It has been established in both Age of Ultron and Thor: Ragnarok that Natasha is the only Avenger who can calm down the Hulk when he’s in a rage. Thor epically failed at Hulk’s lullaby in the Ragnarok area scene, a moment which got a lot of laughs. We assume that Natasha’s ability to do this is based off her connection with Bruce, however you interpret what that connection is. Regardless, this puts Natasha in a terrible position.
One of her (many) jobs on the Avengers team is now to calm down the Hulk. All too often, women assume the emotional labor in their workplace, a role for which they don’t get paid more. This can take the form of onboarding new people, or calming down a male colleague. Natasha has taken on these responsibilities and more for the Avengers. She’s the one that brought the Hulk out of hiding in the first place, and she’s now the one in charge of keeping his temper down.
It is hypocritical that women are often told to “calm down” in our culture, yet here we are, with Marvel's most prominent female hero being tasked with calming down the Hulk lest people get hurt. Women are by and large discouraged from expressing their anger, yet Natasha has to do the emotional labor of diffusing anger incarnate. This is not only hypocritical, it puts her in a dangerous position. Yes, she’s a fighter, but the Hulk can overpower her using only a fraction of his strength. No matter how much Bruce apologizes, no matter how sweet he normally is, he still poses a threat to her. It only takes one rage out where he can’t calm down to hurt or kill her.
The inherent problem with a Hulk and Black Widow relationship is that it romanticizes what would be a dangerous relationship in the real world. Women trapped in abusive relationships will make excuses for why their partner hurts them. “Oh, he was just angry because of X, Y or Z.” We make the same excuses for the Hulk, which is fine when he’s fighting crime -- but not when he’s in a relationship.
Any domestic violence statistics will tell you that women are often the victims of angry men. In addition to making excuses, women in abusive relationships have also blamed themselves for their partner lashing out. It could be because something they did instigated a tirade, or they failed in calming their partner down. This is a real problem for women. Yet, it’s the dynamic of a relationship between two popular characters.
When Natasha fails in calming down the Hulk, her love interest, she’s not only endangering herself, but everyone around her. This is an unfair burden by any metric. In forcing a relationship between Black Widow and the Hulk, the Marvel powers-that-be have disrespected what Natasha has already brought to the team while severely stunting her character growth. Not only does Black Widow deserve a standalone film, but if she must be romantically involved with someone, she also deserves a healthy relationship.
Directed by Joe and Anthony Russo, Avengers: Infinity War stars Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Jeremy Renner, Scarlett Johansson, Paul Bettany, Anthony Mackie, Paul Rudd, Elizabeth Olsen, Tom Holland, Benedict Cumberbatch, Chadwick Boseman, Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Bradley Cooper, Vin Diesel, Tom Hiddleston, and Josh Brolin. The film hits theaters on April 27.