Since her debut in the pages of Tales of Suspense #52 (April 1964), Natasha Romanova/Romanoff’s superhero codename, intended to radiate badass arachnid swagger, implicitly defined the character in the context of a relationship to a man. She was lethal, yes, that was part of it.
But her nomme-de- héros couldn’t help but carry patriarchal connotations of loss and loneliness — of something missing.
In a recent interview with Collider, actor Scarlett Johansson, who has sported the character’s tight black jumpsuit in the Marvel Cinematic Universe since 2010’s Iron Man 2, touted her character’s evolution, over the years.
She’s got a point … but only up to a point.
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Certainly, her Iron Man 2 screen incarnation was treated solely as a sexual object who could be depended upon to kick copious amounts of butt. In 2015’s Avengers:
Age of Ultron, she described herself as a monster because she could not have children, among other reasons, and was used by the film chiefly to calm down Mark Ruffalo’s Hulk with her feminine wiles. And in the character’s final, gallingly tone-deaf moments onscreen, in 2018’s Avengers: Endgame, she sacrificed herself when things came down to a choice between a man with a family (Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye) and a woman without one (herself).