The Well-Rounded Character vs. The Feminist Ideal

(This post may contain spoilers if that matters to you.)

So, I went to see The Avengers: Age of Ultron this week with my Purple Ink collaborator, Donna. And having seen it, I just have to ask…

Why is it that when female characters express a normal desire, people flip out about it? That’s the question I’m left with as I consider the Black Widow character story line and the outcry of some people on the Internet who think this story line is the end of everything.

Perhaps these people don’t understand what it means to write a character that is well-rounded. Maybe they have an ideal in their heads that they feel will solve all the injustices in the world (of which there are many, and not all of them are gender-specific). What I do know is that my ideal world for women is clearly not the same as it is for others.

Could I be a full person with needs in every area of my life, please?

Could I be a full person with needs in every area of my life, please?

In my ideal world, women actually get to be exactly who they are in all their glory, and with all their foibles gathered around them like fine silk. People would see every woman for who she is and let each woman be herself, rather than trying to shove us all into a one-does-not-fit-all polyester snuggie.

In this world, it would be perfectly fine, even normal, for a woman to be an assassin who likes the nerdy science guy because he’s not all testosterone driven at all times…a woman who is a badass who can defend herself and trick the Trickster himself into giving away his secrets, but who also sometimes wishes she could have a child…a very, very normal desire that most women seem to have.

(And by the way, most men seem to have this desire too. When did this longing for children become gender-specific? It’s why we procreate, people!)

In other words, women in my world get to be Black Widow exactly as she was written in Avengers 2.

like the fact that she has incredible skills as a fighter, but that she also wants motherhood or at least wants to have the option of it (which as Donna pointed out in her post, was a right that was stolen from Black Widow as a teenager).

I like the fact that Black Widow isn’t all business. She wants to have a good time too. She wants a good life for herself. And part of that good life is companionship, which is perfectly NORMAL. It is not normal to fight all the time and have no love interests, friends, or social life outside of the work you do. So, why is it a problem for Black Widow to be normal?

Also, why is it a problem for these complications of work and life to be part of her story line? I like the fact that she actually has a well-rounded character with issues she’s trying to solve, and those issues actually make me as an audience member ask questions about what I believe.

Black Widow and Hulk both struggle with issues of control vs. lack of control, and freedom vs. lack of choice in this film. Who else gets something cool like that to do? Think about it…

Thor is completely one-note in this film. He’s barely even eye candy. What was up with that trip into the pool moment that clearly got edited way the heck down until it barely made sense, except that it gave Thor a reason to show up and say, “I have an answer”?

Tony Stark is an unlikable guy on a good day. In this film, he’s annoying and selfish. If only the film had done a better job of convincing us of his obsession with building Ultron. Yeah, I know the reason is given, but it doesn’t feel believable. Stark is no idiot, but his motivation in this film feels too one-note to work well.

Captain America… Well, he looked good in his tight shirt. But he was pretty darn one-note as well.

Supporting characters…mostly all one-note. Even Dr. Erik Selvig, whom I love as a character, is barely there long enough to earn his paycheck.

At least Black Widow gets to have some interesting things going on in her life. Thank God! Without her story line, Bruce Banner’s conflicted emotions, and Hawkeye’s development of a personality (MY GOD, the guy has a rich life outside of the office!), I’d have been bored to tears by this movie.

Well, I should add that I loved James Spader as Ultron. I mean, I’ll sit and listen to James Spader talk for three hours about anything. It wasn’t hard to sit and listen to him be a funnier version of Tony Stark than Tony Stark.

So, in a nutshell: Let Black Widow be Black Widow.

Let her be a badass who also might have wanted a baby one day if she’d had the choice.

Let her be a great fighter who helps hold the team together with Captain America when all the other guys on the team are lousy at it.

And let her also be open to finding a man she wants to be in a relationship with. It’s not like she’s going to quit her job and hang up the leather suit for an apron and heels. At least, not unless she makes the choice herself.

And if she does, that’s okay too…because women should be empowered to make whatever choice makes them happy. Everyone should have the opportunity to choose. That’s what makes us human. When you rob the choice from someone because you want them to be different than they are, you’re making them less than who they are. You’re dehumanizing them, just like Black Widow’s handlers did when they forcibly sterilized her.

Get it?


8 thoughts on “The Well-Rounded Character vs. The Feminist Ideal

  1. I really liked how they wrote and portrayed the black widow as well and didn’t get a lot of the backlash. You can be feminist, a super hero, and a strong person while still wishing you could have a family…it doesn’t make you less of a person. Having black widow unable to have children also shed some light on fertility issues and women who have struggled with that – which I thought was a very good thing.

    • Exactly! And you’re right, it’s important for these superhero movies to not be afraid to address issues of infertility, childbearing, family, and other issues that women face, especially when Black Widow is one of the few female superhero role models girls have right now.

  2. Pingback: Being a Superhero Ain’t All It’s Cracked Up to Be | purple ink writers

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