Warning: This post contains SPOILERS for Avengers: Age of Ultron. Proceed at your own risk.
So, there’s been some controversy about Black Widow/Natasha Romanoff’s backstory, specifically that her Brainwashed Soviet-Ish Killing Machine training was concluded with a routine sterilization and she feels un-good about this. As for the scene itself, I don’t see how it’s being framed as a gendered issue. Bruce Banner has already told Natasha about his own infertility, and they’re having the discussion in the first place because they’re seeing the family life that their male friend has deliberately created and likely gone through an insane amount of effort to keep.
A few random, spoilery musings on the women of Thor: The Dark World.
I cannot overstate Frigga’s awesomeness. Frigga pwns everyone forever. I shall henceforth consider the epithet friggin’ an oath invoking the wrath of Frigga. I’m terrible about crying over movies, books, tv shows, songs, gifs, etc., but I couldn’t cry over Frigga’s death. It was just too awesome. I felt like she died exactly how she wanted to, with a sword in hand, defending her realm and her family. To quote another famous space Viking, it was a good day to die.
I love Sif. Why does Sif have to love Thor? I mean, I know she and Jane Foster are both canon love interests in the comics, but why? Why does there have to be a love triangle at all? When two very different women who want very different things out of life are written as rivals for the same man, it reinforces the idea that all women ultimately want the same thing out of life. That thing being mating privileges with the Alpha Male. Can’t we just enjoy seeing a beautiful female warrior and a beautiful female scientist in the same movie without essentially making the hero declare one more desirable than the other? I have absolutely no problem with strong women wanting relationships (with men, even!), but there’s no lack of powerful male hotties in this story. Why bother making Sif and Jane compete when there’s enough to go around?
Oh, Darcy. Characters like her are why comic relief sidekicks are often my favorites. Especially when those sidekicks demand and procure their own sidekick. And then make out with that sidekick on an interdimensional battlefield because why not?
What I am about to say is my personal, visceral, subjective, emotional response to Jane’s characterization based on how I’ve been feeling lately. It is irrespective of tropes or conventions or social history. Here goes.
Jane is smart, curious, educated, accomplished, self-assured, and for most of the movie, ill. The movie lets her be all of these things at once. The Aether is in control until it can be destroyed. The most Jane can do is cooperate with the people who have the power to destroy it, Jane herself not being one of them. Her rational acknowledgement of this isn’t treated as “letting her illness beat her.” She’s still herself. Ever the scientist, she investigates the alien technology in the Asgardian hospital while she’s on the exam table, and learns all she can about the city and its people in between being examined, sleeping, and pursuing a treatment (that might kill her). But those three things do take most of her time, and she can’t help that. As someone who can identify with all of the above, it felt really good to see a woman like this at the center of an epic. Sure, Thor is the real protagonist and Jane is “just” his love interest, but…Jane is Thor’s love interest. Thor would literally move heaven and earth to save Jane even though she can’t reciprocate. I love the scene where Jane unsuccessfully tries to drag Thor out of the falling ship’s path and finally just throws herself on top of him. It’s so earnest, and so comically futile. The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. And yet, Jane’s weakness doesn’t take away her agency. Thor protects and cares for her, but he doesn’t patronize or dominate her. Jane chooses to go along with Thor’s plan to destroy the Aether. She chooses to let Frigga, Sif, and other stronger people put themselves on the line for her. Which they all do willingly because Jane matters, if not intrinsically then at least in the sense that her best interests align with theirs. Is Jane Foster a damsel in distress? She does technically fit the trope. But I found this damsel engaging, encouraging, and dare I say, empowering.