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Here is a take on the new movie Black Widow. There was a literary term in the movie, or we are such book nerds that we only viewed the film as a writer. Probably both.
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Johannes Gensfleisch zur Laden zum Gutenberg printed the first ever pressed book, the Gutenberg Bible, in 1453.
Gutenberg not only printed the revolutionary book, he invented the printing press himself. The Gutenberg Bible and the Gutenberg press are considered to have ushered in a new era in human history.
Detroit, MI: Detroit Festival of Books
Date: July 18
The Analogy You Probably Missed While Watching Black Widow – Op-Ed Piece
An analogy is a second story to the main story that is being presented. It is another interpretation that can be viewed as one tells the story. It isn’t technically what the story is about, but if you choose to view the story in that light, you are not wrong.
Some of the best books are analogies. Moby Dick, for example, is not really about a whale. Okay, it is. When you read the back summary of the book, it will mention a whale.
Here you go:
Moby-Dick; or, The Whale is a novel by Herman Melville, in which Ishmael narrates the monomaniacal quest of Ahab, captain of the whaler Pequod, for revenge on the albino sperm whale Moby Dick, which on a previous voyage destroyed Ahab’s ship and severed his leg at the knee. Although the novel was a commercial failure and out of print at the time of the author’s death in 1891, its reputation grew immensely during the twentieth century. D. H. Lawrence called it “one of the strangest and most wonderful books in the world,” and “the greatest book of the sea ever written.” Moby-Dick is considered a Great American Novel and an outstanding work of the Romantic period in America and the American Renaissance. “Call me Ishmael” is one of world literature’s most famous opening sentences. The product of a year and a half of writing, the book is dedicated to Nathaniel Hawthorne, “in token of my admiration for his genius,” and draws on Melville’s experience at sea, on his reading in whaling literature, and on literary inspirations such as Shakespeare and the Bible. The detailed and realistic descriptions of whale hunting and of extracting whale oil, as well as life aboard ship among a culturally diverse crew, are mixed with exploration of class and social status, good and evil, and the existence of God. In addition to narrative prose, Melville uses styles and literary devices ranging from songs, poetry, and catalogs to Shakespearean stage directions, soliloquies, and asides. The author changed the title at the very last moment in September 1851. The work first appeared as The Whale in London in October 1851 and then under its definitive title Moby-Dick in New York in November. The whale, however, appears in both the London and New York editions as “Moby Dick,” with no hyphen. The British edition of five hundred copies was not reprinted during the author’s life; the American of almost three thousand was reprinted three times at approximately 250 copies, the last reprinting in 1871. These figures are exaggerated because three hundred copies were destroyed in a fire at Harper’s; only 3,200 copies were actually sold during the author’s life.
The summary kind of glosses over the fact that the book is an analogy for man’s desire to conquer the unconquerable. So yeah, you aren’t wrong if you tell your friends that the book by Melville is about the whale, but you are also missing a big part of it. The author was trying to say something else when writing the story.
That is the beauty of analogies. In literature, they really work. Words can take on a new life because we see them from a different angle after we are done taking the story literally. We also like the idea of being told one story that can be seen as another. In films, analogies don’t work as well. It is not that I don’t like an analogy while sitting in the theater eating my popcorn, but I don’t think that many go back to see a movie multiple times for that reason. Take Titanic; did everyone go back a million times because of the deeper story being told, or was it the best entertainment available, so people kept going back for more of it? I don’t mean to diminish films, but I definitely have not watched a film for a second time, with the intent of understanding the analogy behind it.
That gets me to the current analogy that I want to talk about. After I watched the movie Black Widow, which sucked, by the way, I couldn’t help but notice the strange analogy in the film.
Okay, so here is a rundown of the film. According to IMDB, it is about this.
A film about Natasha Romanoff in her quests between the films Civil War and Infinity War.
Yeah, the book summary for Moby Dick was too long, and the film summary of Black Widow was too short. What do you want me to tell you? I didn’t write either summary.
Here is something about Black Widow. She is a secret agent that was in the Avengers, and Scarlett Johansen plays her. The film deals with her struggle to defeat the man who brainwashed her into becoming a secret agent. There is more than that, obviously. Apparently, she has a sister. She lived in America as a kid. But the main idea is that you are following a woman secret agent doing secret agent stuff.
