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Why Marvel Fans Are Mad About Black Widow’s Role In Avengers: Endgame

Why Marvel Fans Are Mad About Black Widow’s Role In Avengers: Endgame

Marvel fans were deeply unsatisfied by the role Scarlett Johansson's Black Widow played in Avengers: Endgame. Click here to find out why!

Unless you’ve been stuck in outer space with dwindling supplies and a blue humanoid alien assassin as your only company, you’ve likely heard that Marvel recently released its penultimate film in the Infinity Saga – Avengers: Endgame. The follow-up to Avengers: Infinity War shattered all kinds of previously held records, including ticket presales, trailer viewings, widest releases, and even took in a staggering $1.2 billion during the opening weekend alone. Needless to say, fans and critics alike were stunned by this gargantuan film. Not all were happy with the treatment of one particular character, however. Read on to find out why Marvel fans are angry at the role Black Widow played in Endgame (but be warned, major spoilers lie ahead).

Why Marvel Fans Are Mad About Black Widow’s Role In Avengers: Endgame

1. Black Widow’s problematic history in the MCU.

Natasha Romanoff first graced our screens almost a decade ago in Iron Man 2, making Black Widow the second Avenger to be introduced into the Marvel Cinematic Universe (behind Iron Man himself). Her consistent role in the franchise has been monumental in revamping a dated genre, and her reign as the only female lead in the Avengers lasted until 2014’s introduction of Gamora in Guardians of the Galaxy. Yet her character has been marred with controversy over the years, including issues with her clunky self-characterisation as a “monster” after her forced sterilisation reveal in Age of Ultron, inflammatory comments made by the film’s cast in response to widely critiqued, contrived romantic relationships with multiple male Avengers, and a glaring lack of merchandise – reportedly, Disney believed they already had the girls’ market “on lockdown” with their Princesses. As Darren Franich pointed out in a piece for EW.com, Marvel created this supremely influential and progressive superheroine by accident and, as a result, had no idea what to do with her.

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One could be fooled into believing that Avengers: Endgame started to make some real strides with Natasha. She becomes a figurehead of the Avengers in Tony’s absence following the Snap, coordinating fellow Avengers and co. worldwide (and beyond). While Clint Barton (often paired with Natasha due to their very human (nonetheless impressive) skillsets, and their will-they-won’t-they relationship earlier in the saga) loses all sense of morality and takes on the role of judge, jury, and executioner as Ronin in the aftermath of the Snap, Natasha takes the opposing position and strives to defend what is left of the universe. Her assassin days long behind her, it is Nat’s sole mission to carry the Avengers Initiative where others have left off (by choice or not), which is why it was so jarring to see her abruptly killed off mid-way through the film.

2.  ‘Fridged’ women and Manpain.

Natasha sacrifice on Vormir is both admirable and problematic. She becomes an addition to the long list of ‘fridged’ comic book women – that is, women who are killed as a means of motivating men towards some great act of heroism, a term coined by writer Gail Simone after Green Lantern’s girlfriend Alexandra DeWitt was murdered and stowed in a refrigerator. Natasha’s supposedsacrifice’, while giving the former brainwashed assassin a final show of autonomy that she lacked for so many years, becomes an issue when examined in line with comic book women history (it’s worth mentioning that the exact same fate befell Gamora only a year earlier in Infinity War). Her sacrifice is particularly unsettling when we consider that the alternative was the death of family man Clint; the narrative seems to suggest that, despite his transgressions, Clint’s safe return takes precedence because he has a ‘real’ family to return to as opposed to Natasha’s lesser-than band of monstrous misfits. Natasha’s value is in her pain and its exploitability into motivating the men in her life, and not in the curated family she leaves behind on earth, or the position she holds as leader of the Avengers (which Tony and Steve naturally take over the moment the remaining Avengers fall back together). Furthermore, her death condones Clint’s horrific actions over the past five years while ignoring the growth Natasha has made in that same time by relegating her to a tired, sexist trope.

Why Marvel Fans Are Mad About Black Widow’s Role In Avengers: Endgame

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3. ‘I don’t see how that’s a party.’

Despite the undercurrent of not-so-subtle ideologies surrounding family and femininity explicitly tied with Natasha’s death, one could easily consider her sacrifice an integral part of the narrative, if only it were treated as such. Tony Stark is another OG Avenger who gives his life to save the universe, and his self-sacrifice is treated with the gravity that Natasha’s death is lacking. The genius, billionaire, playboy philanthropist demonstrates a decade worth of growth that Natasha’s ever-changing characterisation pushes aside, and his sacrifice is the culmination of meticulous foreshadowing that began in The Avengers. Unlike Natasha, Tony is given a lengthy funeral packed with family and friends, in a scene that will forever have us ugly crying at the mere mention of cheeseburgers. Natasha, on the other hand, is given a single mention and a tiny tribute from her male colleagues/shoehorned love interests, in a scene that writer Stephen McFeely awkwardly explained: “the toughest thing for us was we were always worried that people weren’t going to have time to be sad enough. The stakes are still out there and they haven’t solved the problem. But we lost a big character — a female character — how do we honor it? We have this male lens and it’s a lot of guys being sad that a woman died.”

4. Girl Power or just pandering?

Later in the film we’re given a scene that is clearly meant to serve as a memorial to the first female Avenger, in which the remaining female fighters band together to protect Peter Parker, yet the scene feels clunky and ultimately shallow when you consider the film ignored these women and their growing relationship with Natasha until this point. Kate Erbland of IndieWire further explains the fan service-y tribute:

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“No matter the empowering intentions here, the scene feels empty, as the women — some of whom only don’t even have any lines in the script — simply line up, charge forth, and look powerful as they do it. The message is certainly a good start (look at all these ladies!), but it’s delivered in a hammy way that ultimately reduces each character to a single trait: Powerful women.”

Endgame was weakened by Marvel’s increasingly visible faux wokeness; the overly self-congratulatory addition of a canonically queer, extremely minor character, the lack of credit attributed to Black Panther star Danai Gurira on the original theatrical poster, and the sexist backlash newcomer Brie Larson faced upon her introduction to the MCU only magnify the disconnect between the past state of Marvel films and fandom and a progressive future. Natasha’s wishy-washy characterisation and ultimate disposal at the end of the Infinity saga is a glaring reminder that Marvel still has a long way to go in its representation of anyone other than straight, white superheroes.

Why Marvel Fans Are Mad About Black Widow’s Role In Avengers: Endgame

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What did you think of Black Widow’s role in Avengers: Endgame? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Featured Image Source: https://www.cinemablend.com/news/2471174/how-scarlett-johansson-got-fit-to-play-black-widow-in-avengers-endgame