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Fuck Yeah, Black Widow

Fallaces sunt rerum species

Здравствуйте from FYBW, your one-stop tumblr shop for Black Widow news, no-prizing, and oversaturated .gifs. Some MCU, mostly comics. Often overwritten. Always overthinking.

Black Widow created by Lee, Rico and Heck & is © Marvel Entertainment.

Mother’s Day, Addendum

This started off as a rant I was going to unleash by reblog, but I mulled it over a bit and decided to put this in its own little box, here. My least favorite fandom Natasha trope is definitely the one where she’s secretly jealous of other women, their children, their fertile wombs. I’m not sure I like what Morgan did— I don’t particularly like retroactive trauma inflicted on my favorite characters. But I understand what he was doing.

Morgan’s Natasha is not someone who would have wanted children. I don’t think it would have ever even occurred to her, to be honest, she seems pretty oblivious to the fact that Sally Anne Carter wants her to be her mother. But Morgan’s point was about control, about choice. Whether a woman wants children, or not, is up to the woman, period. Taking that choice away from them, that’s an unspeakable act, no matter what.

But Natasha’s canon has always been about loss, about the things she’s given up as much as the things she does. That sort of picket fence married-with-kids existence has mostly been presented as dystopic: that can be as much a charade as the spy games can. But for Natasha, the possibility of anything resembling ordinary is something she’s had to give up. You have to, to be extraordinary. And that sharp knife of uniqueness hits her in a particular way, because she doesn’t have flashy powers. She is the sum of her skills, her experience, her hard-lived life, and not a lightning bolt or a lab experiment.

What I’m saying is that Liu’s story isn’t about Natasha-as-mother versus Natasha-as-soldier the way Morgan’s sort of was. I didn’t make these posts to revel in her canon’s darkest moments, or to imply she has some secret motherly ambition left in her heart unfulfilled. I don’t really think Natasha wants kids, personally. I don’t think that’s what those stories were about. What I think her story is about, is death, and sacrifice, and how you can lose so much without giving up on anything. That’s how I see it now, Natasha having a daughter, and then not, and then never.

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Natasha: Hearts always break. And so we bend with our hearts. And we sway. But in the end, what matters is that we loved and lived.

I admit, the retroactive pregnancy plotline is one of the few things about Liu’s run that makes me pause. Not because it wasn’t well handled, or because it didn’t contribute anything to the character, but because kids and Marveltime do not mix well. I have no desire to see Natasha’s central narrative shift to become one of single motherhood or for her previously-thought-dead-now-EVIL baby. But none of that happened fingers crossed for the future.

This was the final scene in Liu’s run: Natasha burying the rose that signified her lost child. Closing the chapter. It also is where I’m wrapping up this little spam tour. Happy Mother’s Day.

From Black Widow #5, by Marjorie Liu and Daniel Acuña.

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Natasha’s child was stillborn, or close enough to it— she named her Rose. The father, a soldier named Nikolai, Natasha’s first husband, perished in the fighting, along with much of her unit. Natasha survived.

I love particularly the following exchange:

Old Woman: Anya, go with him. Leave baby Rose with me. I think you should hold her, Natasha.
Natasha: No.
Old Woman: Coward.
Natasha: Maybe I am.

But she holds the baby anyway. There are so many different sorts of courage.

From Black Widow #4, by Marjorie Liu and Daniel Acuña.

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Marjorie Liu is up next, and she takes the mother-soldier dichotomy and stands it on its head, by showing Natasha pregnant and fighting in an ambigouous World War II at the same time.

If you’re wondering about the continuity here, how she can be pregnant here and barren in the Cornell scene, this takes place before she took the Soviet wonderdrug, before she joined the Red Room period.

From Black Widow #4, by Marjorie Liu and Daniel Acuña.

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Alexi: She was hard to live with. She wants to be a mother, a sweetheart— but they made her barren and a… and a…

Paul Cornell reprised this point in his uncomfortable blending of false memories and arranged marriage. Again we see that false dichotomy: a mother and a sweetheart, barren and a… possibly a less-noble word for warrior. The joke’s on Alexi, here, though, because by Cornell’s take she’d been a fighter long before she feel in with the KGB. If they turned her into anything it was a “sweetheart”— but that can’t be so, because that’s not what the Red Room is for.

A mother, a sweetheart, then, is what Alexi himself wanted from Natasha, a warrior what the Soviet state demanded. What Natasha wants for herself goes unsaid. Like with Lyudmila, there’s an inversion in how this scene is framed. Earlier, Natasha, the good housewife stormed into the same office demanding an intelligence post. And here, though it is Alexi who is dead and Alexi who is wearing the hero’s uniform, it is Alexi who is sobbing, embracing others for comfort.

From Black Widow: Deadly Origin #2, Paul Cornell and John Paul Leon.

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Lyudmila: Natasha, pregnancy is a disease. A weakening. The fetus grossly distorts your body’s functions at a physical and biochemical level. It sucks as much nourishment from the mother as it possibly can. The systems we built into you will recognize all of this as an attack. And respond accordingly.
Natasha: You mean—
Lyudmila: Yes. Miscarriage. Automatic. As a fail-safe. No Black Widow can ever have a child. I’m sorry, Natasha. It… the Black Widow program… we wanted warriors, not mothers.

I’m going to be doing some mother’s day spam. Since, generally Natasha has been an orphan, and all her alternative parental figures (Ivan, Taras Romanov, Wolverine…) have been men, you’d think I wouldn’t have much to spam about. But no, in the past five or six years, writers have been tackling the idea of Natasha-as-mother with some degree of frequency.

Richard K. Morgan starts us off with some forced sterilization and invokes the line of thinking that’s made exploring those maternal themes with Natasha appealing to recent writers. Natasha is one of those bad-ass action girls who embodies a lot of stereotypically male heroic traits. (And she gets called a slut for it, in and out of universe.) Motherhood is at the other end of the spectrum, how “good women” ultimately find fulfillment. So we have this either/or being set up, where people have decided Natasha must choose between being an action hero or being a woman.

Of course, it’s a total bullshit dichotomy. Mother and warrior aren’t opposites. At least not in the sense that the two descriptors can’t be contained in a single person without them falling apart at the seams.

From Black Widow: Homecoming #5, by Richard K. Morgan and Goran Parlov.

I’m just going to rerun last year’s Mother’s Day spamcommentary, as it is once again timely.