One thing that I actually think CA: TWS did really well, which— taken in isolation from my issues with the movie— is encouraging, is representation of women. I don’t mean in numbers— it’s nice that there 3 female heroic characters, but they’re still essentially sidekicks in this narrative— but in the way the female characters are represented.
(Cutting for spoilers)
As pieced together by me from all the retcons. Will add citations for each of these events later. The dates preceded by asteriks are conjecture; the ones without are dates which are officially given in comics.
1928 (Birth) – Natalia Alianovna Romanova is born in Stalingrad, USSR
1928-1930 (age 0-2) – Natalia is orphaned as a toddler; adopted by Ivan Petrovitch Bezukhov
1938 (age 10) – Ivan leaves for war; Natalia recruited for Romanoff’s Spy Academy; brainwashed to believe Taras Romanoff is her father and forget Ivan. Meets Logan (Wolverine) and befriends him.
1941 (age 13) – Kidnapped by the Hand, taken to Genosha, rescued by Wolverine, Captain America, and Ivan. Later that year, she is given a mission to kill Wolverine, who was given a mission to kill Taras Romanoff. She allows him to kill her ‘father’, and disappears into the woods.
*1942 (age 14) – Found in wilderness by Ivan and his unit of soldiers, who she joins.
1944 (age 16) – ‘marries’ Nikolai, a soldier in her unit, while serving together; becomes pregnant with his child. Nikolai dies in the war, and the baby is stillborn.
*1945 (age 17) – Recruited to the Black Widow Ops program. Given treatments that enhance her physiology, but make her unable to have children.
*1945-1956 (age 17-28) – At some point during her training in the Red Room, meets the Winter Soldier and begins a clandestine relationship with him.
1956 (age 28) - She and Ivan are beaten badly in Berlin. With Ivan near death, both were given the gift of a life-prolonging chemical from the Winter Soldier; her aging is nearly halted at this point.
1958 (age 30) – Forced to break off her relationship with the Winter Soldier and marry Alexi Shostakov; brainwashed to believe she is a ballerina with the Bolshoi, covering her entire history to this point with happy, false memories and repressing her spy training.
*1961 (age 33) – The Kremlin fake the death of her husband, predicting (correctly) that she will offer to serve her country in honor of his memory; she begins spy training anew, and takes to it easily due to her repressed memories.
When The Avengers hit theaters almost two years ago, a lot of people made fun of Hawkeye and Black Widow because they were regular human beings teamed up with a super-soldier, a man in a flying metal fighting suit, a giant green monster with unimaginable strength, and a god. And it’s true that Hawkeye seemed like he existed primarily as a plot point, but Black Widow, now, she kicked ass and showed some serious depth as a character.
If you’re still skeptical, try thinking of Black Widow this way: She’s an human being without super powers. She’s an amazing athlete with serious expertise in several martial arts. She dresses in black, and wears a belt. She sometimes uses gadgets. She’s incredibly stealthy. Some seriously bad things have happened to her in the past. She doesn’t always exactly follow the law. Sound familiar?
I’m not saying that the Widow is precisely a female version of Batman – there are many obvious differences, most prominently her use of guns and willingness to kill. But I’d be willing to bet that most of the people who scoffed at the Widow’s presence in The Avengers would never dream of saying anything of that sort about Batman. The fact is that Black Widow, as portrayed by Scarlett Johansson in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, is a terrific character who absolutely belongs with the more conventional superheroes.
Nowhere is this more evident than in Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Black Widow has a much bigger role in this film than she’s had before, and you get to see just how multifaceted her character really is, as well as see her kick some more very serious ass. In movies, she’s the best argument there has been so far that calling characters like her “female superheroes” or “superheroines” is just silly: she, and they, are superheroes; the fact that they’re female really isn’t relevant."