Natasha is the most experienced team member and a genuinely lethal, quiet spy. She’s sort of an older sister to Jessica Drew—the first scene alone shows that pretty well. It’s all about Natasha showing Jessica how to relax, and about Jessica being sort of oblivious when it comes to the concept. Natasha is quiet power…Black Widow and Spider-Woman really like each other.
You know nothing about true fandom, obviously. You would have to be a dude to understand it.
Well, that’s not so— though that particular article was dude-written, the staff of sciencefiction.com has a lot of female writers/editors. True fandom in this case is a pretty obvious marketing construct, which is kinda ironic, given so much of fandom’s non-profit ethos. But the idea in that about blurb isn’t gatekeeping, it’s congratulatory: by visiting this website you have selected yourself a true fan.
But I think it’s pretty clear that one of the barriers to getting a woman vigilante film is getting opinion to take her seriously. We talk about Elektra and Catwoman creating this uphill battle, but another part of the problem is the way we talk about woman vigilantes. If all the headlines are just teasing that maybe the actress is naked in this one, winkety-winkety, then yeah, it’s going to make it hard to see women in these movies as more than decorative. Johansson makes a particular point in interviews to talk about her character’s psychology, because it’s bad for her career to be typecast as cleavage, but there’s still a pervasive feeling in movie reviews and in hilarious joke comics that her purpose is eyecandy. I mean, one of the big questions surrounding the Gal Gadot Wonder Woman casting was whether she had enough boobs to be a superheroine.
I expect this kind of thing, I guess, from the Hollywood gossip sites, I expect questions about superheroine diet routines to come from the magazines that tell women they need to be thin and then sell new instructions on how to get there every month. But geek websites— geek websites that aren’t like this one, geek websites that try to create and monetize traffic for themselves— who should be the ones pointing out a rich comic book history or speculating about the after-credits scene, they perpetuate this stuff even worse. Like, the article I quoted from pretends Natasha’s superhero outfit was some magical barrier to character development, as though no one in the Avengers franchise had ever worn tight pants. Being a fan of superhero stuff means having a basic understanding that, well, costumes are goofy but also part of the glue that holds the genre together. You have to be able to take this stuff serious, even when our gallant heroes are wearing their underwear outside their pants.
And even though sf.com obviously has a lot of women working for it, they’re turning out these sorts of headlines like it’s a job. I mean, glancing at their site now there’s this one: Cobie Smulders Takes Off Her SHIELD Uniform For Esquire Magazine. It’s the reason IGN had a “babes” section for so long, this conscious decision to pin the mainstream geek media as a lad mag demographic, which then reinforces the idea that true fans are a target demographic, overwhelmingly male.
It reminds me of that Atlantic blog I linked once, that was well-meaning, I think, but took a random comic rumor site and some Reddit posts as evidence that fans didn’t take Black Widow seriously, part of the ongoing problem of superheroines on film. But there’s a lot of fan-aimed media that doesn’t ask for Black Widow to be taken seriously, that sometimes markets itself for serious fans, as opposed to casuals.
There is so much to explore with Black Widow, certainly her past, which is always something that’s been shrouded in mystery. We continue to open up the story and give little tidbits and throw the bone out once in a while as to where she came from and what her background is. There’s a lot to explore in the past but certainly where she’s going too. When you take a character who’s had the past that she’s had, who has seen the darkest places, over time she appreciates what the right thing is in her mind and starts to understand humanity. But because she’s seen the darkest depths of humanity, there’s really such a full spectrum as to where this character could go. It’s been fun to explore that because it’s colorful and it’s not just putting on a cat suit and doing all kinds of smoldering poses.