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  1. Bagelsan
    Bagelsan June 13, 2012 at 12:59 pm |

    Wordy wordy word. I actually liked Black Widow, and I was smitten with her tricking of Loki scene. I went in prepared for a lot of useless cleavage and got nothing of the sort. Sure, she was in skintight leather, but she was dressed like a nun compared to some of the characters! (The only nudity was Banner, wasn’t it? :D)

  2. mary
    mary June 13, 2012 at 1:14 pm |

    tw: discussion of suicide

    Yes, the contrasting reactions to Hulk and Black Widow are depressingly revealing of a lot of ingrained misogyny. Bruce Banner, in addition to nearly killing several allies because he can’t control himself, also details a past suicide attempt brought on by his despair of ever fixing his life. I do not place any value judgment on suicidal thoughts per se – but how can you criticise Black Widow for supposedly being emotional and vulnerable and “soft” without laying into Banner for demonstrating far more emotionalism? For the fact that his entire superpower is BASED on his emotional state?

    It isn’t about men or women being more emotional, it’s about female emotions being automatically read as bad, scary and weak while male emotions are automatically read as powerful, valid and universally human.

  3. outrageandsprinkles
    outrageandsprinkles June 13, 2012 at 1:17 pm |

    I read that Cracked article and while I found it mostly funny, I was genuinely puzzled by the implication that Black Widow looked too sexy. She IS sexy-she’s beautiful and would look good in pretty much anything-but she was wearing a suit that covered her entire body and seemed like it would be the most functional thing for her to be able to fight in. It would have been ridiculous had she been running around in stilettos and a bikini like so many women that are treated as eye candy in film and television. I’m a super obnoxious feminist and I thought she was badass.

  4. Gomi
    Gomi June 13, 2012 at 1:17 pm |

    I agree that her opening scene with the Russians, her recruitment of Banner and her tricking of Loki were great illustrations of a female character as a *character*, rather than eye candy.

    But I have to agree with George R. R. Martin about much of her work in the final battle. Besides the knife-as-joystick scene, she was almost laughable. Now, yes, a lot of that has to do with her having no real superpowers amidst a team with superpowers (even Hawkeye has preternatural aim), and that is how her character was created in the books, but she seemed token because she wasn’t as powerful. Compared to the Hulk’s strength or Iron Man’s suit, her twin pistols made her seem more powerless by comparison.

    Granted, that makes her that much more badass in the end, for doing it largely without powers. But, for the viewers, she seemed tacked on. Her suit was no more form fitting than Captain America’s, but, as with most comic book character design, his emphasized strength and power, while her’s emphasized bosoms and hips.

    There’s not much Whedon could do with this, because the character’s look, technique and armament was well established in canon. And, for all that, she was very badass without being *particularly* sexualized. But she’s still very much a sexualized comic book heroine, I think.

  5. outrageandsprinkles
    outrageandsprinkles June 13, 2012 at 1:19 pm |

    Oh yeah, also, as far as characters being dressed sexily, the Avengers is basically Biceps: The Movie so I find it really amusing that Black Widow gets derided for showing less skin than absolutely everyone else in the movie.

  6. Jamie
    Jamie June 13, 2012 at 1:35 pm |

    I really think that Natasha’s outfit was sensible for what she was doing. It wasn’t all that different than Maria Hill’s. It was tight, but honestly, if she were running around in something that wasn’t tight, it wouldn’t be as functional. It would be easier for enemies to grab onto while she’s running and dodging and leaping onto flying air moped things.

    Also, since I brought up Maria, I love that her outfit was the same as everyone else’s at S.H.I.E.L.D. and that her hair was pulled back.

    I’m actually very pleased with the wardrobe for both women. Everything was sensible and I never caught myself rolling my eyes or being frustrated with how the women were handled. I would have liked to see more of Maria and see the two women talk and interact, but that’s my only complaint.

  7. Jamie
    Jamie June 13, 2012 at 1:37 pm |

    +1 to outrageandsprinkles

    “Biceps: The Movie” made me burst out laughing!

  8. Gomi
    Gomi June 13, 2012 at 1:50 pm |

    I think a catsuit like that would cause some rather uncomfortable bunching and chafing in combat, not to mention binding at the joints. Not really that practical. That’s compared to something a bit looser, like maybe a pair of cargo pants (given that she has thigh pouches on her catsuit) tucked into boots. Something actually similar to what soldiers wear already.

    But then, that’s not as form fitting and revealing as the catsuit. Which is what the original comic book artists were generally aiming for, and therefore what the movie continued.

  9. mary
    mary June 13, 2012 at 1:53 pm |

    Her suit was no more form fitting than Captain America’s, but, as with most comic book character design, his emphasized strength and power, while her’s emphasized bosoms and hips.

    And yet it was Cap’s rear that got the slow, gratuitous zoom-in.

    Which doesn’t take away from BW’s sexualization, but there’s something that feels wrong to me about using BW’s sexiness to deduct points from her power and agency without doing the same to Cap or Thor. Not that you are necessarily doing this, Gomi, but it’s something I get from some of the critiques of her character.

  10. Thomas MacAulay Millar
    Thomas MacAulay Millar June 13, 2012 at 1:59 pm |

    As is so often the case, the problem is not (or not primarily) with the material, but with we the audience. If the kyriarchal crap isn’t written in, people still bring it to the table.

  11. macavitykitsune
    macavitykitsune June 13, 2012 at 2:06 pm |

    George R.R. Martin, author of Game of Thrones, complains that “Scarlett Johansson looked great in that outfit, but she seemed to be there only as eye candy”

    Um

    George R.R. Martin, author of Game of Thrones?

    BAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAA

    Try showing me three minutes of your own series without a Gratuitous Naked Lady and get back to me about Whedon’s film, you hypocritical chucklefuck. I love your story dearly, but glass houses, stones, etc.

    Seriously, I loved that BW stood her own -and so did Hawkeye – with these crazy-awesome-super-men and didn’t flinch from things that clearly outclassed her. Would I have liked her to have powers too? Sure. That doesn’t mean she wasn’t massively kickass.

