Age of Ultron or Attack on Uterus
Spoilers concerning the movie, if you care:
So, over the last day the furor of Joss Whedon, Avengers: Age of Ultron, and Black Widow sort of reached a fever pitch. Every genre news site has their take, and it all seems to be falling on the scene where Black Widow reveals she’s been sterilized, and that it was part of her graduation from the Red Room. The people angry with it feel like, and I saw this in an article, she had a mini-breakdown over the loss of her ability to have children.
That is so not how I took that scene. Bruce says something before she goes into that, to the effect of they couldn’t have a future and/or kids, you probably remember better than I do. Anyway, she launches into what the Red Room did to her, and I took the “red in her ledger” to be all the assassinations she completed before was saved/captured/rehabilitated-whatever. The snippet of her aiming at a target that then flashes into a person with a bag over their head that she shoots was her test at being an assassin, very Bourne-like, but she was capable of killing on command. Sterilizing her makes sense to me, she is a weapon as far as “they” are concerned, and if she uses sex to manipulate, she can’t go getting pregnant. They take her humanity away in so many ways and that was just one. When Bruce indicates he’s worried about the future, she’s telling him there’s nothing to worry about, she doesn’t have much of one anyway. She was once a monster (for the murderer she was) and he is a monster and if he’ll just hear her out, they have a lot in common and they can have a future together with little to worry about other than each other. Sure, in the future her choice being ripped from her could be an issue, but in that moment, when she’s describing who/what she is, it’s to assure him that he can be selfish with her, because it would only ever just be them.
That’s how I interpreted it anyway. And it makes me sad that people are seeing it as the opposite, or contrived, or twisted in some other direction. I saw no woe, unless it was for the fact that she feels safe to open up to someone who’s just as damaged as she is. It wasn’t about the femininity, but about loneliness. And to paraphrase Ultron himself, I think they’re confusing independence with being alone. You can be independent and still be in love. You can be a strong woman and still want a family. Still, those weren’t the things I got out of her reveal. And to throw an opening up to someone she cares about back in her face seems counter to defending her. Humans are multifaceted. Why can't our superheroes be?
After this discussion came up in a Facebook group I’m in, the poster falling on the side of the reveal was terrible, I talked with the ANT, my 16 year old daughter, and she liked the scene. She liked that it gave Natasha more background, she saw it as talking about the future with Banner, not lamenting her past or station. She also saw it as Natasha had been robbed of a choice, but that Natasha wasn’t terribly concerned with that right then, it was just an assurance to Banner that she was just as damaged as he was and they could work it out.
I’m disheartened this one scene can be so wildly divisive. Maybe I'm wrong, maybe I’m unwittingly sexist, maybe I’m not interpreting it correctly, but isn’t most of life perception anyway? If I feel like a positive message was conveyed and appreciated the sentiment, doesn’t that mean Whedon, Johansson, and Marvel did a good job?
As for the movie as a whole, I enjoyed it. I think it's one of those that will become more appreciated with multiple viewings. Especially in the comfort of your own home when you can pay even more attention to it and absorb the nuance you might have missed in the theater experience. Even though it seemed like so much was going on on screen it did indeed feel smaller than Avengers Assemble. Here most of the interactions were interpersonal. A friend thought it came off as anti-science, but I saw it as being pro-science, just with checks & balances. No one person (or thing) can solve all the problems, everyone must work together, in the decision making process and implementation of efforts. Maybe Congress should watch Age of Ultron...
If there was a disappointment on my part, it's that it was just an episode, AoU was a bridge to Civil War, which will itself be a bridge to Infinity War. I'm eager to see the more advancing plots and encapsulated worlds of Ant-Man, Black Panther, and Captain Marvel. Not to say I'm not excited for the connective tissues of the MCU, but I really look forward to the awe and satisfaction of the first Avengers and recently Guardians of the Galaxy continuing on in future efforts.