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The police have forced the media into a small area. And then they very purposefully used tear gas to force the peaceful protesters back out of camera range, and you can hear shots being fired off camera, as well as more tear gas canisters.
“You can enjoy something without having to comprehend it. You can appreciate a melody without knowing what notes it consists of. You don’t need to “get” me or what I do. I’m not here to be understood, I’m here to be experienced. I’m not here to impress you. I’m here to party with you.”—Andrew W K with some real talk for a Sunday.
Sorry for the heavy text-posting but I just finally visited the Street Feast thing in Lewisham Model Market.
I live, like, fifteen minutes walk from it at a very upper estimate (ok, like, six minutes walk if you’re me) and no one has told me this thing exists. We haven’t had a leaflet through the door, there hasn’t been any advertising- there IS no advertising, unless you go down the back of the shopping centre. Which obviously no one who lives here does because if we’re at the shopping centre we’re probably trying to get inside it.
Hello Tumblr, I have a thing that’s actually interesting and is about fan culture and Nine Worlds and my continued ambition to stand on a desk in DC’s offices bellowing ‘IT IS A PROBLEM THAT I DO NOT CARE ABOUT YOUR PRODUCTS’ at someone with the authority to do something about that. This is not that post. This is a post about my brain and the way it appears to be going rogue on me.
The Tuesday after Nine Worlds, I had an appointment with a consultant neurologist to follow up on all the sometimes-quite-cool and sometimes-extremely-less-cool tests they have been doing on me since that memorable Friday in err whichever month it was when my right arm stopped working.
A thing that I thought a lot at Nine Worlds and am still sort of thinking a lot while writing it up is that I have so firmly taken on board that Carol Danvers and Jessica Drew are a couple that I am actively shocked and distressed every time it is flagged to me that this is not, technically, an actual canon thing.
Much longer letter with actual details etc. later but basically; that was banging, let’s do it again after roughly 12 months of deep, deep cryo-freeze sleep. Huge kisses to everyone who did stuff, especially alwaysalreadyangry for being my co-head of Comics and itwasjustified and triffidfarm for reminding me to eg: eat things.
And like, shout out to febricant for basically rendering me totally dysfunctional for the entire of Sunday by means of purple spandex. She gets kisses anyway.
How about we don't kill the Wasp and just fucking make a Black Widow movie already?
Like everyone else on Tumblr I spend about 30-50% of my time thinking about how awesome it would be if someone would fucking schedule a Black Widow film. Eventually, this has evolved into some serious thinking about why it would be so awesome, which has inevitably led to the sort of single-minded intensity of thought that you know perfectly well has reached entirely unhealthy levels but also can’t actually turn around, at this point. So I’ve got a concept. And I don’t usually think this about any ideas I have about fiction but I genuinely think it is a …good one? And I just read the Ant Man news so I’m going to throw Marvel Studios a bone here cus they seem short on non-disastrous concepts right now.
The important thing about a Black Widow film is that it needs to be brutal; emotionally, combatively and psychologically. There is nothing soft about Natasha Romanov, she’s capable of kindness but she isn’t good at showing it to herself. She’s the grimmest, darkest character in the MCU and she’s untethered, outside her comfort zone and currently, very, very powerful. She’s more politically powerful than the compromised Cap, better at flipping off the government than Iron Man and still more able to disappear than Bifrost-enabled Thor.
But the point she’s at in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (and indeed, 616) is one of needing to find out, in the kind of privacy you get in a safehouse and a firefight, what happens when she scrubs the many, many skins she has layered onto herself away. She’s not shedding them, she just wants to take a peek beneath and find out what the core one was. Is. And she’s not going to do that in a way that is gentle to her or anyone else. She won’t find her own identity by sitting on a beach in Thailand and eating pasta, she’ll find it with her hands tied and her boot at someone’s throat.
Natasha has been unmade, has been remade, has remodelled herself many times. She’s so adaptive she’s forgotten or never learnt how to react fully genuinely to situations, bar maybe a few flashes of affection for Clint and Steve and Fury. Obviously, maybe Age of Ultron blows all this out of the water (although I trust that film with Natasha’s backstory roughly the way I trust my dog with a packet of bacon) but at the end of Cap 2, we know that Natasha’s tired of that. She’s chosen to dig out the truth and that means out of herself, too.
And what would really suck is if that had anything to do with dudes. Sorry, Hawkeye.
Well, I say ‘anything to do with dudes.’ There are plenty of men that Natasha cares about and we needn’t throw them into the sea for the sake of having a film that cares about Natasha. But to have an effective Black Widow movie about finding Natasha Romanov, you have to look at the mechanisms of the Widow. She’s a master emotional manipulator, she uses the ability to make people like her to destroy them, she’s a spectacular, extraordinary combatant and from her bone-crushing thighs to the stings on her wrists, her body and her mind are weapons. Nominally, the Widow is a suit that Natasha Romanov puts on but realistically, it’s been a long while since that zipper has worked.