    Also seconding everyone else who was talking about her emotionality vs Hulk’s. Compare, also, to the fact that Stark’s massive ego constantly gets in his way, or to Thor’s willful insistence that his brother is a Nice Guy Really (although given that Thor the movie did in fact show a very justified Loki IMO) blinkers him to Loki being a raging asshat. BW comes off way more rational and clear-headed than either of them.

  12. Gomi
    Gomi June 13, 2012 at 2:09 pm |

    Which doesn’t take away from BW’s sexualization, but there’s something that feels wrong to me about using BW’s sexiness to deduct points from her power and agency without doing the same to Cap or Thor. Not that you are necessarily doing this, Gomi, but it’s something I get from some of the critiques of her character.

    That’s true, but as with most comic book characters, how the sexiness is portrayed differs.

    Traditionally, heroes (and villains) of both genders were impractical and form fitting attire, that serves little practical purpose but reveal their physical attributes. Form follows figure rather than function, so to speak.

    But while men’s costumes are meant to play up their musculature and fitness (generally), women’s costumes very rarely do that.

    Consider this picture
    http://screencrave.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/the-avengers-captain-america-hawkeye-black-widow.jpg

    Hawkeye’s and Cap’s shoulder are emphasized and broadened, while their waist is narrowed, visually (with rubber-looking bit on Hawkeye and stripes on Cap). Black Widow, in contrast is slimmed, with a tight fit all the way down her leg (compared to some blousing and bulk on the other two).

    Also, look at the belts on Cap and BW. His belt rides high, further narrowing his waist with the vertical stripes. Her belt rides low, and actually hangs kind of diagonally to the right, emphasizing her hips.

    Black Widow must be a very muscular and athletic individual, but her suit downplays any of that. The guys get their broad (muscular) shoulders emphasized, while BW gets her hips emphasized.

    This shouldn’t subtract from the excellent work Johansson and Whedon did in making BW more than eye candy. But the material they had to work with, and admittedly stuck with, sexualized BW in ways it didn’t sexualize the men.

  13. Gomi
    Gomi June 13, 2012 at 2:14 pm |

    Although, I will say that the postures seen, especially in the promo material, are very good, without the usual contortion on BW’s part. In that picture I just linked to, BW is walking tall, arms swung at the sides, in the same way as the men: a walk of power and purpose.

    This, I think, is the contribution of Johansson and Whedon, and what makes BW a better than usual female superhero film character.

  14. librarygoose
    librarygoose June 13, 2012 at 2:52 pm |

    I find it hilarious that people feel that Hawkeye isn’t just as outclassed. Black Widow has no super powers! She has guns, how silly! Hawkeye now, with his awesome aim, find him a ladder so he can get to a high spot and just watch him…aim. They could have easily traded places as Loki’s pet. That’s what made Hawkeye such a huge part of the movie. Otherwise it was The Avengers (and those two humans).

    I fucking loved the movie, I love Joss Whedon, but saying that BW was tacked on and not Hawkeye is bullshit.

  15. Tony
    Tony June 13, 2012 at 2:58 pm |

    The Black Widow was great. Yes she’s a token, sexy female – by basically by definition. But this pattern isn’t new in superhero films, especially considering the material they work with. I won’t pretend to be an expert- the last Avengers I read was soon after the ‘civil war’. There was one other female character with superpowers – Ms. Marvel (in fact she captures Black Widow at one point), but I’m assuming she wasn’t included because she’s since fallen out of the group in the comic book world (?).

    Black Widow though was great because she was a genuinely competent, formidable foe who was in a lot of confrontations and won all of them (except one). Many films take a female character, set her up as tough and smart, and then proceed to portray her making horrible horrible choices, getting beat up, being rescue bait, et cetera. Perhaps her capture or even death serves as the catalyst for the hero to go into berzerker mode or at least ‘take up the cause,’ whipping up the audience for bloodlust. I was afraid the same would happen here, but it didn’t. Instead she plays the most critical role in the final battle by securing the wormhole and thus saving earth from alien invasion– arguably more critical than anything else in the battle, since they could have gone on killing off Chitauri forever but would have eventually been overwhelmed. And she defeated Hawkeye – evil Hawkeye being a lot scarier in my mind than Loki. Loki was almost a comically villainous, deluded character, a swirl of childish and self-loathing emotions. Hawkeye was deadly, determined and intelligent. Not only that she saved him (and thus the ship) and successfully turned him back to SHIELD’s side, and her feelings for him are validated. I also appreciated that they didn’t blow up the SHIELD ship just because they could / it would have made for a nice explosion scene.

    I will say that I didn’t fully understand the interplay between Black Widow and Hulk– it seems there’s some back story there that wasn’t in this movie. BW is a badass character in every way but she’s still afraid of the Hulk’s brute strength- but then again so are they all.

  16. Rillion
    Rillion June 13, 2012 at 3:03 pm |

    The fact that Black Widow is not only mundane, with no real powers to speak of, is bad enough. What completely obliterated my ability to take her seriously was the fact that she’s the sole female “superhero” (not quite sure how the word applies to her) in the group and her ability is….manipulation. Yeah. Umm.

  17. librarygoose
    librarygoose June 13, 2012 at 3:14 pm |

    I will say that I didn’t fully understand the interplay between Black Widow and Hulk– it seems there’s some back story there that wasn’t in this movie. BW is a badass character in every way but she’s still afraid of the Hulk’s brute strength- but then again so are they all.

    I think it was just her knowing what Hulk was capable of, and by extension, what Bruce was capable of. She’s in SHIELD so she would have a lot of prior warning, whereas the other Avengers didn’t really know. They built Bruce his own special murder cage, I think it’s safe to assume everyone was walking on egg shells.

  18. umami
    umami June 13, 2012 at 4:22 pm |

    But while men’s costumes are meant to play up their musculature and fitness (generally), women’s costumes very rarely do that.

    You wrote a lot about that picture. But it didn’t add up for me when I read it?

    For example, you wrote about how the men’s costumes emphasised their slim waists (at least partly by adding material bulking up their hips) and contrasted that with how BW’s costume emphasised her hips, but also slimmed her.It wasn’t really a contrast.

    I guess your point with that is that a slim waist on a man is more indicative of a gym-honed physique than it is on a woman? So the meaning of a costume that emphasises their waists changes a little bit.

