By: Briana McDonald
Remind me, which Marvel character started out as a Russian super spy, then defected and made their way to one of the most influential and admired superhero teams of all time? No, you’re not thinking of Clint Barton. That flash of red hair that just backflipped by was Natasha Romanoff (a.k.a. Natalia Romanova, a.k.a. Black Widow, a.k.a. The Red Death, a.k.a… okay, you get my drift).
Natasha Romanoff is the only female Avenger and arguably one of the biggest inspirations and examples of female superhero strength, commonly compared to her DC Comics counterpart Wonder Woman. Both women have very different skill sets, however they have something in common: neither of them have had modern box office installments of their own movie.
Well, what’s Marvel’s excuse? Black Widow has starred alongside her male counterparts in a host of Marvel superhero movies. Fans expressed outrage at the way she was severely over-feminized and used as a plot device for male characters in 2015’s Avengers: Age of Ultron. An opportune backstory for Natasha was clearly laid out in Ultron, but rather than furthering a character arc, it was used to paint her as a self-declared “monster” and to provide a catalyst for a romance that seemed, to many, underdeveloped and sudden. Marvel diehards as a whole seemed to appreciate her as the glue of the Avengers team in Marvel’s last movie, Captain America: Civil War. However, due to the chaotic nature of the movie, Natasha’s past was understandably not addressed. Fans were left wondering: when will we learn more about Natasha Romanoff?
After Ultron was released in 2015, fans began to lose hope that we’d ever see a female-led superhero movie from Marvel. Avengers star Mark Ruffalo, who plays Dr. Bruce Banner, even tweeted two days before Ultron’s release about the noticeable lack of Black Widow merchandise compared to the plethora of figures of her male counterparts.
But there is hope! In 2019, Marvel Studios will release Captain Marvel, a movie about ex-Air Force pilot Carol Danvers. Carol is described by her comic book writer Kelly Sue McConnick as more than a pretty face in spandex. She’s “a control freak with a big ego and a quick temper,” seemingly fitting right in with the characters we’ve been seeing since Phase 1 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) began. Marvel’s president Kevin Feige has also expressed interest for a Black Widow movie. “She’s a lead Avenger,” Feige said, “and has amazing stories in her own right to tell that we think would be fun to turn into a stand-alone franchise.” There isn’t, though, a release date, or even a filming schedule; Marvel’s already announced all movies through the end of the MCU’s Phase 3.
You may be asking, “But why does this all matter? They’re fictional characters!” Well, art imitates life, and life imitates art. It’s a fact that people respond to what they see in fiction and identify with it. A lack of female characters sadly implies to girls that they don’t deserve to have their own stories told, or worse, that they don’t belong in a certain genre. Interestingly enough, though, about half of comic convention attendees are now women. For an example in cinema, over 40% of Marvel’s 2014 hit Guardians of the Galaxy audience was female. This exemplifies the popularity of the comic book/superhero genre among women and more than justifies a desire for women’s representation in superhero movies. Will Black Widow ever have her own movie? Guess we’ll have to see what Marvel comes up with for its next phase.