Feb. 8th, 2013

cest_what: (natasha in sunlight)
I've been thinking about movie-verse Black Widow in relation to this excellent blog post lately. In particular the idea that because women in comics/video games/geek media tend to be portrayed as unrealistically sexy and eye-candy-esque in their clothing and poses while doing kickass masculine-coded things (being amazing fighters, hackers, engineers etc), people often consider that that competence itself is part of the fantasy, rather than a quality that's realistic for a female character.

I have mixed feelings about parts of Natasha's arc in Avengers. On an individual character level, the fact that Natasha is afraid and deals with it is great: it's part of what gives her the human depth that's missing from her role in Iron Man 2. On a broader level, the fact that Natasha, the only female Avenger, is also the only one of them we see frightened and running scared, is unfortunate.

What I don't have any mixed feelings about, though, is that in addition to seeing her scared, we see Natasha doing things that are fucking hard, and that we see the effort it takes. Natasha's coolest moment in Iron Man 2 is, undoubtedly, her fight scene in the corridor. It's well choreographed, her hair looks great, her outfit looks great, and basically the whole thing looks really cool. It's also effortless: she doesn't break a sweat, she never looks less than stunning, and every move displays her body in, not a hypersexualised way, but in an entirely photogenic way. It's not something you would look at and think "god that's so objectifying", but in the most literal way, that's absolutely what it is: there's nothing at all to take you inside the character's POV, you're just watching a beautiful kickass fantasy woman do cool shit.

I think the photogenic damn that's cool moments are really important for action movies and superhero movies in particular. Natasha gets as many of them in Avengers as the other Avengers do. But she also, like the other Avengers, gets the moments where effort makes her ugly. When she catches a ride on one of the alien planes, for example, you see her look incredibly cool as she jumps and then you see her with this brutal grimace of effort while she struggles with the aliens and wrestles the vehicle into submission.

In Avengers, unlike in Iron Man 2, Natasha's super agent competence isn't undercut by a need for her to be unrealistically attractive in every shot - especially during her fight scenes. Sometimes she is, sometimes she isn't, just like the boys. It's a pretty simple thing, but I almost think it's the most important thing the film did for her.

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