    But slim waists even on men are not functional anyway, are they? When you see World’s Strongest Man competitions on TV, the guys don’t have those slender, sculpted waists. Their torsos are more sack-shaped than Thor-shaped. Tiny waists on men aren’t functional, just sexy.

    Massive shoulders are functional, and indicate strength and power. But they’re also a conventionally sexually attractive thing on men (and they’re definitely sexually attractive to me in that picture.) So… it just seems to me that the costumes are highlighting the most attractive areas of these ridiculously attractive people’s bodies, rather than highlighting their “fitness.”

    (I also don’t see how anyone could possibly put a tight costume on Scarlett Johansson without it emphasising her boobs and hips, really. I mean, look at her. )

    Maybe I’m suffering from an imagination failure, but I just don’t see how you could have designed BW’s costume to emphasise “musculature and fitness” in the same way that you’re saying the men’s costumes are doing for them. My first reaction to reading your comment was to think that you’re at least partly still looking through the lens that the article is critiquing, but it could easily be that I’m missing something interesting.

  19. martyanne
    martyanne June 13, 2012 at 5:47 pm |

    Something to think about: Honestly, boobs are the most obvious sexual feature on either male or female. They SHOW. To equally sexualize a male, you’d have to basically have a batsuit that showed not just ass and nipples but also, well…. penis-es. And boy, we’d all be staring then. Hope that costume is flexible given the nature of the things. Just wait and hear how people boycott that. Our culture is far more enamoured withT&A overall.

    I think the non-supers in Avengers all earned their badass badges, especially because what they brought to the table were skills , perhaps not superhero level, but superior to any ordinary level of the skill. I think S.J. as BW has superior beauty that assists her skills.

  20. Cat
    Cat June 13, 2012 at 5:49 pm |

    Rillion–you must have missed the beginning of the movie. You really should go back and see it from the beginning; there’s a great scene where Black Widow takes on four or five guys, all by herself, while she is tied to a chair with both hands tied behind her–and wins. You don’t want to miss that one.

    Superhero enough for me.

    And at the end? Iron suit this and indestructable that and god-like the other and in the middle of it all two smashable humans working on nothing but reflexes, training, and flat-out-gonads-to-the-wall courage to keep up, and who is it jumps on to a strange flying machine crewed by two or three deadly aliens and rides it into the sky to close the portal?

    She is the badassest character in that film.

    All the movie needs is two or three more like her (strong female characters, that is–obviously they should have different strengths and powers) and it’s perfect.

  21. seisy
    seisy June 13, 2012 at 5:51 pm |

    So I think it’s pretty obvious that the Black Widow’s *character design* is of the standard comic book type for ladies, i.e. sexy uber alles. But the movie did a damned good job of taking that, keeping to the more moderate side of the spectrum, and making it an almost incidental part of her role and characterization in the story. Which is all kinds of awesome. Joss Whedon is far from perfect, but damn if I don’t love the man for making me love the character I dreaded the most. (The version in Iron Man 2 inspired rants on my part about characters whose ever aspect is defined by sexiness. Sexy clothes! Sexy fighting! Sexy smart!)

    The part of the movie that really sold it for me in some ways was where she’s managed to escape the Hulk and then kind of has a panic attack. Normally, this wouldn’t endear me…except it wasn’t used to make her look weak. It made her look strong. Human (relatable), but strong. Because it was terrifying, but she held it together until she had a moment for it. And after that moment was over? She got right back up, despite the eminently sensible fear, pushed past it, and got shit done.

    That’s something I’m not particularly used to seeing in female characters in action movies. They either go all passive and freaked or useless/ineffective and it’s used to underline their weakness or victimhood, or they’re “strong” in the way Hark! A Vagrant parodied.

  22. macavitykitsune
    macavitykitsune June 13, 2012 at 6:14 pm |

    Iron suit this and indestructable that and god-like the other and in the middle of it all two smashable humans working on nothing but reflexes, training, and flat-out-gonads-to-the-wall courage to keep up, and who is it jumps on to a strange flying machine crewed by two or three deadly aliens and rides it into the sky to close the portal?

    This. It’s easy to be Special when you’ve got gajillions of dollars of money to spend on your own special-making suit, or ancestral weapons that Imbue You With Special and a divine/alien heritage to boot.

    Pulling the shit she did in that movie with nothing but good old-fashioned homo sapiens DNA and a government-issue weapon? Now that took badassery.

  23. Rillion
    Rillion June 13, 2012 at 7:49 pm |

    Cat,

    I saw the whole movie, thanks. And no, I don’t consider that bit of cute gymnastics to qualify as superhero material.

    You recall the battle between Thor, Captain America, and Iron Man? Those are superheroes. Black Widow is more of a spy. And there’s nothing wrong with being a spy…she just belongs in a spy movie, not a superhero movie.

  24. macavitykitsune
    macavitykitsune June 13, 2012 at 8:00 pm |

    I saw the whole movie, thanks. And no, I don’t consider that bit of cute gymnastics to qualify as superhero material.

    Do you also not consider Hawkeye, Batman, Rorschach, the Punisher, etc to be superheroes? ’cause really, Rorschach doesn’t even have the cute gymnastics going for him. And take Batman’s suit away – or Iron Man’s for that matter – and their primary power is Wangst.

  25. librarygoose
    librarygoose June 13, 2012 at 8:01 pm |

    she just belongs in a spy movie, not a superhero movie.

    But she is an Avenger. She was a spy for SHIELD and a part of the Avengers, not an original founder, but would you rather they have Wasp? I can believe a spy as a hero more than a really tiny lady.

  26. protocoach
    protocoach June 13, 2012 at 8:08 pm |

    @Rillion

    What about the whole last battle? None of that qualifies as superhero material? I feel like your superhero bar might be set a little high. Like, “Batman’s not a superhero”-high.

    I recall that battle between Cap, Thor, and Iron Man; Cap basically got punted around by the others like a rag doll. Does that disqualify him from superhero status too? When you say “spy movie,” I’m assuming that you’re thinking James Bond or something along those lines and I have to point out that those are really just superhero movies where the hero’s powerset is something like super-shooting, super-attractiveness, super-competence, and bullet dodging/super-healing. They’re just superhero movies from an earlier age. The skill set Black Widow displays is just as ridiculous as the skill set anyone else displays in the Avengers. The difference is not “This is realistic and that is ridiculous,” it’s “This is ridiculous and that is even more ridiculous.” George Smiley wouldn’t fit in this world, but James Bond would slot in pretty neatly.

