I think the main reason Marvel made GOTG before Black Widow is GOTG is bursting with opportunities to sell toys— as long as you leave out Gamora, of course.
Yeah, Gail Simone is right there with you. Realtalk: I am convinced characters like Phyla-Vell, Moondragon, and Mantis were streamlined out of Guardians of the Galaxy because they wouldn’t sell action figures.
Anonymous asked: To be fair, Catwoman and Elektra were terribly written movies. Catwoman's plot was completely stupid. I firmly believe that a female superhero movie given the same level of writing and the same budget that Iron Man was given would be be a spectacular success. Unfortunately, because they greenlit shitty movies with otherwise good female leads they now have an excuse to say 'well it doesn't sell' when the truth is they bombed because they were bad movies, not because of the leads.
I agree but I don’t think that’s the whole of it. I’ve been running a Black Widow blog too long to not think there aren’t weird double standards female leads get pulled to. Like, Catwoman and Elektra were bad and it was easy to see that they were bad, that the marketing served them up poorly and played up the action and sexy fights specifically to drag men into it. But there’s a reason there’s a perceived dichotomy between sex appeal and character depth and lots of bad lines in a trailer drove moviegoers away from Elektra but Daredevil did okay enough to get the spin-off. There’s a reason the the Globe and Mail evaluated Johansson’s performance in the Avengers explicitly as a “token sexy female” stocktype and felt comfortable reviewing her literally in terms of his own fourteen year old boy lust. (“A pale pink at best” he says, on a scale of his hormonal reds.)
I mean, I don’t think a female led action movie is an impossible mountain. Hunger Games exists and has millions and millions of dollars in the bank. Lucy just hit #1 at the box office based solely on trailers that played up Johansson’s Black Widow action-cred. It could sell, we’ve already been selling it, people are thirsty for this. We’re in such a fucked up situation we’ve convinced ourselves that a movie about a white lady beating people up would be an important feminist triumph.
But these blockbuster action films are traditionally laser targeted at men and boys aged 18 to 39 and Disney bought Marvel so it could sell toys to boys. Women make up almost half the audience of these Marvel movies but like, none of the lead roles, a fifth of the cast and a fraction of the merchandise. And the the problem isn’t just that there aren’t many Black Widow action figures, is that we tell girls and boys they need to play with separate toys, and we tell boys they don’t need a Black Widow to complete the set. Like, it’s that kind of marketing thought that makes “female led vigilante films” a category in the first place, and doesn’t make room for other contexts. It feeds back into itself, like a snake eating its own tail, and meanwhile we just get thirsty.
Broken record blogging: the reason there hasn’t been a Black Widow movie is because the Black Widow movie in development was cancelled. It was cancelled because Elektra bombed and Ultraviolet bombed and Catwoman bombed and the studio decided female vigilante films were hard sells and that it wasn’t worth the risk. The time wasn’t right. It hasn’t been right since.
It isn’t because her comic book story isn’t thick enough. Wanted was a six issue mini. Scott Lang has never titled a book and has a fraction of Natasha’s appearances. It’s not because spies and superheroes are out of joint and don’t mix and don’t sell. They made Winter Soldier, and the Captain America sequel didn’t need to be a riff on 70s espionage flicks. It’s not because she doesn’t have powers. Batman is the most popular hero on the planet. It’s not because she’s too obscure, because Guardians of the Galaxy just happened and Blade was the spiritual beginning of this generation of superhero films. It’s not because her costume doesn’t have a mask, cracked, because did you even think that one out? True story, Natasha is super easy to adapt to film, and that is why she’s been in three films and counting.
But the reason she doesn’t have her own movie is because she’s a woman. Because the movie she did have was cancelled because women vigilantes are box office poison, or used to be, and no one wants to test the theory.
I don’t want a Black Widow movie because she’s a woman, because she’s the only female superhero I can name. Me, I want to see the darker and more ordinary shadows of the Marvel Universe, I want to see Winter Soldier pushed further and superhero franchises pushed out of their origin-story formula. I want redemption and I want the stakes to hurt and it exhausts me to pretend her gender is the only remarkable thing about her because Natasha is my favorite superhero ever and that is why I want a Black Widow movie.
But the reason she doesn’t have a movie already is because she’s a woman. If powers were the problem they’d make Captain Marvel, maybe, if we needed a household name to fly they’d have Wonder Woman done by now, tried and tried again the same way Superman has been. But they haven’t.
It’s not as simple as sexism, because sexism isn’t simple. These films are pitched and calibrated to demographics that don’t buy girl-shaped action figures; we live in a world where female characters are spoken of gender first. We read women into a separate category, evaluate them as “females”, and find ways out of them we don’t look for in our default male protagonists. They have to be better than good to deserve their own stories, as though stories are medals to be hung around necks, the finish line and not the race. We make big long lists of “reasons they haven’t made a Black Widow movie or any superhero film that happens to star a woman” and we point to those already overcome obstacles, whisper, “but Ant-Man was a founding Avenger" and insist gender really has nothing to do with it.
Anonymous asked: Hello! It's a shame that marjorie liu didn't get the chance to write an arc where Natasha was Laura's mentor. There will never be enough narratives where Natasha influences teenage heroines (if there's any). I love your blog btw!
You and me both, anon. Christos Gage has said that Laura was training with Natasha between appearances in Avengers Academy, so we can imagine. Natasha did make a cameo in X-23 #20 to set up her planned arc, and it will hopefully make a nice prologue to October’s Black Widow issue:
If you’d like to read another story where Natasha influences a teenage heroine, I recommend Nomad: Girl Without a World #1-4 and the backup story in Captain America #611-614, Underneath the Skin. But I agree, it’s never enough!