hungry for a high-quality female superhero movie, to “stay true” to a comic-book origin that was alternately sexist and revolutionary, and, most of all, to strike gold at the box office—was immense. By waiting, Marvel spared itself the particular burden of proving that female superheroes can work.
The studio also had some time to deal with Black Widow’s particular baggage. Like Wonder Woman, Black Widow has a backstory rooted in her sexuality: in her first comics appearance, she tries to seduce Tony Stark and spends much of her early comics runs mooning after Hawkeye. Natasha is just one of many “widows,” female Russian spies trained in the art of combat and (the films heavily imply) seduction. By the time she made her big-screen debut in Iron Man 2, she’s left that life behind, but she still deploys her sultry stare as a weapon. In her first scene in 2012’s Avengers, she’s tied up in a chair being interrogated by bad guys. She’s wearing a revealing dress and playing vulnerable until she breaks character and takes down the henchmen, wrists still bound.
Hmm, for somebody who sounds like she’s complaining about a lady depicted falling in love with a guy, it doesn’t look like Dockterman’s concerned about WW 1984 doing something similar, and in that specific case, it actually was for the worse, because it made Diana look like she was unable to move past the loss of Steve Trevor in the first movie and try with somebody else. And whether for better or worse, seduction is part and parcel of the world of espionage and intrigue. Does this mean US lady spies shouldn’t ever practice the art, period? The article tells something fascinating about the co-stars in Age of Ultron:
This treatment of Black Widow was not restricted to the movie scripts themselves. On the press tour for Avengers 2, actors Jeremy Renner and Chris Evans, when asked about Black Widow’s romantic history—she had had flirtations with Renner’s character Hawkeye, Downey’s Iron Man, Evans’ Captain America and Ruffalo’s Hulk over the course of a few films—joked that the character was “a slut,” setting off another Internet firestorm about the misogyny directed toward female action heroes on- and offscreen. (Both actors later apologized.)
What if this crude behavior has anything to do with Ruffalo’s rabid leftist background? Unfortunately, such liberal propagandists cannot be expected to acknowledge their own side has problems with vulgarity, or how it could influence their writings.
Marvel is far from the only franchise reckoning with its past treatment of female characters as it tries to market itself as a hub of inclusive story-telling. After decades of complaints about Bond girls, this year’s Bond film, No Time to Die, got a script treatment from outspoken feminist and Fleabag creator Phoebe Waller-Bridge. (She has emphasized that she does not believe she was hired because of her gender.) And even as Jenkins created practical costumes for the Amazon warriors in her Wonder Woman movie, the two subsequent versions of the Justice League movie, directed by Zack Snyder and Whedon, respectively, cropped the armor to expose more skin.
Marvel has seemingly become more deliberate in its treatment of female characters. “I think there is a conscientious effort to not objectify women,” says Alonso. Its team-up movies have grown from featuring one woman to several. Avengers: Infinity War largely centered on the relationship Gamora (Zoe Saldana) and Nebula (Karen Gillan) had with their genocidal adopted father, Thanos (Josh Brolin).
Still, female superheroes continue to be outfitted in impractical heels and body-hugging suits. Alonso claims Marvel gets more criticism for objectifying men with “those shirtless scenes” than women. It’s hard to imagine this could be possible, though fair to assume that any flak along those lines has more to do with sexist double standards in society than with the studio having a worse track record with men than women.
But if men are objectified, that’s okay? Say, do they have any concern about the repellent possibilities Hollywood will glorify objectification of children, as former actress Kirstie Alley’s warned? And the worst tragedy is that, if liberals take a dismissive view of the topics, that’s exactly why it will happen, and one could wonder if they actually want it to. As for men in shirtless scenes? I’m sorry, but that’s been seen plenty in film history, and is no big deal in itself. If you want a standout example of a superhero who’s been bare-chested, there’s Sub-Mariner, and save for some shoulder belts, Hawkman’s also been depicted as such, and there’s surely some more if you know where to look. These phonies’ complaints are so stupid.
And let’s be clear. As far as adults are concerned, there have been live action movies in the past and even today with nudity and sex scenes (even directors like Sidney Lumet could’ve dealt with stuff like that), and if the PC advocates have no issue with those, I don’t see why it’s suddenly such a big deal if a comic-based blockbuster does. Unless maybe they really do think these should just be for children. That’s why commercialism’s become such a massive embarrassment for art.
Shortland had not seen all the Marvel movies before she signed on to direct Black Widow. Typically, she writes backstories for her characters, but she found Black Widow’s back catalog to be insufficient. “She was a character created for the male gaze,” says Shortland. “Initially, even the way she moved, the way she dressed—it was helpful as a stepping-stone. But it wasn’t who she was.” She invented a history for the character beyond the script, which she shared with Johansson, and they discussed what it would have been like for Natasha to grow up in Russia, watching the Soviet Union get dismantled.
I guess that means somebody in Tinseltown and the press despises Stan Lee, right? Why these people want to associate with creations of somebody whose visions they so despise I’ll never know.
About a month ago, Scarlett Johansson gave an interview to Collider where she spoke about the sexualization of superheroes, and must really believe it’s a bad thing despite taking up the role in the past decade:
There is a sort of sexualization of superheroes. How did that effect Black Widow?