  27. unacomplished
    unacomplished June 13, 2012 at 8:09 pm |

    This. It’s easy to be Special when you’ve got gajillions of dollars of money to spend on your own special-making suit, or ancestral weapons that Imbue You With Special and a divine/alien heritage to boot.

    Pulling the shit she did in that movie with nothing but good old-fashioned homo sapiens DNA and a government-issue weapon? Now that took badassery.

    Heh, so can’t believe I’m gonna do this, cus I typically mind shatteringly utterly LOTHE when feminists criticize art for not being “their cup of tea” but sadly the nerd in me is winning…

    So I was actually disappointed with the way they equipped BW, because all of the other heroes had the same powers they have in their respective comic books EXCEPT HER.

    As anybody who is a comic veteran will tell you, the TRADE mark weapon of BW is her crazy advanced ru military prototype bracelets. I mean yea she spends most of her time being more spy spy sneak around as apposed to lil miss blow shit up and break people like toothpicks, but in the comics, when it came down to a knock down drag out fight, out came the crazy high tech BEAMS OF DEATH.

    iono perhaps im just nerdy enough to be an outside the target market for the film but when it was obvious after iron man 2 that they were going to introduce all the late gen tech right into the movie before they got started with the giant avengers team up and some of the major end game components of the story started to show (comon, the teseract is obviously a cosmic cube and the appearance of thanos at the end HAS to be a lead in to “the end” story arc (one of my fav marvel arcs of all time, sqeeee ;))) I was just WAITING for her tech to get upgraded to late game status too!

    sigh… foiled by my own geekdom i suppose :(

  28. Rillion
    Rillion June 13, 2012 at 8:16 pm |

    But she is an Avenger. She was a spy for SHIELD and a part of the Avengers, not an original founder, but would you rather they have Wasp? I can believe a spy as a hero more than a really tiny lady.

    Sorry, no idea what you’re talking about. I don’t read superhero comic books, and usually don’t watch superhero movies precisely because they tend toward sexist tripe. As I said, my main problem with her was that a) she doesn’t have any real “powers” to speak of, and b) her one stand-out ability is manipulation. Which is kind of like having a token Native American superhero whose special ability is drinking. I guess he could drink Loki under the table and get him to admit what his secret agenda is.

    And if you have to say “She’s like (insert insanely powerful superhero here) if you take away his _____,” that’s really making the point. She doesn’t have the _____.

  29. Azalea
    Azalea June 13, 2012 at 8:33 pm |

    Whenever an attractive woman has the audacity to wear something sexy there’s going to be hell to pay. It doesn’t matter that she kicked ass, was mature, was not half naked, wasn’t an emotional wreck. No she wore something and looked good in it..sexy even how fucking DARE she?! smh

  30. Bagelsan
    Bagelsan June 13, 2012 at 8:42 pm |

    Stark’s super power was being um, smart and rich, Hawkeye is good with aiming at stuff, Banner’s was being smart and indestructible, Cpt. America’s was being …like, hot? And soldiery?… and Thor was a GOD. Frankly they are a pretty incoherent bunch power-wise even without Black Widow, whose super power was apparently sustained intelligent ass-kicking.

  31. Alex
    Alex June 13, 2012 at 8:51 pm |

    I don’t really think Black Widow’s comic book design is ultra sexualized. I mean, it’s a full body suit that covers her from neck to toe, no different from what Reed Richards wears, no different from the standard unisex SHIELD uniform in that universe. It’s probably tighter than it was in the movie, but so is Captain America’s. Comics are just a world where everyone wears tights as a rule of thumb, and underwear outside the pants is visual shorthand for heroism. If she were clothed in combat boots, cargo pants, and kevlar, she’d look really out of place in her universe.

    Black Widow’s costume design dates back to 1970, which was well before the candy-floss for costumes superheroine aesthetic became acceptable or expected. People kind of understand superheroes as a sort of soft-core porn genre, but back in the day the mere hint of cleavage were censored. Now, certainly, artists and fans have found ways since then to make her costume way way more sexy, usually by not putting it on all the way, but also by making it way tighter than superhero standard, or made of latex, or just by framing panels with her ass. But that’s hardly how she has to be, or how she’s always 100% of the time depicted. Her 1970 makeover was actually contrived with the intent of making her Marvel’s first female solo star, someone who fought for the then quite topical cause of “Women’s Liberation.”

    Basically, what I’m saying is that her comic book history lines up pretty spot-on with the movie. Some definite male gaze-itude in Iron Man 2 leading to a widespread determination to dismiss her as eyecandy, overshadowing those times when the plotline gives her real significance, real weakness, real strength.

  32. konkonsn
    konkonsn June 13, 2012 at 9:20 pm |

    Gomi, I have to go with umami on this. It feels like your descriptions aren’t adding up. It’s basically, “It’s cool on a man, but it looks sexy on a woman,” like how some people argue that the same t-shirt a small chested woman wears is fine, but anything someone with DD wears is outrageous.

    It’s basically what the article is pointing out. You cannot have a Hollywood beautiful woman on a screen without people automatically saying, “Nope. Sex. That’s all she’s there for.” No matter how well she’s written.

    Black Widow’s costume in the Avengers is, honestly, probably one of the best examples of what feminists like myself have been arguing for in comics. It’s ok if your female character is dressed in tight spandex like the male supes, but if you’re constantly having her do the boobs and butt pose or portraying her fighting in a way that emphasizes the sexual nature of the clothing, then we have a problem (also, the larger context, but that’s something else).

  33. protocoach
    protocoach June 13, 2012 at 9:30 pm |

    @unaccomplished:

    These bracelets? She had the Widow’s Bite, and she used it on the Chitauri in the final battle a few times. They didn’t make a big deal about them, but they were there.

  34. Gomi
    Gomi June 13, 2012 at 9:50 pm |

    konkonsn & umami –

    I’m not just saying “She’s just there for sex.” I think we all agree that Johansson and Whedon did an excellent job in making BW more than simply a sexy-for-sexy-sake comic book heroine.

