Archives for : Scarlett Johansson

On Natasha Romanoff and Feminism

Natasha Romanoff (The_Avengers)

It’s official, faux-feminists. I’m-a callin’ you out. *straps on six-guns*

According to, the definition of feminism is the following:

: the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities


: organized activity in support of women’s rights and interests

So, therefore, explain to me how the depiction of Natasha Romanoff, aka Black Widow, in Age of Ultron is being seen as sexist? Because it’s been over a week and I just came back from my second viewing of the film, and I am just not seeing it.

What I’m seeing it something else entirely.

In case you’re stumbling across this blog post with no prior knowledge of who and what I am, I’m a girl. A black girl. A black girl nerd, in fact, and I have been since I was old enough to watch television and realize that Batman is someone I wanted to emulate at the earliest possible moment. I wouldn’t call myself a full-blown kick-down-your-door-and-scream-in-your-face feminist, but I am one. I want my ladies, both in real life and in fiction, to be represented in every possible way and to have every single right that they have earned through blood, sweat, and tears. I want writers to push past the easy stereotypes and write women of every kind as long as said writing is not only realistic and reflective of women as a whole, but also writing that is as diverse and layered as the kind used for writing men.

If you want to talk about Natasha Romanoff, then I’m eager to begin, because this woman has been on quite a journey from her introduction in Iron Man 2. Natasha started out getting her feet wet by being gorgeous and tight-lipped for the most part, and I actually had zero opinion of her after I saw the film. I knew of her—that she was a former assassin turned good guy thanks to Nick Fury, Clint Barton, and SHIELD—and that she had some friction with Tony Stark, but otherwise, she wasn’t even a blip on my radar. After all, in Iron Man 2, she didn’t get to do quite a lot other than have some really overcomplicated takedowns that looked badass, but didn’t give me much to go on other than she looks super cool beating down bad guys.

Then The Avengers came along. Holy shitsnacks. This is precisely what I had been missing from both ScarJo and Nat in general. We see beneath the hotness in a jumpsuit. We see that she has an excellent sense of humor and a wonderfully cool poker face, but she also has a drive, a need, and a purpose not only with SHIELD, but also with the other Avengers. Furthermore, we see that Natasha is not only devoted, but cunning beyond measure. Everyone has a favorite moment from The Avengers—hell, the entire damn movie is just one continuous block of Crowning Moment of Awesome—but one of my all-time favorites scenes is still Natasha confronting Loki. It’s beautiful. How she starts off so calm and collected, and then Loki delves into her sordid, ugly past and digs up the reason why she is so determined to save her best friend, and then the entire experience is up-ended when it’s revealed that she was carefully playing on Loki’s ego and mad desire for revenge in order to find out his ultimate goal. Not one other member of that team could have done what Nat did. No one. That moment solidified the reason why Natasha is an Avenger. She may not have all the strength of Thor or Captain America, or the technological brilliance of Tony or Bruce, or the sharpshooting abilities of Hawkeye, but Nat is there for a reason. She adds something to that team, something that they most certainly needed, something that they could not have won the day without. Natasha is not a pretty accessory. Natasha has weight to her character, and that leads me into her next appearance.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier is the exact moment I fell in love with Natasha Romanoff. She became every single thing I’ve ever wanted in a female hero that I haven’t been able to get just yet (though I personally did really enjoy Anne Hathaway’s portrayal of Catwoman in The Dark Knight Rises, and shut up, I don’t care if you don’t agree). The Avengers introduced us to Nat, but this is the film where the onion starts to peel and we see the layers beneath. I adore Nat and Steve together, as partners, as friends, and I admit I actually did see a little spark of attraction there as well, even if Nat’s intentions for Bruce come up in Age of Ultron. I love that she’s so laidback and teasing with him, but then at the same time, there is real conflict beneath her seemingly easy company. The two of them have very different approaches to saving the day, and Steve thinks everything is black and white while Nat sees only the grey. I especially loved the conversation they had in the truck on the way to New Jersey, where she asks what he wants from her, and he simply tells her the truth, and then there’s that incredible scene at Sam’s place where he says that he’d trust her with his life now that they’ve been through hell and back. I love that Steve could tell Nat was shaken by finding out that SHIELD was Hydra all along, and I think it adds something even deeper to what she goes through in Age of Ultron, which we’ll get to in a second. Nat’s “red in my ledger” comment is the baseline of her character development. She’s been trying so hard to wipe out that gushing red, and to discover that SHIELD, the organization that saved her life and put her on the right path, was still evil at its core, was the worst thing that could happen to her. But she puts her trust in Steve and Sam and the others and they get the work done destroying Hydra’s plan, and once again, she is shown to be beyond competent and essential to the mission, stopping Pierce and saving literally millions of lives.