Now that you are all caught up let’s head forward to the analogy.
Black Widow is about slaves escaping their master.
What? What are you talking about, Greg? There were no black people in the movie. (Aside from a token one) I saw no plantations where the masters were abusing the slaves. What are you smoking? What on earth are you talking about? There was clearly no slavery in the movie.
Well, yeah, that is why it’s an analogy. Literally speaking, there is no slavery in the movie. Looking at the analogy and you see the deeper message.
Also, don’t be so naïve with the modern perception of slavery. That it was a wealthy white owner, dominating his black slave, in the heated South. There was slavery before America, and most of that was not based on race. Go to Ancient Rome, and you’ll be fortunate to see slaves of all people. Prisoners of war and gladiators were often slaves in this society. Viewing slavery as a racial issue is not seeing slavery for what it actually is; one human being dehumanizing and then controlling another. America may think that the world revolved around them, but we didn’t invent slavery.
Let’s get back to the movie, though. How is it an analogy for slavery? It’s pretty simple, actually. Take away the secret agent stuff, and then you are dealing with women who are not brainwashed to fight but simply captured and then slaves for the villain (the guy who brainwashed Black Widow). Heck, if you really want, you can even claim that being a secret agent is a form of slavery. (I’m not doing that here)
Let’s go through the points.
They are sold as if they are slaves. - At the beginning of the movie, the two young girls, Natasha, aka Black Widow, and her sister Yelena, are literally given to the villain by their mom and dad. Yeah, I mean, you can say they sold their daughters off to slavery. Remember, if you don’t know anything about the Black Widow and watch that scene, that conclusion is not that crazy.
The sister, Yelena, speaks about how the girls who are captured can’t have kids. – That can be seen as a way to make them better soldiers, but then two questions are posed that the movie ignores. First, if a woman is a great secret agent, you want her genes to pass on. Her kids will have the same genes. So eliminating that option (of a woman having children) is not only sick and disturbing but stupid. Second is my next point.
The villain only takes in girls – If I were running a secret agent scheme bent on world domination, I wouldn’t have only girls. That doesn’t allow me to have access to areas that a man can get to. Plus, everyone knows that men and women are different, so only recruiting girls would limit the potential of the agency. Why doesn’t the villain only take in girls because the whole is not to be taken literally?
Black Widow can’t hit the villain – In the later part of the film, our hero, Black Widow, can’t hit the villain and strike him down because of the pheromones he is wearing. (Yeah, I know, it’s stupid) But if you make the villain a slave owner and Black Widow a slave, all of a sudden, it doesn’t appear that weird. The worst thing a slave can do is beat their master because they will die if he lives. So a slave having to restrain themselves against the person they hate the most is not out of line there. Almost as if the slave owner has a spell on the slave.
They quite literally control people with a chip – I mean, the main plot point has the women under control by the villain quite literally because of a chip he put in them. Make those chips some sort of chains or restrictions on their movements and freedom, and you have a slave. Of the two, what have we seen in the world? A person controlling another by restricting their movements through chains, or someone controlling another because of a chip they put in them. The answer here is pretty clear.
There is a gas that miraculously cures the controlled girls – Early on, we learn of a chemical that can change the girls’ perception and not make them obedient to the villain anymore. After being hit with the chemical, the girl becomes a person with her own thoughts and free to act as she wishes. That is almost too obvious, right?
The sister, Yelena, talks of her two lives – The sister of Black Widow talks about how she doesn’t know who she is. If she is the monster that was under the control of the chip, or the woman now, who is not controlled by the chip. This is similar to the struggle of identity a slave would have after years of abuse and manipulation by their master. You may be free, but the years you spent as a slave can’t escape you. If that is what you were known for years of your life, what makes you think that you weren’t that for some part of your life? It’s a tough question to answer.
The villain kidnaps orphans – What is more likely; the villain kidnaps orphans to run his global secret agency or runs a global slave trade that requires the lives of orphans to function? If you wanted to start a slave trade, orphaned kids who have nobody are the choice you’d got with. The kids don’t have the protection of their parents. (unfortunately)
The young girls who are recruits have nowhere to go once freed – In the movie, the hero saves the day and frees the young girls with that gas. When this happens, though, the girls don’t disperse and lead their own lives. They stay together as if they don’t know where to go. It reminds me of the survivors in a concentration camp. They suffered too much that freedom is not the only help they need.