    It’s just that, while both Cap and BW suits were tight, they were tight in different ways. To my eyes, at least, and maybe I’m just being over sensitive.

    But still, they did in excellent job in making BW badass in a good way. I don’t disagree with that at all.

  35. macavitykitsune
    macavitykitsune June 13, 2012 at 9:56 pm |

    Heh, so can’t believe I’m gonna do this, cus I typically mind shatteringly utterly LOTHE when feminists criticize art for not being “their cup of tea” but sadly the nerd in me is winning…

    Uh, who was criticising art for not being feminists’ cup of tea? If anything, we’ve all been fairly geeky here. Where the heck did that come from?

    I admit I don’t have comic book continuity, but she did in fact use those bracelets in the movie as I recall. As protocoach pointed out. Also, my point was that if she was holding her own, unassisted, that kind of secures her badass status in that group.

  36. VoIP
    VoIP June 13, 2012 at 10:02 pm |

    Rillion:

    Sorry, no idea what you’re talking about. I don’t read superhero comic books, and usually don’t watch superhero movies precisely because they tend toward sexist tripe.

    But that’s going to mean you don’t know a whole lot about Black Widow as a character, about the stories she appears in or the things she can do. You’re setting the movie up for failure.

    And if martial arts are “cute gymnastics,” then what the heck is Batman?

  37. librarygoose
    librarygoose June 13, 2012 at 10:37 pm |

    Sorry, no idea what you’re talking about.

    One of the original founders of the Avengers was a hero called Wasp. She could get super tiny and grow bug wings. How is that a better hero than “kick ass Russian assassin turned spy”?

    My point is, in my completely biased opinion, Black Widow is the least ridiculous token woman to put in the movie.

  38. Tracey
    Tracey June 14, 2012 at 12:24 am |

    My point is, in my completely biased opinion, Black Widow is the least ridiculous token woman to put in the movie.

    Really?
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monica_Rambeau

    I kid though, I kid, kinda. I’m guessing she is a member of a later Avengers team (my fandom is heavily skewed too DC). I agree on Wasp not being a good fit for the assembled team though because I think her power would have been out of place in a group that with the exception of Thor is mostly comprised of enhanced or metahumans (what they would be considered in the DC universe). Even Thor isn’t that out of place in a universe with aliens and the powers of the gods depicted seems to be not that much greater than that of a lot of the alien foes introduced (in the Marvel universe as a whole as well as this movie).

    Also, I think that Black Widow’s costume was great and a whole lot better than the skin tight, can barely move in it, costume I have sometimes seen her depicted in. This one seemed functional and practical by comic book standards for males and females.

  39. yes
    yes June 14, 2012 at 12:32 am |

    @mac

    GRRM didn’t seem to be complaining that there was sexiness, even gratuitous sexiness, but that BW didn’t extend beyond that. I don’t agree with that interpretation (i liked BW in the movie), but there’s no hypocrisy in his words. If you want to evoke glass houses, you’ll have to explain to me how Cerci, Catlin, et al are just around to be pretty but don’t do anything meaningful.

    @Rill
    Sure, she’s manipulative. But one of the refreshing things is that it isn’t heavily gendered. Consider what kind of manipulation she does:

    She manipulates the Russians by controlling the conversation so that their questions give her information. She plays off the completely reasonable assumption that they are in control because she’s tied to a chair with guns pointed at her. This scene could as easily have had a man doing it, and nothing changes.

    She tricks Loki by playing into his assumptions about romance tropes and the weakness of humans. This scene could very easily have been Hawkeye being taunted. Granted, BW also uses his sexist assumptions about her being weak to make her emotions more believable. But she doesn’t cry so “aw poor girl some big man will protect you” or for sympathy or to make anyone feel guilty. None of the standard “female manipulation” tropes that are so inherently sexist. She appears weak to make Loki gloat and taunt her, thereby letting part of his plan slip.

  40. librarygoose
    librarygoose June 14, 2012 at 12:44 am |

    I think her power would have been out of place in a group that with the exception of Thor is mostly comprised of enhanced or metahumans

    I say this with no regrets, I hate all the “super” heroes whose powers are to grow or shrink (especially shrink). It’s pointless. They could make the perfect feminist character, a shining beacon of gender equality, if this character’s ability is that they shrink I will hate them. I am totally biased in this. I know.

  41. Nonny
    Nonny June 14, 2012 at 3:56 am |

    I LOVED Black Widow. I think she’s probably my favorite comic book movie character at this point. She is fierce, competent, and brilliant.

    I’ve seen some people complain about how she ends up hurting her ankle and having to be “rescued” by Thor, but I think people miss a key element in the scenes from that part of the movie — which is that the entire point is that the team needs to work together. What about Captain American and Iron Man? Cap needed to be there to save Iron Man’s ass just as much as Black Widow needed help. The whole point is that they had spent so much time bickering with each other that they weren’t a team. And they pulled it together and worked with each other.

    (Oh and even with an injured ankle, Black Widow still managed to beat the shit out of brainwashed Hawkeye.)

  42. ellid
    ellid June 14, 2012 at 6:29 am |

    @Rillion –

    You just admitted that you don’t read superhero comics because “they’re sexist tripe,” yet are slamming Black Widow for “belonging in a spy movie, not a superhero movie.” I hate to tell you this, but the Avengers have ALWAYS included female characters, including the Wasp, Captain Marvel, the Scarlet Witch, Black Widow (who has had her own book for nearly fifty years, and most certainly *does* has super powers – which you would know if you’d so much as bothered to look her up on Wikipedia, let alone picked up a copy of her comic), and several others. You also don’t know, and don’t seem to care, that in the Marvel continuity SHIELD agents *do* function as superheros thanks to training, weaponry, and often scientific enhancement.

    Finally, I anxiously await your comments on Batman belonging in a detective movie, not a superhero movie, since he is a normal human who only has advanced weaponry, a high-tech Kevlar suit, and his wits….

  43. Alara Rogers
    Alara Rogers June 14, 2012 at 8:53 am |

    I was never a fan of Black Widow in the comics (I was never a fan of any of the Avengers… not like I hated them, I was just much more into X-Men and Spiderman), but I thought she was awesome in every way in this movie.