Now it’s time to discuss Age of Ultron. By now, we know a glimpse of Nat’s past, what motivates her to still work for SHIELD, and that she’s perfectly comfortable with her teammates. First off, I do admit I’m not a big fan of the Nat/Bruce ship, but that’s not the fault of the writing for me. I just don’t see chemistry between ScarJo and Ruffalo, that’s all. I think she had way more heat and tension with Evans, but that might also be because the two have worked together before in the Nanny Diaries and in Winter Soldier, so keep that in mind. However, this is where my problem with the faux feminists start.

First of all, how is it sexist that Nat has a romantic arc with Bruce when literally every single Avenger so far has a love interest BEFORE it got to her? Tony has Pepper, Steve had Peggy, Bruce had Betty, Thor had Jane, and Hawkeye had his wife. I’m not kidding. All of them have a romantic relationship BEFORE Nat does, and all of said romances were fully explored and have an impact on our heroes. So does Nat and Bruce’s relationship. I’m not understanding the claim of sexism here. Hell, let’s check Webster yet again for a definition:

Sexism (n):   prejudice or discrimination based on sex; especially :  discrimination against women


:  behavior, conditions, or attitudes that foster stereotypes of social roles based on sex

Nope. Still not seeing it. Where is the sexism in Nat developing an attraction to Bruce, who is quiet, brilliant, kind-hearted, brave, and has shown her nothing but respect since they met? Where is the unfair treatment of this character? She is getting the same amount of attention towards romance that the other heroes received. How does it diminish who she is to want to share her feelings, both physical and emotional, with someone she likes?

Moving on, apparently the other outcry of the faux feminists is that Nat’s reveal about being sterile is also somehow sexist. Again, I’m a girl. I’ve watched this movie two separate times a week apart, and I cannot see any sexism on the part of the writers/director. Are they trying to say that dealing with her sterility is sexist? How? Men and women ARE different. Women DO have issues that men will never have to deal with. Nat’s sterility is definitely something that would impact her negatively and make her feel utterly destroyed if thrown back into her face after what we assume is probably years of repression. She was a weapon, programmed and commanded to do things against her will, and that abuse shaped how she acted for entire years.

Furthermore, how is it sexist to write that it made her turn that negativity onto herself when Bruce brought up not being able to have a family? If it’s the way she phrased being a monster, fine, that wasn’t phrased correctly, but I don’t see how that is reinforcing a stereotype or a negative generalization about women. Infertility is an issue that affects all women, whether they want to ever bear children or not. I personally don’t really want any kids at this point in my life, and I might never get to that point, and I don’t even have a boyfriend. That is a relevant issue to women. Why is Nat getting hatred, and subsequently, why is Joss Whedon and his writers getting flak for discussing a modern, relevant issue that women deal with? Wouldn’t it be sexist to gloss over it? Wouldn’t it be sexist to ignore her background and not discuss what has made her want to bond with Bruce? To make her a one dimensional character who is just a pair of tits or a punchline?

This is why I finally decided to make a blog post discussing the issue. I think that feminism has been corrupted by one specific group of women who like to take this word and warp it into an excuse to complain. Do you want proof? Fine. I’ll give you some examples.

They complain about Nat, but they ignore the fact that Darcy, the brunette from Thor, quite literally did not do ONE plot relevant thing in the entire movie. She was just there to be pretty and crack jokes and so the twenty-something boys would have someone to ogle other than Natalie Portman. Not only that, but they accept her as part of the Marvel universe and even ship her with people like Loki, which makes so little sense that I cannot even offer an attempt at an explanation. She is superfluous. 100% superfluous. And yet no complaints, but praise.

They complain about Nat, but then they scream and rage about Jane falling in love with Thor even though Thor’s entire actions in the first movie were a direct result of things that Jane helped him do, and he would not have been able to regain Mjolnir or defeat Loki without Jane’s help. It makes perfect sense that Thor fell for her because of how smart and sweet and brave and ready to learn about things she didn’t know she was, and it made sense for Jane to fall for Thor because he was a gentleman and he sacrificed himself to save a town full of people as well as her from his brother’s wrath.

