Marvel has an interesting relationship with their male characters gaining weight. I say “male” because it is, seemingly, only the men who are allowed to have weight gain in Marvel movies (and in Hollywood in general). It started with Thor in Avengers: Endgame, and now, it seems, that Alexei the Red Guardian (David Harbour) is the latest target of fat jokes in the trailer for Black Widow.
When Alexei tries on his Red Guardian suit, Melina (Rachel Weisz) makes a comment about him getting fat. We don’t know much about these characters and their relationship, but including this line in a trailer seems like a strange choice, especially considering that Marvel has an interesting relationship with making jokes about weight gain when it concerns their male characters.
Let’s look at Avengers: Endgame and Thor. When he was clearly struggling with losing his brother and seeing himself as a “failure” for not being able to defeat Thanos, Thor came back into the world of the Avengers looking different and clearly struggling with his own depression and his own idea of self-worth. That was an interesting character arc, but also a source of jokes—following on the heels of Infinity War poking fun at Star-Lord’s body.
Thor was mocked, yes, and we had concerns about how that played out, but in the end, he was on a journey to helping himself in a healthier way and was not magically fixed. He was still, I suppose, “Fat Thor” in the end and didn’t get his defined abs back the minute he discovered he was still worthy. That being said, Thor was given that journey, and it seems as if Alexei is going to be given the chance to be slightly bigger than the typical Marvel man because … well, he’s a man.
Imagine if that joke were aimed at Natasha. She probably wouldn’t have even actually gained any weight; she’d probably still be just as small and skinny as Scarlett Johansson is, because that’s how Hollywood works. Women can’t have that growth; we can’t be “fat” without that being our defining characteristic. I would bet money on this being a one-off joke and then never brought up again. Sure, Thor had quite a few jokes aimed at him, but in the end, it was still his journey and he was able to grow and find out what he needed to do for himself, whether that meant staying in the shape he was in or changing.
With Alexei, we don’t know what the future of Black Widow holds for him, but I feel as if him being “bigger” is not going to be his complete character arc. Very few times in films and television do we see bigger women represented without it being an entire conversation about them having to lose weight, or that being their defining characteristic, and to be honest, that isn’t fair. I would love to see a woman who isn’t stick thin take on some galactic beast in a superhero movie.
But we’ll have to see how Black Widow handles this and also maybe we just stop with the fat jokes? It’s 2019, enough already.
(image: Marvel Entertainment)
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