Red in Everyone’s Ledger: Marvel’s Black Widow Difficulties

Rebecca Sutherland Borah

University of Cincinnati


When Avengers: Age of Ultron hit US theaters on May 1, 2015, it became the eleventh movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and took on the difficult task of bridging phase two to phase three films in Disney/Marvel’s master plan. No one was surprised by the film’s financial success; however, few predicted the audience’s reactions to the film’s subplot involving Scarlett Johansson’s character Natasha Romanoff and Mark Ruffalo’s Bruce Banner, linking the two romantically. Although some fans picked up on subtle hints in the first Avengers film, the development surprised the majority of viewers. Some feminists—who had already been irritated by a slut-shaming incident during an interview with cast members Jeremy Renner and Chris Evens—attacked writer/director Joss Whedon on social media, claiming he had “damselled” and disempowered the character. Some even made death threats. Vitriolic reactions from what Roopika Risam calls “toxic feminists” on one side and upset “fan boys” on the other rained down, especially via Twitter. This incident was just another mishandling of the only founding female member of the MCU’s flagship team. Furthermore, fans have long complained that Black Widow deserved her own movie. Even eight years after she debuted in Iron Man 2, Natasha Romanoff still has no solo film on Marvel Studio’s schedule. This presentation will use a case-study methodology along with fan culture theories to examine the Widow’s problems and shed some light on the broader implications and cultural issues ensnaring the character.

2018 National Conference
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