There are wolves, they would say. And there are stories about wolves and girls. Girls in red. All alone in the woods. About to get eaten up. Wolves and girls. Both have sharp teeth.
I outlived all the men who raised me. I stayed young while they faded and died from bullets and disease, or old age. You forget so much. You forget them. Friends. Family. You put aside what can’t be changed. Like death.
— Black Widow; The Name of the Rose
My only complaint is these restraints. I’d like them a little tighter, please.
In 1999, Gail Simone, with the help of a few other fans, compiled a list of female characters who had been raped, killed, tortured, depowered as a plot device within superhero comics. She called it, “women in refrigerators.” You see: violence against women is far more likely to have a sexual context than the gobs and gobs of violence against men in superhero comics. Sometimes it’s even drawn to titillate— I’m reminded of Ultimate Wasp’s cannibalized corpse, her still-perky breasts.
Women in refrigerators is a memification of the superheroic glass ceiling. With one obvious exception, the most a superheroine can hope for, thanks to factors of history, is the upper B-list. Any reader will tell you: that’s where comic book characters go to die. Characters who are well-liked but don’t sell comics on a regular basis are the perfect crossover-fodder, see also the curse of the Giffen League. That’s why, when it comes to summer blockbuster finale deaths, Steve Rogers became a saint and Janet Van Dyne (my personal top Avengers leader) became an afterthought. Basically, Women in Refrigerators is a memetic way of saying that women will be harmed in service to a male-driven narrative far more often than a female-driven narrative will throw dudes under the bus.
I repeat what you probably already know because Marjorie Liu decided to put Natasha in a refrigerator. And she didn’t go halfsies: she put Natasha naked tied-up in the hands of the enemy. Inside a refrigerator.
Let’s talk about Natasha’s shift in civilian costuming between Iron Man 2 and the Avengers. In IM2 it was all expensive looking dresses and button-up blouses, tailoring and sophistication. In the Avengers, she preferred jeans-and-leather-jacket ensembles. This change up makes sense when you remember that in Iron Man 2 Natasha was dressing a part, to fit into the rich and famous world of Stark Industries. The later stuff is probably more indicative of MCU Natasha’s personal sense of style.
There’s a real problem that extends across spandex universes where people look at the costume and then try to transfigure it into something not quite a costume, and that is what our heroes wear in their day to day life. The Black Widow outfit is tight and black, ergo Natasha is condemned to a lifetime of leather pants and weird hourglass corsets. Nevermind that for many characters costumes represent true alter-egos, ways to express personality traits that they must repress in their workaday lives, nevermind that I’m pretty sure Spider-man’s costume is also tight and he’s not dressed perpetually for jazzercise. But, you know, Captain America is always wearing a blue shirt with a white star on it, Clint Barton can’t say no to purple. It’s all very literal and it results in some laughably terrible hero fashion.
But if you go beyond “it’s tight! and it’s black!” you can get actual hints as to Natasha’s maybe aesthetic. Her costume, and the clothing she wears, are simple and no-frills and give her plenty of space to hang a weapon.
so the other movie I finally watched this weekend wasBridesmaidsand this is the result.