Natasha Romanoff in the MCU- From ‘The One’ to Greatest of all Time
Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow went from being hyper-sexualized to being one of Marvel’s most beloved characters. Over 11 years, Black Widow has only grown, both story-wise and as a character as well. Marvel’s portrayal of female characters has evolved a lot out of which Black Widow stands the tallest.
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16 years in the pipeline, 3 release dates, and many other obstacles later, Black Widow is finally arriving on the big screen. Johansson overcomes her inhibitions of a solo movie which could easily fall into the trap of the typical ‘origin story’ genre. She even worked as an executive producer on the movie. The other person to whom the movie was of great significance is director Cate Shortland. Speaking to Variety, she revealed how tough it was to formulate the story: “To get that script right was really, really hard.”
A Bad Beginning for Natasha Romanoff
Natasha Romanoff AKA Black Widow debuted in Iron-Man 2 (2010). And the movie never missed poking at the hyper-sexualization of the character. Instances like “I want one”, “a piece of meat” and many other signs pointed towards how the character was approached like some-thing as much as, or even more than, some-one. Scarlett Johansson has also said that she too felt that these were all compliments. She added that such comments about her physical appearance shaped her self-worth back then. But her she has come to understand her self-worth better after she became a mom.
“I’m more accepting of myself, I think. All of that is related to that move away from the kind of hyper-sexualisation of this character.”
A Director’s Nod
Renowned director of Lore, Cate Shortland was the only name in the mind of Scarlet Johansson to helm Black Widow. “…it was only Cate for me from the beginning,” she has mentioned. However, Cate Shortland was initially opposed to making the film. But after knowing Scarlett Johansson and her authenticity, she eventually agreed. One particular thing that she liked about Scarlett was when she spoke to Cate’s daughter, saying that “…she didn’t change when she spoke to me or my daughter. And that’s where I became very inquisitive about who she was, because that’s a rare thing.”
The Change For Natasha Romanoff
One movie after another, we have only seen Natasha Romanoff grow and with that so did our love for her. From being a helping hand to Tony in Iron-Man 2 to helping Steve in Captain America: Winter Soldier and believing him in Captain America: Civil War to her sacrifice in Avengers: Endgame, she has come a long way. While she may be an underdog when compared to the other Avengers who are Gods, super-soldiers and men in iron suits, etc, it is her vulnerability that makes her so much more palpable to us.
The willingness of Scarlett Johansson to bring Cate Shortland into the project proves that the character of Natasha Romanoff is as important to her as it is to the fans. Such involvement by actors is what makes the MCU so personal to all those who love it.
The events of Black Widow come after those of Captain America: Civil War. It will show Natasha as a vigilante and will explore her past and hopefully the Belarus incident. While not being an origin story, it will delve deep into the intimate past of Natasha Romanoff and complete the long-awaited story of our beloved Nat. Director Cate Shortland stated, “I got hooked on the idea of trying to tell a really personal, intimate story in amongst so much beauty and spectacle. When I really decided that I wanted to do it, I decided 150% — like, I never wanted to do anything as much as this, in a way. It was strange.”
A New MCU
Marvel Studios deserves credit too for coming out of that “objectifying women” circle. Victoria Alonso, Marvel Studios’ Executive VP of Production, stated that “there is a conscientious effort not to objectify women.” Hiring women to helm projects in multiple ways is another good sign. Anna Boden (co-director, Captain Marvel which was also the first female-led Marvel film), Nicole Perlman (co-writer, Guardians of the Galaxy), Cate Blanchett (first female main villain, Thor: Ragnarok), Monique Ganderton (lead stunt coordinator, Avengers: Endgame)Cate Shortland (director, Black Widow) and Academy Award-winning director Chloe Zhao (director, Eternals) to name only a few. Needless to say, Marvel is heading towards the day when there won’t be a “woman writer” or a “female director”, just simply “a writer” or “a director”. A grateful universe!