Black Widow: I’m with her


As a single father raising a feminist, this week I fulfilled my parental duties by taking my son Humphrey to the theatre to see the latest Marvel offering, Black Widow. Expecting another cinematic tour de force from the studio which previously brought us such key feminist texts as Captain Marvel, Wandavision and that scene in Avengers: Endgame where all the women team up to kick ass (as only a woman truly can) we were not disappointed. However, what took me by surprise as we watched Natasha Romanov finally step into the spotlight, was that this movie was in fact about Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Of course a strong female lead defying Russian interference and getting her long due recognition after years spent in the shadow of her male inferiors (Hawkeye anyone?) was going to invite comparison with our rightful first female President (in my humble opinion, every female character from the past thirty years is at least slightly indebted to Hillary Clinton) but Black Widow goes far beyond influence, it is impossible to read the film as anything other than Her Story. 

Director Cate Shortland could not spell it out any clearer, the camera lingers over a shot of Bill Clinton during the opening credits, making the connection explicit and outlining the film’s manifesto. This is not merely some empty-headed popcorn “flick” as so many lesser critics insist, this film is a potent allegory for the life of the woman we should rightfully refer to as Madam President.

The movie begins in 1995, Ohio, in the early years of the Clinton administration, showing Natasha’s Midwest upbringing, not too different from Hillary Clinton’s youth spent in Illinois (I was shocked not to see Living History, Hillary’s memoir acknowledged in the credits and I believe this could be grounds for legal action if she were not such an altruistic woman). The main bulk of the story sees Hillary, sorry, Natasha, battling Russians (who infamously stole the 2016 election from her) headed up by a human trafficker (like Jeffrey Epstein whose association with her husband has long haunted her).

There are numerous other similarities, Black Widow wearing an action version of Hillary’s iconic pantsuit, the blonde hairdo which is clearly Clinton-inspired, however the most shocking revelation came in the reveal of the film’s villain, Taskmaster. The foe that has been pursuing Natasha/Hillary relentlessly for the film’s duration is revealed not as a brute male but as a young girl, the kind who should idolize Hillary more than anyone, but who has been weaponised to destroy her heroine by a patriarchal society, not unlike Monica Lewinsky.

As I explained my theory to my son over the journey home, I could tell he disagreed with my critical reading of the film, his indifferent silence saying more than words ever could. Nevertheless (s)he/I persisted. Eventually he relented “Ok Dad, I know that Black Panther is the story of a young Kenyan man who rose to become the ruler of his nation and we both thought that old Steve Rogers looks a lot like Joe Biden but this Black Widow theory just seems a bit too much even for you. You’re telling me that the biggest franchise on the planet is actually telling us the story of our real heroes within the Democratic party and their ongoing fight against evil. What next Black Panther 2 is about the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg? The reveal of Spider-Man’s secret identity at the end of Far From Home is an allegory for Pete Buttigieg coming out in a society which is rife with thinly-veiled homophobia? The Eternals is about Kamala Harris?” 

Perhaps he was right. Maybe I was reading too much into things. Maybe my career had led me to concoct these fantastical narratives with no semblance to reality. Maybe I did live in an ivory tower without the faculties to process life beyond the prism of studio blockbusters. Maybe devoting my entire life to this pursuit had led me to invest and invent undue significance in movies to avoid confronting the emptiness of my own existence. As I idly scrolled through the upcoming slate of Marvel movies, something caught my eye. The secret identity of Ms. Marvel, the upcoming Disney+ series. As I held up my phone and watched Humphrey read the name “Kamala Khan”, I realized: Maybe I was right.

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