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The themes of Transnational Feminism in Black Widow

Intersectionality, interdisciplinarity, social action and equality, and teamwork are all highlighted in transnational feminist thought and practice. They examine disparities and imbalances among women, including distinct needs and methods to determine feminist issues and various methods of conceptualising agency in order to destabilise notions that women around the world express the same types of issues, forms of oppression, forms of corruption, and advantages.

In the movie “Black Widow”, Alexei Shostakov and Melina Vostokoff are two main characters, who are the undercover agents of S.H.I.E.L.D and working for General Dreykov. With the excellent use of montage, this movie depicts the excruciating training of Alexei Shostakov & Melina Vostokoff as both are caged or placed in red room to ultimately become the black widows [1]. This movie shows that only one in twenty women can successfully handle the training [1].

There is also a dark side of this movie. During their training in red room, their ovaries and uterus are removed from their body through involuntary hysterectomy. It was general Dreykov’s thinking that these reproductive organs can make women weak. It will also work for them as vulnerable obstacles in the way of transnational dominance.

Both a contemporary feminist ideology and the related activist campaign are referred to as transnational feminism. Transnational and capitalist influences individuals across cultures, ethnicities, genders, classes, and sexual identities, according to both ideas and activist behaviours [3]. Further, the damaged bodies of Red Room 'comrades,' Dreykov has a background of depicting the masculine brutality on women [2], [13], [15], [16]. For example, when Romanoff's initial attack on him killed his young daughter Antonia, he implanted a chip in the back of her neck & subsequently took control of her consciousness. Therefore, Antonia started working as his 'Taskmaster,' thanks to her acquired photographic abilities, which allowed her to recognise and imitate the Dreykov's tactics. Antonio's first concern when she is physical and psychological rescued from her father's captivity at the end of the movie is, "Is he gone?", depicting that even though she had her consciousness, she was unable to control her actions [15]. Her dilemma depicts the classic control of women by the patriarchal society, which forms the premise of the transnational feminism.

Transnational feminist’s points of view places more emphasis on the perspectives of females who live inside of, among, and at the edges or limits of society around the world. They surpass nation-state limits and talk to a broad range of conversing powers which have an effect on gender specific interactions and friendships in a global political context [12]. Dreykov also reveals in his meeting with Romanoff that he "reuses" orphaned "waste," mainly young girls, to turn them into reliable weapons who are taught to execute his instructions. His empire is built through smuggling and molesting young girls. Despite the fact that Dreykov relies on the Widows' labour, he denies to recognise and honour their dignity as both human and workers. As a result, his bourgeoning control supplements his patriarchal position [12][13].

We cannot avoid the wider backgrounds of American imperialism wherein the savage 'Other' is a Russian person in our assessment of the feminist qualities of this picture. The Transnational creation of Russia as an adversary state on a global scale is frequent. During the Cold War, the 'decent' Bond was regularly contrasted against a Russian 'attacker' in Bond movies and books [5]. A related theme has been used in a number of Mission Impossible ones in recent years. Here, we can apply the theory of intersectionality [6]. It is an analytical approach, which helps in understanding the social as well as political aspects for combine and frame different modes of biases, privilege and discrimination. For example, in the James Bond Movie, hero could never be ethically wrong. Same as in Mission Impossible movie, the high standard person Ethan Hunt will always be a good American man whose purpose is to maintain peace in the world [6]. In Black Widow and other Marvel flicks, an increased emphasis on American 'values' can exacerbate popular preconceptions in unforeseen ways.

The dark side of Black Widow's portrayal of women

According to the theory of Imperialism, Western countries control the media all around world, that also has a tremendous impact on Third World cultures by enforcing Western beliefs on all of them and ultimately eliminating their local cultures [2]. In the movie, Kirsten asked the right question that whether it is more important to fight against western culture imperialism or showing more concern for women equality [4]. The purpose here is not only to provide a simple answer to Kirsten but also understanding and accepting the racist behaviour impulse by the movie even if as audience was happy with the feminism dialogues of the movie.

