Why Natasha Matters
Okay, I am sick of reading reviews and articles and fan rants about how Natasha and her ‘pop guns’ were outmatched and out of place in the final fight of the Avengers.
Because I think that was exactly the point, and I kinda think that some people might’ve missed it.
Let’s leave out what does happen. Let’s leave out the endgame. Let’s ignore that. Let’s look at what is happening here. Let’s look at this:
Natasha Romanoff: We gotta stop him.
Clint Barton: Yeah? Who’s we?
Natasha Romanoff: I don’t know. Who’s ever left.
Let’s look at the words of a woman who knows she’s outmatched. A woman who knows she’s a spy, not a soldier, not a fighter, who has her strength lying in speed and subterfuge and backstabbing. A woman who is now marching into battle with another human being, two people of amazing skill and training, but two human beings.
Because at that moment, THEY ARE ALL THAT IS LEFT.
When the superhumans and the geniuses and the gods all splinter apart, it is the human beings who set themselves up to fight, and likely to die, in the defense of the rest of the world.
It is Natasha, Natasha with red in her ledger, a woman who knows that she can never be redeemed, not fully, who takes her ‘pop guns’ and goes out to fight, because she stands a better chance than the bankers and cabbies and waitresses of New York. She is going to fight. Knowing she is unmatched, knowing she is going with only Clint as backup, she is willing to go.
Please take a moment to think about the bravery that entails. That she is going out with a couple of pistols and a catsuit to fight an alien army. Even Hawkeye has the advantage of being able to hit from a distance. She doesn’t. She’s up close and personal. She’s hand to hand and short distance attacks and a cool head. She doesn’t belong there. She shouldn’t be there. BUT SHE GOES.
Natasha said that she had skills, she had a unique set of skills, and she didn’t care much who she used them on, or for. This time, those skills, no matter how unmatched, are used in the defense of the rest of the world. This time, no one tells her to go. No one pays her. Fury doesn’t order her out there.
She goes of her own free will. She makes the choice.
When the Other says:
”Humans… They are not the cowering wretches we were promised. They stand. They are unruly, and therefore cannot be ruled. To challenge them is to court death.”
It is Natasha who stands for the rest of us. A human. No super powers. No armor. No amazing weapons. Just a woman with red in her ledger, and the strength and the bravery to go somewhere she has no business being, to step up to a fight where she is outmatched.
Natasha is the human heart of the Avengers, a woman who fights a battle she has no hope of winning. And saving the world wipes out a lot of red.
This is what Joss Whedon does, in writing female characters. He’ll show you the fragility, the vulnerability, the inescapable humanity of them. Not as women, but as purely human characters who are capable of having that vulnerability be visible, and then he flips it. He does it with other characters as well, with all of them, really. The difference is, people expect the strength to be male characters’ default. Joss doesn’t write it that way, but by showing it in women, he forces the audience to reconfigure their thinking about the appearance of fragility. He forces the audience to reconfigure the concept of strength.
Strength wears jeans, a tank top, and has a ponytail. Strength wears a shapeless dress and is a splintered soul. Strength fought in the Battle of Serenity Valley and is married to Wash. Strength wears foofooraw. Strength wears a jumpsuit and carries a sidearm, is compromised and has red in her ledger. Strength is a co-ed in a cabin in the woods.
Strength is a woman. It’s not that these are strong women, it’s that women are strength.