Despite being one of the franchise's longest running characters, Black Widow's role in the MCU has been somewhat underwritten. Her characterization varies wildly from film to film, which is just about justifiable considering she deliberately uses different personas depending on what situation she's in — and essays could be written on this aspect of her character alone.
The fact is, Natasha Romanoff is Marvel's most fascinating character, with a rich backstory filled with childhood trauma, brainwashing, and multiple horrific acts. This backstory is something the MCU's Nat often coyly alludes to and yet, we've never really seen any Marvel movie do her history justice. But this deleted scene from Captain America: Civil War certainly comes close.
Starved & Pitted Against Her Peers: Just Another Tuesday For Kid Natasha
Not everything from the Civil War script could make it to the screen, which is understandable as there's a lot going on in that film.
We already know of one Black Widow scene that was cut — a one-on-one fight with Captain America that gave some context to Natasha's later betrayal of Team Iron Man. And thanks to the Junior Novelization of the movie, some extra dialogue from an early scene between Steve and Nat has been revealed.
Natasha studied Cap's expression of resolve. Finally, she said, "In Russia, in the Red Room, there were dozens of us. All girls, all young. We lived together. They let us be friends. Then they dropped us in the tundra, two weeks' walk from home, with just enough supplies for one of us to survive."
Cap looked at her, understanding her meaning.
"Don't let them push us into the cold," she said.
This piece of dialogue gives a fascinating insight into Natasha's childhood, and what she calmly refers to is truly shocking — Nat was forced to allow her fellow Red Room students to die in a frozen desert, possibly fighting them for the supplies.
Why this wasn't used in the final cut of Civil War is baffling, as Nat's words don't just work as a brilliant allegory for the Avengers' rift, but also go a long way to explaining why Natasha didn't immediately pick sides, did her best to play mediator, and finally helped Steve and Bucky escape — at the expense of her own freedom.
It's difficult to know whether or not the Russos scripted this scene. Usually, authors of film novelizations are given an early draft of the script to work from, which means novels often have little tidbits that will show up later in deleted scenes. And this wouldn't be the first time the Russos have hinted at Natasha's backstory only to have that scene edited in the final version: Check out this deleted scene from The Winter Soldier, which subtly reveals that Natasha killed children when she was an agent of the KGB.
"If you do this, none of your past will remain hidden. Not Budapest, not Osaka... not the children's ward. Are you sure you're ready for the world to see you, as you truly are?"
Clearly, Black Widow's ledger is overflowing with red — thanks to the Russos, we know that her crimes are far worse than just stealing government secrets, and of course the Marvel comic books have expanded on this in depth. So why oh why, with all of Natasha's misdemeanors to choose from, did Joss Whedon make out that the reason she thinks she's a monster is her own infertility?
Natasha's Backstory Deserves More Than A Few Scenes In Age of Ultron
Black Widow's backstory is something fans have been waiting to see onscreen for a very long time. Aside from these subtle references and allusions to her past in deleted scenes, the most we've seen of Natasha's past is in Age of Ultron — which was contentious to say the least.
The brief flashback to Nat's childhood wasn't necessarily bad, just rather underwhelming — and bordering on sexualized violence, if you want to get overly analytical (just compare this scene to Bucky's brainwashing scene in The Winter Soldier, and you'll notice a clear difference). It's the later scene between Bruce and Natasha that had many fans up in arms.
"In the Red Room, where I was trained, where I was raised, they have a graduation ceremony. They sterilize you. It's efficient. One less thing to worry about. The one thing that might matter more than a mission. Makes everything easier, even killing. You still think you're the only monster on the team?"
There's many reasons this dialogue is a whole mess. Pick your favorite: It's reductive, in assuming all women would value children higher than anything else, it implies that infertile women are "monsters" and unnatural, and then there's the disturbing fact that Natasha says her infertility made murdering people easier. Yikes.
And then there's the extra dialogue from Nat in Civil War, which seems far more traumatic. If the one thing that makes Natasha feel like a monster is her forced infertility, not the actual murders she's committed or the children she's killed, then she's either incredibly selfish or a psychopath. Gender debates aside, that's still pretty disturbing.
But what this all does prove is that if anyone's going to do a Black Widow solo movie, it should probably be the Russo brothers. Their hints about Natasha's backstory may have been cut, but many fans would still like to see a film explore all of Nat's dark past — and the Russos are totally down for directing it. Here's hoping that someday we'll get more than a few lines of dialogue and a contentious scene to denote Black Widow's backstory, but at least we'll always have the comics.