There you have it. A whole freaking list of why the Black Widow movie is an analogy for slavery. She is the slave and takes on her master. Yeah, I know; this makes the last thing I wrote about Charlie Harper look normal.
Now the major question – Did the movie do justice to Smells Like Teen Spirit with its cover in the beginning? Eh, it worked for the film. It was eerie and unsettling and fit for the feeling it was trying to convey. Was it the original? Obviously not, but yes, the film did a good job there. I would like to think that Dave Grohl saw the movie and was happy with that sequence.
Oh, right, and the other major question. – Did the analogy help the film? No. It didn’t. I didn’t walk out of the theater entertained by the movie. I thought, frankly, it was bad. The only good part was the sister. She was distractingly beautiful. (I don’t know if the writers did that on purpose, since she is also the character that openly mocks Black Widow for looking like a superhero) She was funny in it too, but unfortunately, it felt like she was never given any help. Almost as if she had no chemistry with her castmates. Hmm, where have I heard that before? The movie felt like a video game with its action sequences. Someone should tell the director that in video games, the person can eventually play as the hero after the auction scene or skip it altogether. The dialogue was clunky and not good. The characters never talked to one another for long periods of time, and when they did, they felt like they had nothing to say. And I am just going to say it; for as beautiful of a woman as Scarlett Johansen is, and as much as everyone likes her, she never acts great in these Marvel movies I’ve seen her in. I don’t ever remember seeing a scene with her, and thinking “Boy, she really took over that scene” Sorry, but I think she is overrated.
Oh, and one last thing, the movie shouldn’t tell me about the Avengers over and over again. That is only reminding me that Black Widow isn’t my favorite and that I should rewatch Thor: Ragnarok. I sat there after hearing about the Avengers again, and thought “Why am I not watching a movie of an Avenger that I actually like?”
I appreciate the analogy that the writers were trying to give here. It’s not easy to present one to the audience, but I don’t think it works when no one gets the analogy. Take Orson Welle’s classic Citizen Kane; everyone knew that he was criticizing those robber barons and business tycoons of his day. The analogy was understood when you watched it, so it gave the film more credibility. Analogies are tough. If they are too obvious, the writers are caught appearing as if they are preaching a message, not telling a story, and if they are misunderstood or not recognized (like in Black Widow), then it defeats the point of even having the analogy in the first place.
I would like to ask the writers what exactly inspired this analogous story to be told? Is there an actual man out there that inspired them? Do they believe that modern slavery, especially concerning young girls, is a problem we should be discussing more? There were too many signs of this analogy for me to think that the writers did this accidentally. I would like to know why this is the one they chose.
Kudos to the writers for trying to write a film that had a deeper message. Unfortunately, I am the only one who got it, and that cost them valuable time that they could have spent on improving the dialogue between the characters. For God’s sake, this is Black Widow’s movie, and they made it an assemble. (I find it interesting how I complained about Scarlett Johansen’s acting, and then the movie is filled with a team. Perhaps the writers of the film didn’t think that her in every scene by herself would work. Who is kidding who; she hasn’t stolen a single scene in any movie as Black Widow, so maybe making this a team movie was the best call?)
Bad movie, strange analogy, and two hours I will never get back. To think that they didn’t even have Black Widow call Thanos a moron.
Did You Know?
Black Widow is the 24th film of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The first was Iron Man in 2008.
5 Things About Black Widow
The character was created by Stan Lee and made her debut in Tales of Suspense #52 released in 1964.
Although a superhero, she has no actual supernatural powers.
Her real name is Natalia Alianovna "Natasha" Romanova.
She is a Russian spy and a member of The Avengers.
Scarlett Johansen portrayed the character in all of the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies.
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About The Blogger
Greg Luti is an editor and blogger on pensandwords.com. His favorite writers are Robert Frost and Charles Bukowski. He enjoys reading up on history, watching comedies, and playing video games, when he is not writing down a few notes for his next piece. He started this blog out of his love for literature and hopes that the reader shares that same passion.
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