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Abstract

The ‘Black Widow controversy’ arose after the film release of Joss Whedon’s Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015) in response to the way the film seems to restrict the development of Scarlett Johansson’s character, Natasha Romanoff (Black Widow), to the sexist themes of romance and motherhood. In one particular scene, the character herself espouses a regressive ideology of female virtue, nature, and identity when she refers to her sterilized body as “monstrous.” Using the writings of early and contemporary feminist theorists, I argue against the claims that Natasha’s character arc in Ultron is anti-feminist and that it detracts from her reputation as a strong female character. I conclude that the Black Widow controversy resulted from audiences perceiving and interpreting Natasha’s role and storyline based on their own problematic expectations, stereotypes, and preconceived notions about female superheroes and powerful female characters, rather than based on how she was depicted in the film.


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