As a fan, I roamed around the fandom, and I was surprised to find how many critical articles such a flash-and-bang entertainment movie had spawned. Though The Avengers superheroes have been running around in spandex for many years before my lifetime, I didn't expect them to have such an in-depth cult following. The reviews of the film were mostly positive, picking up mostly on the absence of plot or meddling that deviated from the original comics, but there were one or two that really surprised me.
Especially ones complaining about the portrayal of the Avengers' female team member, Natasha Romanov - the Black Widow.
Personally, I liked her character very much. She wasn't sidelined as the obligatory female, and she certainly wasn't left out of the action - in fact, she's rather pivotal when it comes to bringing Bruce Banner onto the team, as well as the eventual rescue of her co-worker, the brainwashed Clint Barton (Hawkeye).
Besides, her introduction scene is a single-handed UBERPWNAGE session of some overly-confident mafia idiots. How can one not like the girl who, literally, beats the daylights out of people with her hands tied behind her back.
However, she still draws criticism, mainly because of one particular scene. A scene involving a large plastic box, a woman on a mission, and a grumpy god of mischief.
Loki is pretty foul to the Avengers team on the whole - not in the least because he seems to have developed a taste for flinging them off high places - but even I winced at his reaction to Black Widow's attempts to interrogate him. It's probably the most venomous we've ever seen him; grisly death threats, very un-PC archaic insults ("mewling quim" translates politely as "overly-vocal, whiny, female canine") and a burningly chauvinistic viewpoint of a woman having the upper hand over him.
And Black Widow suffers for it. She turns away from Loki, fighting tears, struggling to control herself.
Until he unintentionally lets his plan slip, and she turns around, thanks him for the conversation, and struts off. Plot twist everyone, it was all a facade.
Or was it?
The majority of the articles I read complained about how rude Loki was to Black Widow in comparison to the other Avengers. Guys, he's an evil, twisted, vengeful git, and she is a confident female on a mission to make him give up what he would cling to with his cold, dead fingers if need be. While this would not only fail to match up with Loki's origins in a mostly male-dominated society (assuming the Asgard portrayed in Thor was accurate to Viking society), I would also like to point out that Black Widow has come with the attempt of interrogating him. None of the other characters who encountered Loki at any stage have attempted this. None of them have dared.
But that's not what I came to talk about. Other articles criticised the fact that the filmmakers decided to turn Black Widow's emotional outburst into a facade because, supposedly, they were trying to smooth over the fact that she was a weaker character than the others. Because she's a woman. And she lets Loki's words get to her when all the male characters brush it off. Because she's weak.
Wrong. With the view I took of the scene, I don't see Black Widow's portrayal of emotion as weak at all. If the emotion she shows is fake, it's a testament to how well she controls herself - Loki is threatening her, her enslaved friend and co-worker, and her entire world, and she has such concentration that she can contain all her emotion, and still put up such a fantastic facade, that he walks right into her interrogative trap.
But I don't believe that either. It seems too contrived, and taking into account the ferocity and brutality of Loki's words, and Black Widow's own personal stakes, I reckon the emotion she showed there was perfectly genuine, and it was only Loki's revelation that made her snap back into Agent Mode.
And that just shows how strong she is.
Thor is Loki's adoptive brother, a demi-god, with the power to control thunder. He still believes in Loki's redemption, and he gets defensive when anyone dares to attack him over his feelings. Black Widow, however, as well as being distinctly lacking in the ability to wield giant hammers and fling giant green rage monsters through walls, knows she can't afford to let her emotions cloud her actions. She doesn't try to hide her emotions - she's clever enough to know that that never works, she makes it her business to break people who try to do that to her.
So she lets Loki hurt her. She walks up to him, knowing full well what he is capable of, and she gives him the provocation he has been waiting for. She doesn't try and put a lid on her emotions, because she knows it won't help.
She knows what she has to do. And she'll do anything neccessary to get it. It hurts her - we see it in her face, and I'm posessed that what she shows looks far too realistic to be an act - and she takes it. She stands there, and she takes it.
She lets Loki think he's won, then she takes that hurt and slaps him across the face with it.
And this is why I think that that scene, more than any other, is proof of why Black Widow is more than worthy of the term "superhero". More than the fact she's an awesome martial artist, incredible acrobat, and brave enough to take on an alien army armed with nothing but a pair of pistols.
It takes a lot of courage to face up to one's emotions.
It takes even more to let other people see them.
But there are fewer acts that are braver than sacrificing those emotions for the sake of your duty.
Let's see an indestrucible shield beat that.
~ Charley R