In the six years since Scarlett Johansson’s Natasha Romanoff, aka Black Widow, was first introduced to us in 2010, her character has become one of the more fascinating people in the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe). Thanks to her magnetic performances, and strong, subtle writing, Black Widow’s backstory is simultaneously mysterious and emotionally relevant to where we find her these days.
As it turns out, there was going to be a little more revealed about her in Captain America: Civil War, but it ended up not making it into the film.
A scene from the junior novelization of the Marvel epic that took the world by storm earlier this year reveals one extremely troubling event from Romanoff’s past. Here’s an excerpt from the scene in question:
Natasha studied Cap’s expression of resolve. Finally, she said, “In Russia, in the Red Room, there were dozens of us. All girls, all young. We lived together. They let us be friends. Then they dropped us in the tundra, two weeks’ walk from home, with just enough supplies for one of us to survive.”
Cap looked at her, understanding her meaning.
“Don’t let them push us into the cold,” she said.
Pretty powerful stuff. And it would’ve absolutely added to some of the drama of the much-ballyhooed airport battle that found Black Widow betraying Team Iron Man to help out Team Cap. That was a sequence that most people raved about, while I found it to be unfortunately devoid of stakes and rather empty.
This scene, which would’ve taken place earlier in the film, would’ve added an extra layer to that part of Captain America: Civil War.
It would’ve perfectly set up why she ultimately sided with Steve Rogers (Chris Evans), in favor of fighting the authoritarian demands of the proposed overlords of The Avengers; Because she had already been placed in a situation where she was pit against her peers, and she knew that the only people who come out on top in that situation are the ones who call the shots.
So, while I find it unfortunate that this didn’t make it into the movie, I have enough respect for Joe and Anthony Russo to assume that there must have been a reason for them not to include it.
Maybe they were put off by the needless and baffling backlash Joss Whedon got for a similar scene in Avengers: Age of Ultron. You know the one. In explaining why she feels less than human to Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo), Romanoff relayed the following story:
“In the Red Room, where I was trained, where I was raised, they have a graduation ceremony. They sterilize you. It’s efficient. One less thing to worry about. The one thing that might matter more than a mission. Makes everything easier, even killing. You still think you’re the only monster on the team?”
While some social justice warriors took this to an unhealthy level, claiming that this meant that Whedon wanted the world to think that infertile women are monsters, and that the writer believed that every woman’s dream should be to have a child, I never quite saw it that way. For starters, I don’t get why Romanoff would ever be thought of as speaking “for all women on earth.” She’s a former contract killer with a ledger filled with red- as in dead bodies everywhere. She’s a very specific character, with a very specific story to tell. Anything she shares should be thought of as the remnants of a broken person who’s just trying to make things right. Her POV should never be regarded as one we hope our daughters aspire to.
Even aside from that, I think the “outrage” is a complete misinterpretation of what she’s saying to Banner. Romanoff isn’t implying that infertile women are monsters. She’s revealing that she was physically tortured and psychologically manipulated in order to become an instrument for murder; That she was forcibly stripped of body parts in order to be something less than human. That, and her crushing guilt from the aforementioned ledger of red, make her feel like…a monster.
Anyone who’s followed the character’s progression knows this. But for those who haven’t, and were only shown that one isolated piece of dialogue, this gives them a wonderful excuse to act all high and mighty and go after a person like Whedon- who is revered by actual industry women for being an incredibly progressive voice for women in pop culture and a champion of female heroes.
Also, just for grins and giggles, let’s say that she does feel that being infertile makes her a monster. What would be wrong with that? There are definitely women out there who grew up dreaming of having children one day. Just as there are women who would rather not ever be mothers. If this specific woman, Natasha Romanoff, had always dreamt of having a family of her own one day, then was forced to into sterilization, then she’d have every right to feel like she was robbed of one of the fundamental experiences that she feels a woman should be able to have. Not every character in every movie is a poster child for how everyone else in the world should feel- especially ones like Black Widow, who have never been depicted as wholesome role models. Shocking, I know.
So, as usual when it comes to these kinds of social justice warriors: Spare me.
Back to the topic at hand.
What do you think of this other glimpse into the backstory of Natasha Romanoff? Do you wish it would’ve made the cut? Do you think there’s a chance it was saved so that it could one day be a part of a solo Black Widow movie? Would it have added to your enjoyment of Captain America: Civil War? Discuss.