David Harbour had really stolen the show during the teaser trailer of Black Widow. While this video had delved into Black Widow’s old life, and also, Harbour’s Red Guardian, made a pretty dynamic debut. This aging superhero seems to serve as something of a patriarch to Black Widow. Rachael Weisz’s character named, Melina had then pointed out that he had grown a little fatter as he aged.
A few moments after that had been said, the video had made it pretty clear that Red Guardian is a strong hero who is very capable of going head to head with the Taskmaster. It seems like Harbour is set to bring his signature dad bod charm to the MCU and he might offer the body representation that the MCU really needs, especially after the elements of Avengers: Endgame’s Thor.
Over the past few years, the entire body positivity movement has made the argument that almost all bodies are actually worthy of respect. The whole push for representation over the recent years, actually ignores body positivity. While gender, racial, and also sexuality are crucial elements, one would have noticed that heavier characters are not often presented in a role of power.
The very idea of a character whose weight is the butt of all jokes is way beyond cliche right now.
These jokes have over the years built a lot of stereotypes about heavier people. These cliches add nothing to the narrative of the story.
Body positive characters are surely refreshing. Instead of being the target of all jokes, these characters are treated as regular characters. In spite of the fat joke in the trailer for Black Widow, the Red Guardian seems to be a body-positive character, as compared to Thor in Avengers: Endgame.
BODY CULTURE IN SUPERHERO FICTION
It is important to note that the world of superhero has an ingrained body image issue. Most of the fans are very accustomed to seeing fit actors take on superhero roles. Many like Christian Bale are popular for having altered their bodies for every new superhero role they take on. When Bale had taken on the role of Batman, he had earned more than hundred pounds of muscles, after his performance in The Machinist. Hugh Jackman had said that he was doing the shirtless scenes as Wolverine, he would dehydrate himself in order to lose weight.
These kinds of practices are very dangerous, and also reflect the superhero world where there are very few plus-sized heroes. One example is Faith from Valiant Comics, and she is a glaring exception. Outside all of the Silver Age bizarro issues, the majority of heavy characters are villains or have been written off as jokes. The whole culture around weight in the comic books is that excess weight is portrayed as a bad thing.
THE PROBLEMATIC NATURE OF THOR
There is a high chance that many of the audience members had identified with Thor’s arc in the movie, Avengers: Endgame. Thor is seen feeling unworthy, and this whole sense of unworthiness actually shows in the way he keeps himself. If audiences had not sympathized with Thor, his character would not have become such a sensation among all the fans.
Thor was not a body-positive character. His weight had been seen as a symptom of all his problems and pain. He is often seen being the butt of jokes. These jokes had been made at his expense show the character’s pain. As the audience, we had been supposed to accept that it is fair to make jokes about Thor despite the narrative trying to have it both ways.
In the movie, Chris Hemsworth had been wearing a fat suit and a lot of body positive activists found insulting.
HARBOUR SHOWING OFF
The Red Guardian is not David Harbour’s very first role in a superhero film, either. He had played the role of the main character in Hellboy, which had earned a lot of disappointing reviews. He wears a muscle suit and this gives him a demonic eight-pack in the movie. Black Widow however, features Harbour in his real body and he is playing a super soldier who has a great deal of strength. We all can actually develop a sense of where Harbour’s Red Guardian will differ from Hemsworth’s Thor.
The latter had a “dad bod,” but it had been a symptom of grief. It was actually a bump in the road. This is not the case for Red Guardian and does not seem to be ashamed of his body.
While it is impossible to argue whether or not the movie will carry through with the very first impressions we have gotten from the trailer, all the fans will have to wait to see if Harbour will actually offer a nuanced portrayal of this hero.
Directed by Cate Shortland, Black Widow stars Scarlett Johansson as Natasha, Florence Pugh stars as Yelena, David Harbour as Alexei aka The Red Guardian and Rachel Weisz as Melina. The film opens on May 1, 2020.