Regardless of the depths of one's personal investment in the current crop of superhero movies, it's hard to deny the level of ambition put forth by Marvel in the curating of their ever-developing cinematic universe. With a brilliantly orchestrated series of films that led up to last summer's crossover blockbuster The Avengers, and a subsequent slew of motion picture and television endeavors that followed, the scope of Marvel's franchised fandom has never quite been attempted in cinema history. Furthermore, by recruiting celebrated genre filmmakers and writers such as Joss Whedon, James Gunn and Anthony and Joe Russo to develop and helm the projects, Marvel has ensured the films weren't just filler blockbusters, but full-fledged events that left fans clamoring for more.
Now, with the recent release of Captain America: Winter Solider (directed by the aforementioned Russos), audiences have been treated to another celebrated thrill ride, and the film's titular hero gets to mosey off into the box office sunset with all the glory. It's Cap's second film outing outside of The Avengers, and it's the most hyped of the films to date. Of course, Captain America is in good company with his teammates. In addition to their joint effort, most of the members of The Avengers have had the chance to shine in their own silver screen adventures, some more than once. Iron Man has a trilogy of films to his name, two each for Thor and Captain America, and while technically the freshman novice, The Hulk has seen his share of TV and film screen time.
However, despite the continued solo adventures of the Avengers, the team's sole female member, Scarlett Johansson's Black Widow, continues to not be represented in her own adventure.
Now, before we go further, I know there will be some nitpickers out there that are saying, "Yeah, but Hawkeye doesn't have his own movie, either!" While this is absolutely true, and I would never discount the sassy archer, I think it's significant that we focus on the fact that Black Widow is continuously second fiddle for the sheer reason that when it comes to superhero, action/adventure stories, this is a road block we keep hitting. It's the same reason DC keeps pumping out cinematic reboots of Batman and Superman every few years, but no one can seem to get Wonder Woman onto the big screen: Despite the fact that we're given some amazing female heroes, for some reason the higher ups don't seem to think we want them.
... and that's pretty insulting.
When I started considering the fact that most of the guys in the Avengers had made it into multiple movies, but Black Widow was still on the outside looking in, I had an indignant moment where I thought to myself, "Why isn't anyone talking about this?" But, a quick Google search was enough to reveal it was definitely on the minds of the community. I saw some amazing articles from the likes of Rob Keyes on ScreenRant and Frankie Koelle at Bam! Smack! Pow!, who both share my assessment that the lady needs her due. Normally, this would be enough for me to say, "Other people have this covered," and I'd move onward. However, this is one of those issues that I think is important to add as many voices to the discussion as possible, because I continue to see that studios aren't quite hearing our cries.
At the Academy Awards this year, when Cate Blanchett made a furtive plea to the industry to recognize that female driven films do sell tickets, many people applauded her calling out the misogynist notion that audiences don't want to see movies centered around women. It's a thought process that continues to prevail in Hollywood, but time and again, we see it being proven wrong when the box office returns come back. Strong women make for compelling cinema, and there's a reason Meryl Streep continues to command audiences while many of her male contemporaries have faded into the background.
So, why is it so hard to believe that audiences want to see a movie about a female superhero? To paraphrase Sally Field: We do. We really, really do.
When I was a little kid watching cartoons and reading comics, I was always crestfallen to discover that when it came time to buy the toys for the properties I loved, the girl characters were always underrepresented. Now, I know some among you who know my background will think, "Well, of course the little gay boy wanted the girl toys." But, honestly, my commitment to the super-heroines always had less to do with my orientation and more to do with fairness. I was raised in a home to believe that women were strong, capable, and equal... because it's true. Therefore, to me, the X-Men weren't the X-Men without Rogue and Storm, because they were as much a part of the team as the boys. It used to make me mad that the action figures of the girls were limited or not made at all, because how could you have a complete team without all the members present?
Ultimately, that's really the issue with Black Widow's lack of solo film. While her character plays integral roles in the movies of several of her male counterparts, she's still relegated to secondary status. In the big, bad superhero boy's club, she's still just the girl. Frankly, if I was a young female fan growing up with this, I'd have a hard time wanting to know why the boys always got the spotlight. Heck, I'm not a girl and I'm still asking that question.
Usually, this would be the point in the discussion where, as a screenwriter who is still trying to make a name for myself, I would brashly declare, "Someone needs to write this movie, and that someone should be me!" But, I think the female superhero solo film needs to extend beyond the camera, too. I think Black Widow needs the superhero movie that we've been lacking: The one that says sisters CAN do it for themselves, and maybe even do it better. If Marvel is going to court such amazing fanboy fare as Joss Whedon and James Gunn for the guys, why not get lady geek gurus like Marti Noxon, Diablo Cody or Felicia Day to pen this script? Heck, think bigger: Can you imagine Black Widow: A Kathryn Bigelow film? I can. It's glorious.
Here's the bottom line: Today, I went to the store, and I saw Scarlett Johansson on the cover of no less than four current magazines. If you think living in a society where this amazing actress is good enough to be a sex symbol, but not a strong, independent action star is okay, then perhaps you need to reassess what you get out of going to the movies. For her part, Johansson has joined the chorus of fans in declaring she thinks Black Widow deserves her own movie, and I'm hoping people are listening.
This is your moment, Marvel. Take Black Widow's lack of movie, and let that absence be avenged.