Correspondingly, the movie's anthropocentric worldview requires to be analyzed via an intersectional perspective. Not only does Dreykov uses the mental agent on his, but he also utilizes it on the Widows. The poison basically makes the Widows lacking free will, implying that they will passively submit to his wishes. Because of the movie's focus on masculine violence against female, the issue of unity becomes more important [13]. Dreykov's male dominance tries to eliminate the prospect of feminist solidarity, but his optimism is fleeting. In the movie, the peace between Romanoff and Belova sparks off feminist activism, which influences other female hetero-normative interactions [14]. The treatment, which inactivates the chemical agent, is another factor that promotes female connection. The control of women and their features supports the unethicalness of Dreykov’s manipulation as he also controls the Widow’s will [14]. The movie's feminist ecology peaks at the climax when Antonia is freed from her father's prison and chemical control. Black Widow is a decent movie that provides an amazing experience for its audience. Nevertheless, regardless of Disney's impact over popular culture, its negative components must be evaluated [14]. The propensity of Disney to adopt feminism as a 'performance' yet ignore its qualitative reasons in practise is the most pitiful part of its dominance [3].

Until now, the Marvel has not yet given importance to women's ambitions, aspirations, or issues, but there still hasn't been much communication among female characters outside of Captain Marvel. As a result, Black Widow deviates from the characterisation of Marvel men by introducing several strong female characters, portraying a less hypersexualized Natasha, and confronting child exploitation, sexism, and misogyny. Natasha is a teenager who is 12-year-old and looks like a tomboy on her first screen presence [1]. She's preteen, gender-neutral in appearance, and she's as swift as a lightning, bold, and lively as they come. Her onscreen appeal isn't based on her donning a skin-tight cat suit [1]. She's a dewy-eyed, sensitive adolescent, which gives her a new dimension [1]. Later in life, she prefers combat boots to heels and, most often, wears a leather coat instead of a bodysuit. Along with this, Yelena state that Natasha is a poser” because of the way she makes entry or give her landing pose with legs splayed and staring straight and the way she moves [1]. Cate Shortland, the director, said why she decided to make clear this masculine notion about how a girl "should" combat: "By focusing at it, we were telling the viewers to be conscious of whatever they had seen previously and whatever they are going to see now" [7]. The description and the characterisation of the women also challenges the notion of a feminine women as seen in the mainstream media. The movie has a way of adopting all the notions of feminism and accepting all types of women as feminist rather than only focusing on the type popular in the mainstream media.

The importance of intersectionality in analyzing the movie

Fighting and basically ruining the nefarious Red Room is a worthy cause (liberating women and girls being used as murder weapons) that the viewer can get behind. Dreykov (Ray Winstone), who is playing negative role in the movie, is a slithering, misogynistic snake who consider women as things and means to an end: global dominance, one killing (and presumably sensuality) at a moment [12]. He represents the stereotypical and all-powerful white men who enjoys the sound of his own voice. The threat posed by this brain-controlling, narcissistic sociopath is unsettling to witness, specifically when he shifts from long talks to a vicious assaulting of Natasha for daring to challenge his dominance and influence [15]. Natasha's closing conversation with Taskmaster demonstrates how liberating it is to be free of patriarchal dominance [4].

Since Black Widow apparently intended to be the franchise' first female hero to die, her end seems extremely demeaning to her memory, especially given her male colleagues' stories are coming full circle, while her funeral has become a sort of comic act. Marvel Studios apparently wants their films to be emotive and engrossing, the kinds of storylines that leave an impression on the audience [1]. The claim that women are portrayed positively in this film has been contested, especially as Black Widow, despite being equal to her male rivals, is sexualized [1]. Her sexualization, on the other hand, is consistent with the rest of the film's sexualization [1]. Her attractive contemporaries, have been the subject of sexualizing, prolonged body-shots and been the subject of thousands of works of fan art [1]. In addition, Black Widow purposefully tries to control her sexuality in order to deceive her opponents. Despite her hypersexual look, Black Widow defies popular perceptions of female sexuality by refusing to be classified into the stereotypical sexual / "bad girl" or ethically rigid / desexualized dilemma [1], [13]. She is portrayed as a hero with freedom who utilizes much more her beauty to defeat the enemy [14]. Controlling the degree of a woman’s feminism is another way that man have gaslighted and controlled the sexuality of a woman [14].

In the perspective of this movie's narrative, Black Widow's feminist depiction is fascinating to consider. Superheroes act as a recording of moral standards, including feminist values, and can thus serve as a chronicle of societal evolution in attitudes toward gender inequalities. Superhero are also "primarily and mainly [male] since only men are recognised to be rescuers in American culture," according to Becker and Eagly [9]. Despite the fact that today’s modern heroes are more diversified than in the history, Stabile claims that playing with the nature and role of superhero stories will erase the entire superstructure of security upon which such storylines are based [5].

