Male v Female Gaze
Just like our other heroines in the MCU, Black Widow was the first to suffer from the male gaze. Her treatment was admittedly the worst, being the most sexualized and used specifically and solely for male enjoyment. Black Widow and her treatment is also easier to track due to her being the first female avenger and amount of appearances. From her start the writers and directors wanted audiences to see Natasha as nothing more than an object, and yet her loyal fans saw so much more.
Natasha Romanoff, or Black Widow, was first introduced in Iron Man 2 as an undercover operative that was meant to keep an eye on Tony. When she is first on screen she is in an overly tight dress that contains exactly 2% of her chest, Tony literally says “I want one” reducing her to an object capable of being possessed. He then internet searches her, finds modeling shots that he proceeds to zoom and ogle at. Now this isn’t a Tony Stark hate article, though that would not be difficult to write, Nat then spends the entire rest of the movie in unreasonably sexy and revealing clothes, including in her super spy suit. Leather, tight and cleavage hanging out isn’t exactly tactical.
The Avengers was our first MCU team movie and Natasha was our only female avenger. She remained in a skin tight suit and continued to be put in poses that made no tactical sense whatsoever. In fact one of the most used photos on the internet to illustrate this point is the first group shot from the end of the movie. All of the men are standing in masculine, battle ready poses and Black Widow is making sure everyone can see her ass…clearly written and directed by a man.
And then we have the atrocity that was Age of Ultron, now I love the film as a whole for no other reason than it gave me Scarlet Witch, however the treatment of Black Widow was abhorrent. In fact the treatment of Scarlet Witch was trash too. Black Widow was forced into a romantic relationship with the Hulk, which quite frankly I didn’t hate however him rolling over the bar and landing in her boobs I did hate…a lot. She was also captured and reduced to a damsel in distress. As if Black Widow can’t save her fucking self. Now just to be clear I will never agree with the internets interpretation of the “monster” line when she is talking to Bruce. She’s not saying she’s a monster because she can’t have kids, she’s saying that she’s a monster because of the things she’s done because of her conditioning in the red room, it's really not rocket science.
I also, once upon a time, disagreed with the idea that Black Widow was fridged in Endgame. However since the release of Black Widow that does seem to be the case. Nat was killed to further the storyline of the rest of the Avengers (who were all men), she didn’t get a funeral (therefore her death was not acknowledged properly), and with the exception of her sister no one mentions her again. Natasha was fridged during Endgame.
Then we finally get to Black Widow and the female gaze. Though this movie was approximately 10 years too late, and a waste because it was released after she was dead in the context of the universe. However from the costumes to the story and dialogue Natasha’s character got more development and respect in 1 film then she did in her previous 6. Her new costume not only covered more of her but it looked and fit like an actual tactical suit. The entire story was centered around female relationships where these strong, powerful women got to be vulnerable without being portrayed as weak. The dialogue between Nat and Yelena was as sisterly as it gets. The scene where they call Alexei out on his sexist “must be that time of the month” style line. The best part of that scene was the original Alexei line was written by a man and the subsequent interaction was the women on set clowning him.
Watching Natasha in Black Widow vs the rest of the MCU was night and day, it was like watching two different characters. Once again we see the difference between the male and the female gaze, one is respectful and portrays women like human beings and the other one….doesn’t.
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