So a Natasha film needs to pit her against people with similar tools- needs to show manipulation, needs to show brutality. She needs an equal to the weaponry of the Widow so that it is clear that it is the other thing, the thing that is Natasha, that allows her to fight and win. (PS: obviously she wins it’s a fucking superhero movie)
Now, there’s a copyright problem with the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Or a film rights problem or whatever. The bad guys you can pick are a bit limited. But, fortunately, Hydra are definitely in. Which is a delight because it means that Madame Hydra is definitely in.
“Who is Madame Hydra?” you ask. Cus we’ve only seen Dude Hydra so far, if you wanna get depressed about shit. Well, in the comics she’s got a fvck of a long history- she was kidnapped by Hydra as a child, trained in strategy and combat and turned into a weapon, much like Natasha. Except that Madame Hydra doesn’t have any intention of going straight and would piss on your corpse if you suggested such a damn fool idea. She’s a little off-piste, in that she’s less the creepy Nazi science wing and more the ‘outright terrorism, gang warfare and glamour’ and she scares the shit out of even most of the rest of Hydra. She’s inconsistent, chaotic and extremely intelligent, amoral to the core and capable of using both her seductive glamour and her master manipulation skills to get what she wants. Which is control of the criminal underworld, carnage, a lot of money and the best green tailoring- these aren’t the political Hydra of Captain America, manuevering in the shadows of their own cultish thoughts- they’re straight up megalomania.
Madame Hydra is a killer for the sake of killing. She can be brutal, so she is. She can manipulate, so she does. Both for her own gain and for the sheer unadulterated hell of it. She’s powerful because she uses power gratuitously and with no regard for what anyone will think of her. Her break away from her brainwashing means she no longer seeks anyone’s approval, although she does demand loyalty. And might kill you for it. She would pull the wings off bugs that were shaped like little girls. And the dicks off man-roaches.
She’s a Bond villain, basically. A very good one. And this is, after all, a spy film. A glamourous, sexy, violent, thrilling spy film.
If we’re making a Bond film (err, sort of) though, who’s the Bond Girl? Well, ok, not a Bond Girl. But a bond girl- a character for Natasha to work with. Which is when I need to really urgently talk to you about Jessica Drew.
Jessica Drew is Spider-Woman. Which we can’t actually call her in the MCU because of film rights bullshit so it’s just as well she’s also known as Agent Drew. Jessica Drew is the most important character in the world and I will fucking fight you if you say otherwise.
Jess is an experiment. She was genetically spliced in the womb, by a varying cast of baddies depending on the version of her origins you’re reading but let’s say Hydra for the purposes of the MCU. She was born broken, there’s no before- no one took a girl and made them what she is, she was a foetal thing when it started. Originally an agent of Hydra, in which she was brought up with the sort of loving care you’d expect from said organisation, she’s a deadly hand-to-hand combatant and can glide-fly with wings in her costume.
Her powerset is not dissimilar to Black Widow’s, in a lot of ways- Jess can drop persuasive pheremones to manipulate people and has built-in venom blasts of electricity in her wrists. She’s very beautiful and wholly weaponised. And miserably manipulated- Jess has things happen to her that make the things that happen to, say, The Winter Soldier look like a beauty treatment. Her unhappy origins aside, she’s been fucked over on a literally galactic level more times than any other Marvel character in recent decades. And she gets back up and does good things (possibly for bad reasons) and throws her battered, bloodied mind and body back into battle because losing herself in superheroing is better than trying to work out what she’d be if she wasn’t Spider-Woman Agent Drew.
Jess is broken in ways that are not fixable. She doesn’t get a denouement where her brain is magically better and she’s over the trauma of her life just because she, say, has a really hot make out with Hawkeye against a tree that one time but crucially, she does also do hot make outs. Maybe not with the best choices but Jess is, for all she’s depressed and a mess and has never had a surety of self, a fully formed human who does fully formed human things, like try and make out with hot people, develop opinions about coffee and pick bad ringtones. She has feelings and friendships, in the comics- it doesn’t mean she isn’t depressed or damaged anymore- depressed, damaged people have friends. And jobs. And they try to keep hold of those things, with greater or lesser success.
Basically: Jess has a life. A life which is Jess. It might not be the greatest life and she might not be in any way happy about it all but she has very little choice to be anything other than herself, weaponised or not.
(The MCU Jess I am imagining is definitely, definitely queer and we can get the Carol/Jess we deserve come on Marvel let’s do this, the thirst is so incredibly real)
Oh and Madame Hydra (delusionally) thinks Jess is her daughter. Or possibly just likes creeping Jess out by pretending that she thinks that so she can act like a fucking freak and be emotionally awful to her by eg: turning up occasionally to rescue Jess, tell her Hydra still love her and force Jess into a situation where she, filled with revulsion, claws back her own power and control by killing a swathe of Hydra Agents to escape.
