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Day 9: The ship you want to see being a trainwreck tragedy because they're too alike
Clint Barton (Hawkeye)/Natasha Romanoff (Black Widow) (The Avengers)




(Didn't make icons from this picspam because I've already made all the Avengers icons ever.)

The funny thing about Clint/Natasha is that there seem to be two kinds of people: the ones who ship them and the ones who are disappointed because they thought they'd be more shippy in the movie, based on the legions of fans the pairing has. Which... is true. Here is the sum total of what we know about them from the movie:

1. Clint is obviously important to Natasha. I love the instantaneous shift from "go away I'm busy" in response to a potential alien invasion to "lemme chair these guys to death" when Coulson tells her Barton's been compromised.

2. Clint basically saved her life. He recruited her for S.H.I.E.L.D. instead of killing her as ordered, a choice for which she feels indebted to him.

3. If anyone's going to smack Clint around, it's gonna be Natasha. I also love the way Natasha pushes down her fear after the Hulk smash, composes herself, and goes to take down Clint. She's so clearly shaken and possibly traumatized from that experience - she's still trembling in the corner - but it's Barton and somebody's gotta save him from himself.

4. There are oblique references to both of them being "unmade." We know what Barton's damage is, but it's never clear how Natasha's brains got scrambled, only that she ~gets it.

Which is a shame, because that's a big part of the parallels between them. I presume that Captain America: Winter Soldier will go into more depth about her time as a Russian spy, but here's the basic rundown of their parallel history:

Both of them lost their parents at a young age, and their unconventional upbringings essentially trained them to be superspies. Natasha grew up in the Red Room, where she was molded to be a killer, while Clint was raised in the circus (no, literally) where he became the world's greatest marksman.

Part of Natasha's training included being brainwashed, having her memory erased, and being given a new identity for each mission, not unlike an Active in Dollhouse, except with more killing and less midwifery. Clint is sort of freelance superheroing as Hawkeye, but ends up on the wrong side of the Avengers. That's when Hawkeye meets Black Widow, falls madly in love, decides to join the good guys, and eventually helps Natasha to break her psychological conditioning and defect to the U.S.

In general, I'm way more interested in the movie canon than the comics (having never read them or even known anything about them before seeing The Avengers), but in the absence of any established movie backstory, this history bleeds into any discussion of the movie characters, as it clearly informed their characterization to some extent in the films.

And what we see is that they are both incredibly damaged people. All the Avengers are, in some way. They're like the superhero version of the Island of Misfit Toys. That's what brings them together. But these two S.H.I.E.L.D. agents have bonded on an even deeper level, and not merely because they are the two non-superpowered members of the team who fight against gods and monsters and aliens even when they're woefully outmatched. The one thing that comes through in the film clearer than anything is that the implicit and total trust these two have in each other.

After having been in Clint's head, Loki tells Natasha, "I won't touch Barton. Not until I make him kill you, slowly, intimately, in every way he knows you fear." That just floors me. They're spies, trained not to show weakness (for Natasha, weakness is merely a strategy) but he knows the ways she's afraid to die. And even when he's trying to kill her, Natasha never stops believing he can be saved. They've both been unmade, and they help each other to put themselves back together.

As for why they'd be a trainwreck? LOL, it seems self-explanatory. Given all they've been through, could either one of them manage a healthy relationship? Doubt it. I imagine any intimacy between them would seem strange and probably disturbing to an outsider. It's the trainwreck tragedy that makes them so alike, and that's what makes them so compelling. Love is for children. What they have defies description.
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