In The Avengers, Black Widow said she had “red in her ledger”, and her upcoming solo movie needs to fix that double-standard for the sake of Nat.
When it’s finally released as part of Marvel’s Phase 4, Black Widow can fix The Avengers’ hypocrisy over Natasha’s dark past. The prequel has already promised to reveal what happened in Budapest, and there’s also an inherent opportunity not only to explore more of Natasha’s past and the mysteries of the Red Room but also to address an issue in the early MCU movies that is curiously targeted only on Black Widow.
Black Widow will see the MCU exploring exactly what happened to Natasha after Captain America: Civil War saw her driven underground in the wake of Tony Stark’s discovery that she was helping Team Cap. Rather than immediately joining Cap’s Secret Avengers – a superhero team that deserves its own MCU movie, frankly – Widow will be drawn back into her own past, following the emergence of fellow Black Widow and Red Room graduate Yelena Belova (Florence Pugh). And crucially, they will be drawn together with other Red Room victims to fight the program’s controller, the mysterious Taskmaster.
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The unwritten billing on Black Widow is that Natasha is still working to clear the “red from her ledger“, which is first mentioned in The Avengers when the issue of her past as an enemy of SHIELD is first floated in the MCU. Given the position of the sort-of-prequel after Civil War and Nat turning on her allies (or at least Iron Man) again, that aim for restitution becomes even more symbolic. But the idea that Widow should be held accountable – even by herself – for her past “crimes” while under the control of the Red Room is hypocrisy on the part of the MCU. Because it’s not something other characters are entirely held to.
It is fair to say that most of The Avengers have “red in their ledger” – it’s arguably what gets them involved in the Initiative in the first place (the exceptions are Cap, because he’s a paragon of virtue and Hawkeye because nobody bothered to give him a backstory) – but Widow is the only one to be expressly held accountable for that. Even Bruce Banner doesn’t fit, because he fears what he could do without worrying about what he has done (the deaths Hulk is responsible for in his time on Sakaar in Thor: Ragnarok) and Bucky – the most important parallel to Natasha in terms of their shared past – is largely presented as a victim. That victimhood seemingly absolves him of the Winter Soldier’s crimes once he’s “fixed” in Wakanda, but is never suggested to extend to Widow when she’s written to say she feels she owes a debt.
The reality is that Natasha should not feel like she has a debt she needs to clear after “defecting” from the Red Room, because as was hinted in Avengers: Age of Ultron (and should be furthered in Black Widow) she was conditioned from an early age to be a killer. She was sterilized by force, warped by the Red Room’s nefarious psychological conditioning and then sent out into the world to kill with her free-will stripped away. That Nat is at all concerned with making amends for what she did, even when she was just as out of control as Bucky was as The Winter Soldier, speaks to her mentality, but it’s a fundamental betrayal of her trauma. In a franchise that otherwise deals very well with PTSD, having Natasha apologize for what happened to her without the context of her past being addressed properly is hypocritical and it needs to be fixed in Black Widow.
Next: Marvel Reveals How Hydra Turned Bucky Barnes Into The Winter Soldier
Key Release Dates
- Black Widow (2021)Release date: May 07, 2021
- Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (2021)Release date: Jul 09, 2021
- Eternals (2021)Release date: Nov 05, 2021
- Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (2022)Release date: Mar 25, 2022
- Thor: Love and Thunder (2022)Release date: Feb 11, 2022
- Black Panther 2 (2022)Release date: May 06, 2022
- Captain Marvel 2 (2022)Release date: Jul 08, 2022
- Spider-Man: Homecoming 3 (2021)Release date: Dec 17, 2021
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