    If they’d needed a woman who can kick ass in a superhuman way, Carol Danvers would have been the better choice… Wasp shrinks, Scarlet Witch’s origin story is bound up in X-Men continuity and her powers are seriously weird, She-Hulk is an awesome *character* with a feminist origin story but her powers are irrelevant when you have the original Hulk on your team, and Photon is a fairly late addition who isn’t well known to the fan base. I do hope she shows up, because just having Nick Fury be black doesn’t really save the team per se from being Whitey McWhiterpants, and after the debacle that was Halle Berry as Storm, I’d love to see what a Marvel franchise written by someone who’s good with women could do with an awesomely powerful black superheroine, but she’s not a good choice for the first string because no one knows who the hell she is except us serious geeks and also fans of Warren Ellis. (Hell, she spent more than half her career being called Captain Marvel, which is apparently Marvel’s go-to name when they can’t think of a better name for you.)

    Carol Danvers has an origin story tied to aliens, and people might be waiting for the other shoe to drop with the inevitable X-Men crossover story where Rogue more or less kills her, but she *is* badass. She flies (does anyone else fly? Well, Iron Man, and… I think Thor can fly? But I can’t remember him doing it) and has superhuman strength on nearly Superman levels. She’s also a former spy herself, which means she’d fit right in with SHIELD (I am not 100% positive her origin story doesn’t actually have her coming out of SHIELD.)

    But I wouldn’t want to see her replace Black Widow. The thing is that a team of superhumans is generally improved by having the token “really smart non-superhuman who does psy ops” — Justice League has Batman for this role, and being the Batman of the Avengers is not a bad place for a character to be. Black Widow is actually not a lot less superhuman than Captain America, who is supposed to be enhanced to maximum normal human potential, not superhuman levels, and given how young she looks but the time period of the Cold War vis-a-vis our modern era, I would not be surprised to find out she ages slowly (seriously, she looks to be in her 30’s, which means in 2012 that she’d have been born in the 80’s, and the Russians would *not* have been fielding a super-spy after glasnost. She’s not as old as Cap because not frozen in time, but I would be surprised if it doesn’t turn out she was born in at least the 1960’s.) Carol Danvers is not primarily known for being canny, she doesn’t have or need mad martial arts skills because she’s super strong, and I don’t see why a team can’t have two women anyway, so I’m hoping for Danvers in a later movie. (And Rambeau. But I could do without van Dyne, ever. Although there *is* kind of a feminist statement in “grown-up Paris Hilton as badass superhero”… people dismiss Janet van Dyne as a shallow, fashion-obsessed socialite, but she’s kicked Magneto’s ass, twice. Admittedly, one of those times she was a zombie and the other time she just slept with him, but seriously, you don’t get to kick Magneto’s ass if you’re weaksauce even if you did just sleep with him. It generally takes an entire team of superhumans to take him out. Also, I kind of like the fact that she’s the kind of character who’ll sleep with the supervillain because he’s hot and there, and then kick his ass for being a bad guy the next morning without angsting about it. But seriously, we do not need a movie about her.)

    BTW… now that I’m thinking of it, there is a metric fuckton of crossover between X-Men and Avengers. They share villains in common, they share heroes in common, they have a lot more connection than Spidey or the FF have to either group (at least until relatively recently when Spidey joined the Avengers)… maybe someday we can has movie crossover?

  44. M. LIon
    M. LIon June 14, 2012 at 12:19 pm |

    Oh. Hells. YES!!

    Yes yes yes yes yes!!

    I LOVE Black Widow! She totally kicked ass and took names. And if silly reviewers can’t see that then to heck with them.* Plus as a woman with large DD breasts and a big butt, I find it refreshing to see a heroine with breasts and some “woman flesh” on her bones. She doesn’t look like she starves.

    Plus I love how when Scarlett Johannsen was asked if there would be a love interest she said “There isn’t enough time. We’ve got shit to avenge.”

    AMEN!!!

    Now go send out some more Black Widow love. :)

    (Or hang them by their ankles, I can go for that.)

  45. Sereg
    Sereg June 14, 2012 at 12:24 pm |

    For anyone (including Rillion) who’s not quite getting why Black Widow, and Hawkeye, are in this movie: They’re the Badass Normals of the Avengers. Every superhero team can benefit from one.

    (Okay, I don’t think the X-Men had one, but I could be wrong.)

  46. librarygoose
    librarygoose June 14, 2012 at 1:32 pm |

    I’d just like to say that I am loving this thread.

    Also:

    I anxiously await your comments on Batman belonging in a detective movie, not a superhero movie,

    I would watch the fuck out of this movie.

  47. macavitykitsune
    macavitykitsune June 14, 2012 at 1:36 pm |

    If you want to evoke glass houses, you’ll have to explain to me how Cerci, Catlin, et al are just around to be pretty but don’t do anything meaningful.

    I was referring to the gratuitous nudity and the copious amounts of Female Persons Of Business who occupy the screen for no particular reason, actually. (Often in favour of cutting out important POV scenes from other female characters.)

    I say this with no regrets, I hate all the “super” heroes whose powers are to grow or shrink (especially shrink). It’s pointless.

    I see your hatred of Wasp and raise you one Hanuman:
    Hanuman

  48. macavitykitsune
    macavitykitsune June 14, 2012 at 1:37 pm |

    >.< So that link was borked.

    Um, meant to add that that's not his only power.

  49. Andie
    Andie June 14, 2012 at 2:30 pm |

    (Okay, I don’t think the X-Men had one, but I could be wrong.)

    Moira McTaggart?

  50. LC
    LC June 14, 2012 at 2:45 pm |

    maybe someday we can has movie crossover?

    Avengers/X-Men would be intriguing.

    Avengers/FF would be hilarious just to see how they explain Cap meeting Torch. (assuming they keep the same cast)

  51. librarygoose
    librarygoose June 14, 2012 at 2:51 pm |

    maybe someday we can has movie crossover?

    The problem is separate companies own the rights to movie versions of X-men (especially Wolverine) and The Avengers. So cross overs would probably require another actor as the characters and that messes with movie universe continuity. Which, fuck it, there have been 3 different Hulks, so why not a new Logan?