They complain about Nat, but they actively worship Loki: a selfish, spoiled, entitled prick who chose to ignore years of kinship with Thor and Odin because his ego and inferiority complex took over. They constantly make excuses for him, saying it’s all Odin’s fault or all Thor’s fault, that Loki went mad with the notion that he was meant to be king. They say that he was just “misunderstood” when he came to earth, gleefully killing innocent people, and intending to enslave mankind not for our own good, but because he wants to be king of the mountain. They blame Thor for being a bully, and ignore the fact that Thor gave Loki chance after chance after chance to reform and do the right thing, even at the risk of his own life, and that Thor still loved Loki even at the moment of his “passing” in The Dark World.

They complain about Nat, but they try to justify the actions of Grant Ward from Agents of SHIELD, who has a boo-hoo abusive backstory that in no way justifies his constant ass-hattery and decision to be an evil, remorseless arrogant son of a bitch time and time again. He has murdered, tortured, kidnapped, and blamed everyone but himself for his own actions, and he has made it clear that his wants and needs exceed everyone else’s, and he refuses to apologize to the people who he betrayed and tried to kill several times, and yet these same women create entire groups to “stand” with him and protest that he’s not a monster when we have physical evidence that he is.

So yes, I use the term “faux-feminist” with no reservations whatsoever when addressing the people who claim that Nat is a bad character written by a “sexist.” All she is as of right now is a lightning rod that they are using to do what their actual agenda is: to stomp their little feet and fight fire with fire. Feminism is NOT about bullying men, or bullying women who disagree with you. Feminism is NOT about throwing so much hatred at someone that they feel the need to remove themselves from a social media environment. Feminism is NOT about treating men like shit so that they “understand” what women go through. Feminism is about finding middle ground so that men understand that women are to be written competently and realistically instead of being objectified or ignored.

Natasha Romanoff was not being objectified or ignored. She had an actual character arc. She had a personality. She had a mission. She was relevant, three-dimensional, and realistic. Does she do things that some of us disagree with? Of course she does! But that is what makes her an actual character. Real characters make mistakes. They screw up. They have faults. That is what the end goal is for feminism. We want to see women who aren’t perfect goddesses or complete screw ups. We want to see women who are both, and every shade in between, and that is exactly what Natasha Romanoff has become from her first appearance to her current one. You don’t have to like her. But you have to appreciate her because she is a fully formed character with motivations, a flushed out personality with layers, and a background that has been explored that affects her behavior.

You wanna complain about Age of Ultron? Be my guest. The movie is by no stretch perfect. It has flaws, and you are welcome to discuss them. But don’t you dare plant that fake-ass feminist flag and proclaim that it’s tearing down women when you have Natasha Romanoff out there kicking ass and being developed and proving that you don’t need a dick to be a fantastic hero. That ain’t feminism. That’s being a dick.

And I’m pretty sure that’s not what feminism is about.

Kyo out.

In Defense of Lucy (2014)


Lucy 2014 poster

Alright, time for me to get a little salty with ya, Internet.

I admit that Lucy is nowhere near a perfect film. It’s got its share of problems; the first of which is the flawed scientific myth it springs its concept from, and then we have the false advertising in the trailer that made it look like an awesome telekinetic bad ass getting revenge on the people who experimented on her, and then the ineffectual policeman and his men who honestly shouldn’t have even been in the movie for all the difference they made. Like I said, it ain’t perfect.

But I’m not getting all the vitriol, especially from male geeks and nerds. So let’s play devil’s advocate for a second.

Overall, I’d give Lucy a solid B if you put a gun to my head. I think it accomplished more than what I expected, and perhaps that’s part of why people are so torn over the movie. It set a certain late summer blockbuster movie expectation, but it sure as hell wasn’t a summer blockbuster film. I actually think Lucy would’ve done better as a November cerebral flick without being sandwiched between Guardians of the Galaxy or Transformers 4. It’s unlike any of Luc Besson’s previous films (that I’ve seen, mind you, because I am a bit rusty. I’ve only seen a handful of his movies), in terms of the budget and the exploration of so many topics in just an hour and a half.

The reason I defend Lucy is because I think it’s a breath of fresh air in today’s world of “shut up and watch this movie and don’t think.” I mean, Transformers 4 made just as much as its predecessors even though it’s literally the same damn movie copy/pasted twice, except he changed the cast members and made Optimus a grumpy S.O.B instead of the fatherly leader we’ve known and loved our whole lives (seriously, do you remember that quote from the third film? “You may lose your faith in us, but never in yourselves.” THAT is Optimus Prime. He’s not some bloodthirsty asshole, even after we treated him like crap. Ugh, go die in a fire, Michael Bay.) Lucy doesn’t subscribe to the “think less, watch more” mentality, in my opinion, and I’ll try to explain why.

