Alright, I don’t know what is more grating: the short-term attention span of the current American moviegoer or the complete ill-earned ire Joss Whedon has acquired following Age of Ultron.
For those who either haven’t seen the movie or have, luckily, not dealt with the upsurge of outrage regarding a particular scene in the movie, I’ll fill you in though spoilers await so stop now if you’d rather not know. The movie itself has a subplot dealing with the romantic relationship that has developed between Bruce Banner and Natalia Romanova (Black Widow). Dr. Banner is having difficulty reconciling himself with the carnage he has wrought in Wakanda following the mental manipulations of Scarlet Witch. Natalia, in an intimate scene, recounts her own past to Bruce revealing that she has been sterilized as part of the program that made her into an assassin. The context of the scene itself has been horribly distorted by the online community. Many have pointed out that the Scarlet Witch feels like a monster because she is unable to have children, which would seem a sexist comment for any writer to have a female character say with its implied old-fashioned mores. It is further “supported” by Black Widow’s motherly role in calming Hulk down, being there for “her man.” That couldn’t be further from the truth.
The scene itself begins with Banner revealing that he feels like a true monster, unable to live a simple life, a force of destruction. He believes himself incapable of having children, not simply because of the implications of what it might do to him physically (he could hulk out killing his partner) but also what his offspring may be. He can’t be a husband or father if he can’t trust himself. Natalia relates she feels the same way. She was trained to be a force of destruction as well, detached and professional, unable to make any long-term commitments. Her inability to have children further isolates her; she can only destroy life, not create it. She can’t make the world a better place. Like Banner, she is alone and feels she can never make the world a better place. That is what the scene symbolizes and that is what draws her to Banner. They are alike and only together do they feel as if they balance one another. They can make the world a better place as a team.
Natalia Romanova is a modern day female character. She is strong willed, independent, aggressive, as well as flawed. She is an important part of the Avenger’s team and is never dangled as a damsel in distress. She is another of Joss Whedon’s well-written heroines who stand on their own in a celluloid world of masculine dominance. Does Natalia’s moment of fragility with Banner make her any less? Do her feelings of being unable to conceive relegate her to outdated status? I, as a man, can relate to how I felt when my wife and I thought we would be unable to conceive and it is an incredibly heart wrenching feeling realizing you may be unable to leave something positive behind. Having a child is a second chance, the ability to get your life right via your children. To feel that not only you have failed but the chance to set it straight is gone too? I don’t care how strong you are, that will take your legs out from under you. The fact that she is able to share her deepest feeling with Banner reveal her to have that inner strength many are afraid to show. She is putting herself out there, making herself vulnerable because she cares.
Black Widow is a complex character, but she is still human; far more human and enviable then what passes for the symbol of femininity these days. She isn’t blatant t&a like Lara Croft or Mystique, nor a failed role model like the latest Nick or Disney creation. If that is too much for crowds to wrap their minds around, then maybe they should remain quiet before bellowing faux outrage at the wrong offenders.