JOHANSSON: Yeah. It definitely has changed and I think part of that change has probably — it’s hard because I’m inside it, but probably a lot of that is actually from me too. I’ll be 35 years old and I’m a mom and my life is different. Obviously, 10 years have passed and things have happened and I have a much different, more evolved understanding of myself. As a woman, I’m in a different place in my life, you know? And I felt more forgiving of myself, as a woman, and not — sometimes probably not enough. I’m more accepting of myself, I think. All of that is related to that move away from the kind of hyper-sexualization of this character and, I mean, you look back at Iron Man 2 and while it was really fun and had a lot of great moments in it, the character is so sexualized, you know? Really talked about like she’s a piece of something, like a possession or a thing or whatever — like a piece of ass, really. And Tony even refers to her as something like that at one point. What does he say?
“I want some.”
JOHANSSON: “I want some.” Yeah and at one point calls her a piece of meat and maybe at that time that actually felt like a compliment. You know what I mean? Because my thinking was different. Maybe I even would have, you know, my own self-worth was probably measured against that type of comment or, like a lot of young women, you come into your own and you understand your own self-worth. It’s changing now. Now people, young girls, are getting a much more positive message, but it’s been incredible to be a part of that shift and be able to come out the other side and be a part of that old story, but also progress. Evolve. I think it’s pretty cool.
I notice there’s a discrepancy between what Time quotes and what Collider does. Was the line “I want one”, or was it “I want some”? I don’t know, but if the latter distorted the actual exclamation, that was damn wrong of them. Whatever the actual line, maybe it was shoddy, but if Johansson’s saying she despises the idea of being sexy, she’s effectively demonstrated the sad results of sex-negative indoctrination, as though “objectification” is an inherently bad thing, or they can’t distinguish between that and admiration for physical beauty. No wonder “Scarjo” has now decidedly become one of the actresses of modern ages I’m quite bored by. Besides, calling somebody a “piece of meat” is not a compliment, but rather, an insult. And what positive messages are being received when you now have an atmosphere where girls are being body shamed?
So, heroines haven’t always been empowered in stories, but we’ve been demanding a lot more now of heroines and empowerment means different things to different people now. I was just wondering what empowerment, to you, how has it changed since you started playing Natasha and how is it interpreted in this version of Natasha?
JOHANSSON: Well, I think that actually goes back to the other question about this hyper-sexualization thing because I think actually Natasha uses her sexuality as a means to feel, to sort of manipulate a situation and then be coquettish and sly and then she’s going to take your legs out, right? She’s going to be seductive in this way, and that’s her power. Her power’s in her sexuality, and then that changed over time, right? Her strength was actually her vulnerability. That’s the kind of place that we’re in now and then in Endgame she sacrifices herself out of love. She saves her friend. She saves everyone. And I think that just being in that kind of headspace and being able to make that decision, that selfless act is so incredibly powerful. It’s amazing that she could be in that place to do that.
Apart from whether she’s seducing bad guys, does Johansson think something’s wrong with Natasha falling in love with and marrying an innocent man? She sure comes pretty close to suggesting that. I guess famous actresses of yesteryear like Michelle Pfeiffer, who played in plenty of movies emphasizing sex, make no impression upon her. This is why modern cinema is crumbling so badly. It’s also laughable how Johansson claims sexuality is BW’s power, but not her combat and weapons training. What do they even mean by empowerment?
Since we’re on the subject, actor Stephen Dorff, according to the Hollywood Reporter (and reported on Bleeding Fool), is critical of the newly released Black Widow movie, along with how Hollywood seems far too stuck on such fare:
Although he played villain Deacon Frost in 1998’s Blade (yes a Marvel property but distributed by New Line Cinema), the 47-year-old Dorff told the U.K.’s Independent in a story published Monday that current superhero films are what is wrong with the business.
“I still hunt out the good shit because I don’t want to be in Black Widow,” the True Detective actor told the newspaper. “It looks like garbage to me. It looks like a bad video game. I’m embarrassed for those people. I’m embarrassed for Scarlett! I’m sure she got paid five, seven million bucks, but I’m embarrassed for her. I don’t want to be in those movies. I really don’t. I’ll find that kid director that’s gonna be the next [Stanley] Kubrick and I’ll act for him instead.”
[…] Dorff is hardly the first within Hollywood (or even to previously star in a Marvel property) to criticize Marvel and DC films and question the pictures’ artistic integrity. Last month, The Incredible Hulk TV series star Lou Ferrigno took a shot at MCU and DCU when he tweeted, “Can’t think of another superhero that isn’t in costume or CGI. Worked damn hard on my diet and exercise for the Hulk. Wasn’t going to let anyone down. The hulk was my hero as a kid as well. #hulkseries #oghulk #nocgiinvolved #dietandexercise #louferrigno #dontmakemeangry.”
How about that. Even these guys have joined Martin Scorsese and company in making a point how blockbuster actioners now come at the expense of the dramas that could make you think. Besides, what truly challenging subjects do these comic movies offer now? They don’t allude to subjects like Islamic terrorism, they don’t protest socialist influence, BW coming from a country that was under the commie thumb notwithstanding, and they don’t even encourage any real romance. As recent developments indicate, they’ve become leftist propaganda. No matter how much it’s taken at the box office so far, I’m past the point where I care to see this stuff.
— Phase Zero – MCU (@PhaseZeroCB) July 14, 2021
Can’t have any toxic male Avenger upstaging our strong, female protagonists!!
Originally published here.