In the latter part of 2013, [The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug](movie:512310) was released with one pertinent element that deviated from Tolkien’s source material: the inclusion of a female elf, Tauriel, to feature prominently in the second portion of Peter Jackson’s imagining of Thorin Oakenshield and his Company’s journey to reclaim Erebor. Tauriel was kick-ass, she was authoritative and took control of her own allegiances and decisions.
The reasoning for the inclusion of Tauriel? As the cast members of The Hobbit franchise put it so aptly, it was unacceptable for young girls (and boys, mind) to sit through a three-hour film with no major female characters on screen. By this logic, it seems that the fans of Marvel’s Cinematic Universe, who are offered the consistent release of films that center on Marvel’s male superheroes, deserve a franchise with a female lead, and many would advocate for one that delves solely into the complex back story (and future developments) of Natasha Romanoff.
Please, do not get me wrong. I love the Marvel movies that have characterised Phase One and Phase Two thus far, and fantastic work has already been done to lay the foundations for Natasha’s story. She already exists as a three-dimensional female character, which can be considered something of a rarity. If we take what we have learned about her character in [The Avengers](movie:9040) alone, we can see how Natasha already goes beyond customary tropes of the beautiful and dangerous female spy. We have seen her compassion as she comforted Clint while he berated himself for the lives he took under Loki’s control, or when she attempted to prevent Bruce from “hulking out” by vowing to save him from the situation that she had brought him into. We then see her unmistakeable fear as this situation goes beyond her control. We have seen her no-bullshit attitude as she reminds Thor of Loki’s homicidal two days on Earth, and we have seen her put herself on the line to bring back her friend and protect others when Director Fury calls for someone to respond to Clint’s presence on the failing Helicarrier.
Natasha - portrayed by Scarlett Johansson - is strong, smart, quick-thinking and resilient, and is entirely skilled at manipulating others’ foolhardy perceptions of her weaknesses to her advantage. She kicks ass, she holds her own and she fights with as much skill and tenacity as any of the other Avengers.
One seriously commendable thing about [Captain America: The Winter Soldier](movie:254973) was the full display of Natasha's knowledge and intelligence. She may be adept at kicking ass, but she was not relegated to that. She immediately knows the name of the mission Sam Wilson was on when he lost his best friend. She knows all about Operation Paperclip and why Arnim Zola would have been recruited to S.H.I.E.L.D. after World War II. She knows the details of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s technology, and she knows how to use and mitigate it. Natasha is a perfect and invaluable ally for Steve Rogers, a man out of time who is trying to work his way back into a world he has much to learn about.
Her character and her story deserve to stand on their own merits. The story of the [Black Widow](movie:1070824) deserves to be as integral to the ongoing arc of Marvel’s Cinematic Universe as that of any of her male counterparts.
The message needs to be sent loud and clear to every fan of Marvel, of superheroes, of action movies: Scarlett Johansson's Natasha Romanoff, as a female character, is just as deserving and capable of having her own film franchise as any of the men she fights alongside.