Stabile claims that women should not require or seek more security than men remained a highly revolutionary idea [10][11]. For a long time, the superhero genre has depended on hegemonic masculine tropes to succeed. In light of this, the question arises about the importance of Wheadon's The Avengers’s contribution to the knowledge of gender stereotypes in our societal structure [11]. Stabile thinks that "social makers might start to create and cherish kinds of heroic values that surpass the old, out-dated archetype of the damsel in distress" at the start of what appears to be a moment of tremendous cultural transformation [11]. I believe that The Avengers shows how hegemony of the manhood and sexual norms are shifting, but that it does not mean that hegemony masculinity's influence is diminishing. Although it's natural to be enthusiastic about the movie's depictions of gender stereotypes, it's also vital to take a pause and evaluate the movie's success critically. Although the movie's feminist elements could be seen as a sign of improvement, as Connell indicates, we are still far from achieving a "good hegemonic" that supports gender balance [2]. Additionally, if hegemonic masculinity has an endless capacity for appropriation and the capacity to move itself off as progressive, it may be very hard to depose. The consequences of hegemonic masculinity's integration are contested [15]. This transformation is not necessarily liberatory for women; rather, it might cover the expropriation of female rights since hybridization seems to be progression when it is actually an "untidy sort of camouflage" for the preservation of a dysfunctional gender hierarchy [6].

References

  1. Black Widow. [Film] Directed by Shortland, K. United States of America: Marvel Studios, 2021.
  2. Zerbe Enns C, Díaz LC, Bryant-Davis T. Transnational Feminist Theory and Practice: An Introduction. Women & Therapy. 2020 Jul 8;44(1-2):1–16.
  3. Connell RW, Messerschmidt JW. Hegemonic Masculinity: Rethinking the Concept. Gender & Society. 2005 Dec;19(6):829–59.
  4. Dockterman E. Black Widow Began as a Sexist Stereotype. More Than a Decade Later, Scarlett Johansson Is Reclaiming Her Story [Internet]. Time. 2021 [cited 2022 Apr 27]. Available from: https://time.com/6077666/black-widow-scarlett-johansson/
  5. Rowles D. Ranking the Last Decade’s Major Superheroes In Terms of Pure Masculinity [Internet]. Pajiba. 2012 [cited 2022 Apr 27]. Available from: https://www.pajiba.com/seriously_random_lists/ranking-the-last-decades-major-superheroes-in-terms-of-pure-masculinity-.php
  6. Thilmany D. Tights in Flight: a quantitative Deconstruction of Super-Masculinity in American Comic Books [Internet]. ininet.org. 2017 [cited 2022 Apr 27]. Available from: https://ininet.org/tights-in-flight-a-quantitative-deconstruction-of-super-mascul.html
  7. Friedrich E. Suiting Up and Stripping Down: the Changing Face of (American) Hegemonic Masculinity. Spaces Between: An Undergraduate Feminist Journal. 2013 Apr 27;1(1).
  8. Dominus, S. Marvel in the making: Rachel Weisz on Cate Shortland and Black Widow's killer female cast [Internet]. Sydney: The Sydney Morning Herald; 2019 [cited 2022 May 2]. Available from: https://www.smh.com.au/culture/movies/marvel-in-the-making-rachel-weisz-on-cate-shortland-and-black-widow-s-killer-female-cast-20191118-p53bor.html
  9. Becker SW, Eagly AH. The heroism of women and men. American Psychologist. 2004 Apr;59(3):163.
  10. Morgan J. Will we work in twenty-first century capitalism? A critique of the fourth industrial revolution literature. Economy and Society. 2019 Jul 3;48(3):371-98.
  11. Stabile LD. Sex work abolitionism and hegemonic feminisms: Implications for gender-diverse sex workers and migrants from Brazil. The Sociological Review. 2020 Jul;68(4):852-69.
  12. Michalenko EG. Black Widow: Avenger of Feminism. Line by Line: A Journal of Beginning Student Writing. 2016;2(2):7.
  13. Davies C. “Who Do You Want Me to Be?” Scarlett Johansson, Black Widow and Shifting Identity in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. InScreening Scarlett Johansson 2019 (pp. 81-98). Palgrave Macmillan, Cham.
  14. Erlina HP. Female Masculinity In Black Widow Movie 2021 (Semiotics Study)(Doctoral dissertation, Universitas Wijaya Putra).
  15. Gerard M, Poepsel M. Black Widow: Female Representation in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Polymath: An Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences Journal. 2019 Jan 1;8(2):27-53.
  16. Ginn S, editor. Marvel's Black Widow from Spy to Superhero: Essays on an Avenger with a Very Specific Skill Set. McFarland; 2017 Mar 14.
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