Reel Corner - August 2021

Black Widow: Defining Women’s Strength and Empowerment

August 2021 Issue
Reel Corner by Donne Paine

Black Widow
Defining Women’s
Strength and Empowerment

“Struggle is necessary for strength.”
“Your pain only makes you stronger.”

These quotes are from the recently released film Black Widow directed by Cate Shortland and starring Scarlett Johansson, Florence Pugh, Rachel Weisz and David Harbour


For those of you who don’t know, Black Widow is a member of Marvel’s Avengers—an elite team of superheroes who fight to defend the universe from various evils. Fighting alongside gods, time-travelers and a guy with a bow and arrow, Black Widow’s exploits have been detailed in a series of successful films.

While Black Widow may not have been in the center of these previous films, the character has gained a substantial following. She is hailed as a progressive character and is a breakthrough for feminism in comics.

No superhero is complete without an original back story, and Black Widow is no exception. Meet Natasha Romanoff (Johansson) aka Black Widow: The story begins in Ohio in 1995 when Natasha, not quite a teenager yet, and her younger sister, Yelena, are living with their surrogate parents—KGB agents Alexi and Melina. The action-packed opening scenes show the girls’ parents attempting to flee the United States with stolen information. This begins the first of many chase scenes. Then the film cuts to 21 years later.

Taking place between the events of Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Infinity War, Natasha is on the run from the authorities and discovers the KGB Red Room Project, which develops “widows” she thought were destroyed but are still in existence. The Red Room project kidnaps young girls and trains them to be assassins, robbing them of their youth, their ability to procreate and their feelings of compassion.

Natasha is forced to reunite with her KGB family to bring down the head of the Red Room and the “Widows” project. Against the backdrop of Marvel’s massive action scenes, this movie is about the importance of family and reconciliation.

At the end of the day, most of us heroically face hardships shared by this films’ main cast of players. However, rather than a smoldering battlefield surrounded by twisted metal and wreckage, our struggles are often faced at our own family dinner tables, offices and living rooms. Black Widow reminds us in no uncertain terms that we are strong enough to overcome and prevail.

Many of today’s films written and directed by men are struggling to define strong women and empowerment. Most characters they conjure up are incredibly fit, athletic and skilled at destroying anything, or anyone, that crosses their path. These characters are prime examples of such: Valkyrie in Thor: Ragnarok, Shuri in Black Panther, Imperator Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road, Rey in Star Wars: Episode VIII—The Last Jedi, Okoye in Avengers: Infinity War and my favorite Wonder Woman. It’s mostly men who are attempting to define strong women and using films as their canvas. This film broaches human trafficking issues that are a rising problem all over the world, especially for women. Even if it’s hard to assess a well-trodden path to strength and success, with a female director at the helm of this movie, women watching Black Widow (hopefully on the big screen) will do well to take pause.


ReelCorner 1219 Donne
Donne Paine, film enthusiast, once lived around the corner from the Orson Welles Theater in Cambridge Massachusetts, where her strong interest in films, especially independent ones, began. Supporter of the arts, especially films, she travels to local and national film festivals, including Sundance, Toronto and Tribeca. There is nothing like seeing a film on the big screen. She encourages film-goers to support Hilton Head local theaters; Coligny Theater, Park Plaza Theater and Northridge. To support her habit of frequent movie going, Donne is a travel medicine nurse consultant. See you at the movies!

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