  52. stonebiscuit
    stonebiscuit June 14, 2012 at 2:55 pm |

    I was pleasantly surprised with how much I didn’t hate BW in this movie. I expected to, given that a) the trailer showed her running from Hulk, hiding under Cap’s shield, and reloading a handgun (apparently in the face of a GIANT FLYING ROBOT, which turned out to not be the case, so I blame whoever cut the trailer for that), and b) ScarJo isn’t that great an actor, but I didn’t!

    That being said, I miss the female Avengers with actual honest-to-Stan powers (Ms. Marvel and Scarlet Witch come to mind, and I’m nothing like an expert on this subject). I am still mildly irritated that the only woman given a name in the movie is not, in fact, a superhero. Which is not to say that her arc wasn’t interesting and she didn’t contribute quite a bit–it was and she did–but is it too much to ask for a lady with world-altering abilities? I don’t think so.

    My only other nitpick, which is not a BW specific one by any means, was the way she and Fury handled Bruce when they discovered that Loki’s plan was to set him off (which, in retrospect, isn’t a terribly surprising plan). Rather than calmly explain to him what was going on and ask for his assistance (because he does have a vested interest in staying in control of himself) they burst into the room, Thor trailing in their wake, and start badgering him. And can someone please explain to me how SHIELD planned to get the unstoppable rage monster into the glass hut?

  53. Mercutia
    Mercutia June 14, 2012 at 4:53 pm |

    I keep trying to add something meaningful to the dialogue because I, too, think BW is excellent and was well-portrayed and did a lot of importnat stuff and hey, pistols aren’t magical or impressive but a bullet from one is actually quite deadly, thank you very much, but I go looking for pictures of her and somehow end up staring at Captain America’s butt cheeks and then it’s several hours later.

  54. Bagelsan
    Bagelsan June 14, 2012 at 4:59 pm |

    And if martial arts are “cute gymnastics,” then what the heck is Batman?

    The cutest gymnast ever?

  55. yes
    yes June 14, 2012 at 6:22 pm |

    @mac
    Granted, but his complaint wasn’t that BW was sexy, or even eye-candy. It’s that that’s all she was. That’s only hypocritical if that’s all that women in GoT are.

    Also, I’m not sure how much they consult with him on how much nudity to put in each episode, but that’s secondary.

  56. unacomplished
    unacomplished June 14, 2012 at 7:20 pm |

    I know I’m weird, but I tend to prefer the Badass Normals. The ones who are legitimately super–whether because they’re an alien, because they’re physically engineered, because they have some kind of fancy artifact, because they’ve gotten irradiated and/or bitten by something irradiated–are super through no contribution of their own. And the ones who are super because of something they did to themselves generally end up supervillains.

    heh, actually I see where your coming from. When I was younger I always wanted to be the bad guy in the comics and cartoons I saw. I always thought it was cool how joker could always outsmart batman or play a game with him before he was defeated only to trivially break out of prison later on when he got board. Evil genius villains like Mandarin and Thanos and Dr Doom

  57. Tracey
    Tracey June 14, 2012 at 8:04 pm |

    I also like the badass normals better. I think it would be great if Monica Rambeau showed up in part because: oh I can here people freaking out over a black female Captain Marvel now (after the Hunger Games I’m convinced some people will be able to retcon her canon existence from memory); to add greater diversity in terms of race and sex; because she has a history with Captain America it should be interesting to see if/how it changes team dynamics.
    However, I do think that characters like hers and the Scarlet Witch require so much in terms of placing limits on their powers because they are so far and beyond in terms of what they can do. I mean, by all rights, the two of them as a team (control of wavelengths and chaos theory) should be just about unstoppable to every conceivable force on earth (even Captain Marvel should be able to best even the most powerful psychics).

    That’s another reason I think the Black Widow is so great for a character in this movie. Even with no origin story (as of yet), she is relateable enough that she can be fleshed out and humanized in the space of a 2 hr. movie with four/five other main characters, without it getting melodramatic, taking away from her ability to kick butt, or seeming to place unrealistic limits on what she can do.

    I think that if Black Widow had been a super, or even more enhanced than she is (does she have enhancements in this movie?), it would have ran the risk of turning her into a caricature rather than a character. Her abilities would have taken precedence over her personality. Oddly enough, I think people still would be referring to her even then as token female (or arguing that she was at best a female version of Captain America). However, I can’t be upset with people who peg her as token representation given the general treatment of women superheroes in movies and comics, but I think the criticism of her may be going to the extreme of “in order to be taken seriously she must be dressed in a loose sweatsuit and 2x as smart, strong, and arrogant than the men around her.” It tends to create a construction of “serious vs. eyecandy” that ends up hurting the range of representation for women characters.

  58. renniejoy
    renniejoy June 14, 2012 at 8:59 pm |

    I seriously want a Black Widow movie ala James Bond, with Hawkeye as a supporting character.

  59. Brennan
    Brennan June 14, 2012 at 10:08 pm |

    Okay, I’m gonna second the person who said that *George R.R. Martin* lecturing *Joss Whedon* on how to make female characters relevant is laughable, to put it charitably. GRRM probably saw BW as “just eye-candy” because he has *no idea* what to make of female characters whose roles are interchangeable with male characters. I think he tries to criticize sexism within his books, but doesn’t realize that he’s using tropes that are staggeringly sexist (the evil queen! the damsel in distress! action girl!). While many of the women he creates in ASOIAF are legitimate badasses, they are almost invariably shoehorned into stereotypical “lady” roles. They’re getting married or getting pregnant, being widowed or sleeping with powerful men. Except for the rare Arya Stark-type character, their superpowers are in their vaginas.

    If GRRM wrote The Avengers, Natasha would be unhappily wed to Captain America despite her secret love for Hawkeye, causing them both much angst. She would spend half her time lamenting how our sexist society keeps women from serving on the front lines and the other half trying to get pregnant to cement her position with Cap and thus stay close to the Avengers. All things considered, I’m glad Whedon had the reins for this one.

    Okay, this is all slightly off-topic; as much as I’d like to geek out about Cersei and Danaerys and their respective awesome-to-problematic ratios, this thread is for geeking out about Black Widow. Still, if we’re going to lend any weight to GRRM’s opinions, I think it’s fair to consider his track record in the same department.

