Dear Marvel: Ladies don’t need romance to love Avengers

This past weekend, I rolled up to the movie theater with my adorably nerdy boyfriend to see Avengers: Age of Ultron. We were there because we both wanted to see it… not just because my boyfriend drug me along. However, as the newest Avengers film progressed, I couldn’t help but feel a little like Marvel and Disney were trying to cater to me.

[Warning: The following has major spoilers from Avengers: Age of Ultron. Read at your own risk!]

With each batted eyelash and flirty remark from Black Widow/Natasha, I became more distracted and even more annoyed. I came to watch the Avengers fight Ultron! I did not come for a Nicholas Sparks film. Yet, after two and a half hours, I left the theater convinced that Marvel had ruined a perfectly awesome movie in a failed attempt to appease me.

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In general, romance is something I scoff at, to be fair. When I was a kid, I’d watch shows like Star Trek and Baywatch (Yeah… I know) with my dad. Make-out scenes always warranted a screwed up face and a “Mush!” from my dad. So, it’s possible his aversion to romance in entertainment media rubbed off on me. However, I know I’m not alone. Nerd girls everywhere are walking out of Age of Ultron and calling “bullshit” on the whole romantic story line between Black Widow and Hulk.

From the moment I saw the Big Guy place his hand in Black Widow’s, I knew trouble was ahead. By the time the celebratory party was happening and Natasha was leaning over the bar looking lovestruck at Bruce Banner, I was appalled. A firm believer in not talking during a movie, the scenes were disturbing enough to me to make me lean over and whisper, “What the f*** is happening?” to my poor boyfriend, who was just as annoyed to be subjected to the unnecessary romance.

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Disney/Marvel clearly don’t know their audience and have, once again, underestimated their female fans. It’s not that I’m unaware of the romance in actual comic books. We all know it exists, and sometimes we even root for it. But, what Age of Ultron did was take a character that, in the comic universe, has had a few significant and strategic relationships (including one with Hawkeye) and write a completely different story for her. And it wasn’t even a good story.

What we saw from Black Widow during this movie was a woman who can kick ass… but spent too much of her time being a mother, a hopeless romantic and a downfall. Why was she the one responsible for being Bruce’s lullaby? Why was she the one doing most of the swooning? Sure, in the end she chose to do her job and fight the good fight instead of giving it up and disappearing with Bruce when he thought their fight was done.

But we also saw Black Widow literally push Bruce Banner off a cliff so he’d become the Hulk. Should we take that as her pushing him to “greatness?” Or are we going to see it for what it really was? She pushed him to be something big and ugly that he’d rather not be. She may be Hulk’s calming force, but we also witnessed her being the woman who turned Bruce into the version of himself he hates the most.

In the end, we saw Hulk fly for the hills to get away from the Big Guy version of himself the Avengers (especially Black Widow) so often demand him to be, and we saw a hurt Black Widow ready to lead a new class of Avengers. But is this the last we’ll see of the two together? If so, that’s fine with me, but it only makes the whole coupling even more frustrating.

So, I ask: Was the Hulk/Black Widow relationship really necessary?

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