(Disclaimer: I am writing about this character as she appears in the MCU, not in the original comics)
This post is going to be the first of a mini series called character studies, where I take a closer look at characters portrayed in literature and film. Ever since I watched Endgame, I’ve wanted to write about Nat, and after re-watching Avengers with my parents, I’ve finally been inspired to do so.
Being the first major female character of the MCU, Natasha Romanoff appears first in Iron Man 2. We don’t learn much about her in this movie, only that she is an agent for SHIELD.
The first more intricate look we have of Nat is in Avengers, in two important (and complimentary) scenes that I’m going to highlight. The first, Black Widow is shown physically bound to a chair, being “interrogated” by a circle of men. It is worthy of noting I think, her outfit in this scene. She’s wearing makeup, a very flattering dress, tights, and goes on to be described as merely a “vase” (I believe). We know from Iron Man 2 that Natasha is capable of fooling nearly everyone, performing the job of a triple agent. She is constantly changing her hair and her look in every movie she appears in, so therefore, it’s rather fit for her to take on the role of a “woman” to give the men a false sense of power. Of course, the men in this situation believe that they have physically conquered the famous Black Widow, and, basking in their triumph, let slip the information that Natasha was looking for.
In the second scene, Loki (a man) is trapped in a cage. Despite this physical setback, Loki believes that he still has the power. Now, whether this inflation of ego is due to the fact that he is a god or a man, we won’t know, but probably a combination of both. Nat lets him believe this, playing the part of sentimentality & emotional weakness (traditional characteristics coined almost purely on women), and once Loki believes that she has broke her, unknowingly lets slip his plan.
Both scenes contain interesting dynamics in power and the illusion of power. Nat, a trained assassin, is highly conscious of the traditional power dynamic, the male ego, and how easy the ego is fed full. And even though the information she gained didn’t ultimately help the Avengers that much, it was still worthwhile to mention that she tricked the God of trickery.
Her more “feminine” side is shown as she acts as a sort of mother figure and emotional support for the Avengers. She is the person there for Steve when Peggy died, the one who Tony chooses to talk to when he was dying, the only one who can calm the Hulk down.
Nat’s character arc concludes in a bittersweet crescendo in Endgame, where she is shown as the only person (again) trying to keep the Avengers together. Her death is devastating but fitting, as she is often the glue and ultimately one of the reasons for Avengers. She chose to die for her family, but her sacrifice is often overlooked after Tony’s death, not to say that I didn’t ball my eyes out when Tony sacrificed himself.
The only female hero in the original Avengers, Nat ultimately reflects a larger state of the world, where the work of women are considered of lesser value, where sentimentality and “you cry like a girl” becomes an insult, and where the voices of women are only sometimes heard and rarely believed.