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An Open Letter to the Black Widow

Updated: Sep 8, 2019

WARNING: “Avengers: Endgame” Spoilers Ahead!

Saying Goodbye to an Iconic Avenger

Dear Scarlett Johansson/Natasha Romanoff,

I grew up (or am growing up?) in the “Harry Potter” generation. I spent my childhood anxiously awaiting my Hogwarts letter. I spent hours in elementary school pretending I was secretly a Demigod like Percy Jackson, or that I was going to be the next Gallagher Girl recruited from the middle of Nowhere, USA. I lived and breathed sci-fi and fantasy, and my obsession didn’t stop with books. I could not count the hours I’ve spent sitting in my basement watching the “X-Men” series or the “Star Wars” saga. Trust me, the connection between my life and supernatural stories goes deep: my father, a “Star Wars” fan, named me after the actress Natalie Portman, who plays Padme/Queen Amidala in the “Star Wars” prequels. Besides having the same initials, he hoped I would also inherit her decorum, morality and dedication.

Naturally, being named after somebody means you automatically have to love them. So when I eventually started watching the “Avengers” movies, Dr. Jane Foster was my favorite female character. Much like my namesake, Foster was strong, intelligent and brave. As far as role models go, you can’t do much better than that. Here’s where you come in, ScarJo. Because as perfect as Natalie Portman/Jane was, there was something so incredibly enticing about Natasha Romanoff. Maybe it’s because I kind of shared a name with you too (or a nickname, at the least), and maybe it’s that I so enjoyed seeing Tony Stark humiliated by this unapposing “secretary.” Regardless, Natalie Portman had some competition. The Black Widow became my favorite female character in the Marvel universe, narrowly beating out Darcy (also from “Thor”) and Okoye (for Wakanda? There’s no question.) However, for a hot second there, Natasha was the only female superhero in a series of films that scored embarrassingly low on the Bechdel test. (You know? That test that measures innate sexism? The Bechdel Test?)

The Black Widow was a force of nature with a killer character-arc. She went from Russian assassin to Shield Agent to Avenger. While a part of her story was dedicated to a budding romance with Bruce Banner, that was never the sole purpose of her character. Nat served as an iconic, strong woman who could beat anybody in a fight. She was the perfect combination of brains, brawn, and beauty, showing all the girls in the audience that you could be all three. Regardless of who the enemy was, you could count on Nat showing up and showing out. She worked for the greater good and worked towards peace and unity, unlike a lot of the male Avengers (@Captain America & Iron Man). No one ever belittled her talent or intelligence, and the audience quickly learned to never bet against this highly trained operative.

So, this is my thank you to Scarlett Johansson, alias Natasha Romanoff or The Black Widow. From the young girl in the sixth row in the theater who sees you as something more than a female plot device. She sees you as a role model. An inspiration. A total badass. You redefined the role of women in Superhero movies. You let countless girls escape the mundane everyday world and, for once in their lives, identify with the protagonists. Without a doubt, you will be missed. The only thing that could’ve improved “Endgame” would’ve been Nat standing with all the other women, ready to take down an army of aliens with Captain Marvel. Nevertheless, you died as you lived: courageous, clear-headed and willing to make the final sacrifice. There are no words left to say. Thank you.


Your Local Superhero Nerd

Natalie Penry

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