Let’s assume Jess has, at the start of the film, come in from the cold. She was working for Fury, for the same reasons that Natasha worked for Fury- their skillsets were useful, he deployed them according to their comfort levels, they don’t know what to do with themselves otherwise. Jess was presumably loosely aware of Natasha and Natasha probably knew Jess existed but I don’t see them as having had a professional relationship at any point or indeed, having met.
(I have SO MANY IDEAS for how an MCU Jess would look; a yellow underlayer, made of some tough-ish, structured material and then leather and body armour layered as trousers and to make the distinctive diamonds on her torso, wings made of dull-silvery material- like very finely woven metal, mask made of leather and kevlar, lots of slim buckles across the diagonal lines of the front of her suit and down from the hips to make it look very slightly like the Winter Soldiers, as they share a tailor organisation. Look, I was very honest about the extent to which I have become unhealthily obsessed with this at the start.)
So Natasha’s following up some leads- the film needs to open with her doing something violent and badass, like breaking into a Hydra base. And you see a female silhouette rapidly moving through dark corridors, the odd flash of red hair, the occasional detail of her weaponry but mostly it’s fast movement and the fleshy noises of Hydra minions being dispatched with incredible efficiency. Natasha has a personal grudge against Hydra, she’s fucking furious- they tricked her, used her as part of SHIELD and manipulated her into probably going on missions for them. She is not going to take very kindly to this. She has ways of not being very kind.
And it seems like things are happening too fast for even Black Widow to be doing it all, and then you see a flash of yellow boot, a flail of dark hair and like, they meet in the control room. No need for them to gratuitously fight- they’ll recognise each other. And each won’t know for sure that the other isn’t Hydra. Sure, Natasha released the secrets but in an atmosphere of such extreme betrayal and paranoia, Jess is going to have narrowed down the people she’s willing to trust to zero. Especially because everyone will be thinking she’s on the wrong side, having come from it. Jess is going to have been even more personally traumatised by the whole ‘SHIELD was Hydra all along’ revelation than Natasha- this is important because through the film, Natasha needs to be exasperated with Jess’ paranoid cutting off of everything to the point where she lets go of her own.
So yeah, they could fight at this point- Natasha knows how to defect, though. So instead you get a terse verbal negotiation and they work out what they’re both after, which is Madame Hydra, who is up to some bad shit cus that’s her deal. She’s doing said bad shit from Madripoor because we need to go to a good location. Hot, noisy, criminal Madripoor can be the perfect, crowded, humans everywhere location for clinical, cool, controlled Black Widow to find herself.
And ok yes this is where my concept slightly peeters out because I haven’t, like, intricately plotted it (give me another few weeks of hard thought) but basically Nat and Jess go on a journey of self-discovery through the criminal underworld of Madripoor, try to work out what they’re made of. There will be moral ambiguity, there’ll be repeated moments where it’s obvious their skillsets could be used to make a lot of money and have a lot of power, that they’re their own greatest assets.
(Being your own greatest asset is a good value to come out of a lady superhero movie, IMO)
Thing is, tho, they won’t. Natasha works out that the thing that makes her more than the Black Widow, the thing that makes her more than a job (because an assassination order from Fury isn’t far different from one for hire, after all) is that she can make those choices. That there’s a bit of her that’s conscious and moral and wants to not just do things but do the right things, that’s she’s more than the illusion of order that following instructions to deploy herself provided.
And also: car chases, diving out of windows on the 68th floor, badass weapons, perhaps a little misandry from Madame Hydra’s mouth (she’s a strangely sympathetic, personable villain, for a complete megalomaniac) and a lot of punching. Neon lights and darkness and slinking across rooftops to drop on someone’s head and garotte them. The kind of stuff we all do on Friday nights.
Anyway, at the end, Natasha has to choose between killing Madame Hydra, which would very efficiently complete the mission and saving Jess, which would even piss Jess off if Madame Hydra gets away. And there’s one choice there for Natasha and one for Black Widow and she can work out which one she ought to take.
Basically please can we have a paranoid, sweaty thriller about women laughing together with violence? It will be top.
(With only a small amount of bias, I nominate @febricant to play Jessica)
spoiler-free immediate post-guardians of the galaxy thought: i’m kind of pettily mad but also begrudgingly impressed that in a movie so wholeheartedly and admirably committed to a nonstop glossy thrill ride of silliness and gratuitous badassery, marvel still found time to touch on its recurring fascinations of weaponized bodies, the delineations of personhood, and the willingness to reach for emotional connections as the only sustainable lifeline in an uncertain and dangerous universe.
Tumblr user prettyboysdontlookatexplosions also took the time to email me immediate Grauniads reactions including
remember that image floating around a couple months ago that was like, “marvel summer 2k14: hot guy named chris and a talking raccoon with a gun?” remember how it was like, a joke about the winter soldier’s eyeliner problem? remember how it becomes unexpectedly devastating to remember while watching an illegal experiment who named himself after his favorite kind of weapon yell i didn’t ask to be made?
So you know, now we’re all pretty much not ok again.