By Kirsty Freeman
Image via Marvel
Every good superhero needs an origin story, and Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow is about what made her who she is – or the men who made her. In the beginning of the movie, via mind control, forced hysterectomies and vigorous training, young girls, who are brutally taken from their families, their sisters (all while an eerie cover of Nirvana’s ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ haunts the opening credits), become widows – they become assassins.
The men in this film, including the villain Dreykov and Natasha’s father figure Alexei, seem to think that lethality is the highest goal for a woman – when Natasha and her younger sister, Yelena (portrayed by Florence Pugh), reunite with Alexei (David Harbour), he says with pride: “Yelena, you went on to be the greatest child assassin the world has ever known, you both have killed so many people...I couldn’t be more proud of you!” Alexei is utterly delighted by his daughters ruthlessness, and his lines throughout the film help to shape the humorous undertone of the film that attacks the male-definied ideas of women.
My favourite parts of Black Widow were the more domestic scenes in which the family were together as one, including Rachel Weisz as the mother figure – Melina. Yelena mocks her ‘sister’ about her signature landing, seen in many of Natasha’s starring moments – the classic legs spread, a well-timed hair flip and a sultry glance. When Alexei asks whether Yelena is grumpy because she’s on her period, and she snaps: “I don’t get my period, dips****. I don’t have a uterus,” they capture the classic question girls get far too often. One of the challenges women face is that if they feel too passionately or express emotions that some men don’t like, it is instantly assumed that the woman is unable to keep her emotions in check due to a hormone imbalance.
Black Widow attacks men who twist the idea of strong women and use it to their own advantage. It is a good film for many reasons in terms of female empowerment. Firstly Black Widow is not the only high-powered female on display, take her sister Yelena, or the genius of a mother Melina for examples. Or every other incredible woman featured in this film. Young women being manipulated for the purposes of evil men is obviously a metaphor for the thousands of young women taken advantage of in the real world, treated as objects or as means-to-an-end.
In my opinion, Black Widow is far superior to Captain Marvel in terms of equality. Captain Marvel was incessantly hyped as being a powerful movie for women. While Black Widow is an empowering movie for all. Captain Marvel was feminist because Marvel gave Brie Larson the main role, but Black Widow is feminism in action because it challenges deep rooted societal problems, while giving you enough action, excitement and humor to make it a great Marvel film.
The characters are likeable, the emotion and the heart is there, and all in all it is a superhero film that feels worthy of its place in the MCU timeline.
Written by writer Kristy Freeman