First of all, the thing I liked most about Lucy is the lady herself. She starts out just this normal girl and then some asshole tosses her into the worst situation imaginable, through no fault of her own except just having really bad taste in men. I like that she wasn’t some tough, bad ass with one-liners. I like she was just your average woman. She reacted so appropriately to that horrifically tense scene in the office where they made her open the case and then forced her to be a drug mule. As an author, it’s important to establish your character early on, and we got a really good sense of her characteristics through that traumatic experience, especially when she was in the car and she was trying to hold it together muttering about time just after Samuel’s lecture. That was brilliant done. Most people make the mistake of thinking that the only way to have a successful heroine is to make her a bad ass, but it doesn’t always have to be that way. There are plenty of non-action women who are just as important, layered, and interesting without starting off awesome. Furthermore, it’s such a great development to see her so scared and desperate to live through that horror and then transcend into this incredible goddess by the end of the film. I actually like the twist that Lucy wasn’t about a telekinetic demi-god running around beating up her former captors. I like that she started falling apart after a certain point in her transformation, and that her main goal was to buy time to stay alive so she could figure out what to do with her newly acquired knowledge. That is incredibly ambitious for a character in such a short movie, and I think it worked. I especially liked the ending line about “now you know what to do with it.” It’s a good nugget of wisdom, passing on knowledge to those behind us in order to improve their lives.

Second of all, I really like that she didn’t have a love interest (I don’t think the cop counts, hell, even he didn’t know why he was there, he said it to her at one point) and that the only male influences in the film were the a-holes who made her a drug mule and Samuel, who offered her advice on what to do with her new abilities. This is Lucy’s story. No one butted in. No one took control of the narrative from her. I didn’t get a nasty sense of misogyny like I have with stories like City of Bones, or even something as bad as True Blood where the writers want you to THINK the main female is independent when in reality, men control everything else around her. Lucy wasn’t a Faux Action Girl. She didn’t need anybody, even though you could tell they were trying to make it seem like she needed the cop, but that’s just poor writing. Female-centric stories are rare. It’s also why I fell in love with Maleficent. She was her own character. Sure, men had a HUGE influence on where her story went, but it was all about her actions, her love, her fear, her anger, and her motivations, not theirs. Lucy is the same, in my eyes. I felt a large amount of affection for Sam gently guiding her and not trying to exploit her in any way, because we all know that would’ve happened if she’d gone to an American laboratory. They’d have tried to kill her and cut her open to see if they could replicate what happened to her, much like how Bruce Banner was treated in The Incredible Hulk. To me, it was so cool to see them just stepping back in awe of such an incredible amount of power.

Third of all, I also liked that Lucy didn’t go full-tilt evil. Power corrupts. Lucy lost her sense of humanity, but I don’t think she lost every bit of herself by the end of the film. A lot of other writers might’ve made her the bad guy, like the disillusioned morons who wrote Transcendence, and I’m so glad they didn’t try to villainize intelligence in this film. Yes, it can be used for evil, but knowledge is the most valuable thing in the world when you consider the factor of time and what we will or could leave behind after we die. The film understood such a complex subject and gave us things to think about instead of trying to jam a message down our throats like Transcendence. I like that Lucy became ambiguous in terms of right and wrong, but she still clearly had some regard for human life or she would’ve just slaughtered all the men chasing after her. (Though, honestly, that did get on my nerves. I’d have just killed them. No sense in wasting time, but the screenwriters needed a final scene with conflict, so whatever.)

Lastly, I also appreciate that this is one of the few pro-knowledge films that didn’t feel the need to insult religion. No one spits on Christianity or Catholicism or any of the major worldwide religions. Thank you. I know the atheist crowd doesn’t care, but seriously, it’s a relief that they didn’t get up on a soapbox and preach about how science is the only way and people who believe are just ignorant jerks. It showed the Big Bang and evolution and everything, and that’s totally fine and factual, and just left religion out of the mix. It fit the tone and it was just plain polite of the filmmakers not to pick a fight for once.

I understand if people disagree with the direction the film decided to go in as opposed to how it was marketed, but I really think we have a hidden gem here that many people are overlooking. I’d say calm down and give it another watch when it hits the Redbox sometime. I mean, you had some incredible acting on Johansson’s behalf, a killer soundtrack, some stunning visuals that we haven’t seen from Luc Besson since his masterpiece The Fifth Element, a fully characterized and independent female protagonist, some diverse locations, and a straightforward plot. I’m not saying that it doesn’t have plotholes and long tangents, but I do think it was a unique experience for the 2014 movie year. I mean, come on. You can accept a mutated talking raccoon, but you can’t accept a lady with telekinesis? Don’t be that guy. Give her a chance. She may surprise you.