  60. macavitykitsune
    macavitykitsune June 14, 2012 at 10:49 pm |

    Brennan, I was the one who made the point about GRRM, and THANK YOU for backing me up.

    Also, this:

    I think he tries to criticize sexism within his books, but doesn’t realize that he’s using tropes that are staggeringly sexist (the evil queen! the damsel in distress! action girl!). While many of the women he creates in ASOIAF are legitimate badasses, they are almost invariably shoehorned into stereotypical “lady” roles.

    I love GoT as much as anyone, but there’s ample fail in there. I started out going “squee” about the women, too, but my wife (who is far more cynical in these things) pointed to exactly this, and my sadface has since stuck steadfastly.

    And, of course, come season 2, we have Shae the Mysterious Sexy Lady, Brienne the Sexless Manly One, Melisandre the Devil Priestess… yeah.

  61. ellid
    ellid June 15, 2012 at 6:16 am |

    @61 – GRRM writes at least some of the scripts for Game of Thrones. He knows about the nudity, and doesn’t seem to have a problem with the objectification of the female characters.

  62. roymacIII
    roymacIII June 15, 2012 at 10:58 am |

    The problem is separate companies own the rights to movie versions of X-men (especially Wolverine) and The Avengers. So cross overs would probably require another actor as the characters and that messes with movie universe continuity. Which, fuck it, there have been 3 different Hulks, so why not a new Logan?

    I’m pretty sure that they can’t use any version of the character–Fox has the film rights to all of the X-Men, so, until Fox loses those rights, no Logan or Wolverine in any non-Fox movies. Sadness.

    But, yeah, BW was one of the best parts of the Avengers movie, precisely for the many reasons listed here. She’s a bad-ass SHIELD agent who is able to stand toe-to-toe with people who are arguably significantly more “powerful” than she is, and she does it by being smart and talented.

    I’d definitely like to see someone like Monica Rambeau or Carol Danvers in the next one–given how they’ve handled the origins of characters so far, I’m sure they could come up with suitable origins and limits for them to stay interesting, and they’re both such fun characters.

  63. yes
    yes June 15, 2012 at 11:28 pm |

    @67 He wrote The Pointy End and Blackwater. I’m not saying GOT doesn’t objectify some women, but neither was he. And I thought “ZOMG ur not a perfect feminist so you can’t complain about female characters being reduced to eye candy” isn’t the most reasonable thing to say. And once again, I say this as someone who hugely disagrees with his interpretation of BW.

  64. ellid
    ellid June 16, 2012 at 8:14 am |

    Game of Thrones has become so notorious for naked women that it was parodied on Saturday Night Live. Railroad has written some great female characters – I’m particularly fond of Melantha Jhirl from NIghtflyers – but I’ll take the Avengers over GoT, at least right now.

    Also, everyone seems to be forgetting that Black Widow wasn’t the only terrific female character in Avengers. Agent Hill was great, too.

  65. Bagelsan
    Bagelsan June 16, 2012 at 10:42 am |

    I seriously want a Black Widow movie ala James Bond, with Hawkeye as a supporting character.

    Hawkeye as the Bond girl? Make this happen! :D

  66. yes
    yes June 16, 2012 at 11:32 am |

    @70 My bad, I wasn’t aware Saturday Night Live had weighed in and offered the incisive social commentary they’re known for. Point conceded.

  67. Links 6/16/12 | Mike the Mad Biologist

    […] world. There is no crisis here) Will Massachusetts Teachers ‘Stand’ Against Attacks? In defense of the Black Widow (spoilers for Avengers movie) Republicans think they’re going to win the Jewish vote. Again. […]

  68. Lyn
    Lyn June 17, 2012 at 3:05 am |

    Woah – my problem with the film was not with the portrayal of Black Widow – I just wanted more women being nuanced and doing kickass things!

    The problem is, I think, that when you only have one or two women in a show it’s difficult to escape reading stereotypes into them (is this the good or the bad girl? The virginal or the whorish one? The manipulative bitch or the good girl who does as men tell her to? are questions that are kindof essential to understanding the plot and character motivations in most hollywood movies…which sucks). Having more women who negotiate femininity/masculinity differently while being both good and as evil, sexy and not-sexy (see, for example: Buffy, Firefly…) is, I think, the only way to really change the way audiences see things because the good/bad dichotomy is so essential to the way most movie plots work.

    So while I agree that the reviewers missed really obvious things that challenged sexism, I was totally unsurprised that they did so. I also acknowledge that the shows where I think they’ve shown lots of women being good and bad in lots of ways are TV shows where they have a lot more time to do things.

    tl;dr. Fighting patriarchy is hard. Need Feminist Hulk to SMASH IT.

  69. Karin
    Karin June 17, 2012 at 9:47 am |

    So women saw guys who read comic books as nerdy losers to be shunned. Now that nerdhood is somewhat cool some feminists think they can moan about what a flick directed at a male audience should look like? If 70% of viewer take great pleasure in seeing black widows cleavage and 30% are offended feminists, I dont think there needs to be changing.

  70. Lyn
    Lyn June 17, 2012 at 2:25 pm |

    Karin – you know that women can be nerds too, right?

  71. librarygoose
    librarygoose June 17, 2012 at 3:18 pm |

    @Karin.

    Yep, that noted feminist G.R.R Martin has a bee all up in her vagina again. You remember her amazing take down of that notorious feminism enemy Joss Whedon and his show “Buffy the girl with huge tits”? Good times.

    I just wish some women could have been interested in nerd things before 2005. You know how hard it was to fake pictures of myself doing the Vulcan hand salute as a child?

    LLAP, asshole.

  72. mary
    mary June 18, 2012 at 7:43 am |

    Hi Karin,

    It’s a false stereotype that women have never been involved in nerdhood. The earliest Star Trek conventions, for example, were dominated by women.

  73. jennygadget
    jennygadget June 20, 2012 at 3:53 am |

    “If 70% of viewer take great pleasure in seeing black widows cleavage and 30% are offended feminists, I dont think there needs to be changing.”

    …do you at all realize that this entire post is about non-feminists who are mocking Black Widow for (being written as) showing cleavage? and that it also points out, among other things, that she really isn’t showing all that much?

  74. echodrift » Geek Culture: not so great actually

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