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The Red Room is Real
SPOILER ALERT: Article includes in-depth discussion of the 2021 film, Black Widow, including characters, plot, and plot resolution, and major spoilers. Mild spoilers from Iron Man and Wandavision.
CONTENT WARNING: Article includes, brief, non-graphic discussion surrounding s*x/human trafficking, viol*nce, ab*se, and the social/culture implications.
(This article is exclusive to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and doesn't include the comics, or any other media outside of the Marvel movies and TV Shows).
Black Widow is a favorite hero of many individuals, a large portion of which are young girls, who instantly latched onto her since she was the only female representation within the Avengers team. Beyond this, it's hard not to admire the on-screen depiction of Natasha Romanoff- someone who is confident, and an awesome combatant. So, when Black Widow hit the theaters and was released on Disney+, many fans were excited.
The movie relies greatly on the super heroine's background with the Red Room. Hinted at in many of the movies, but never completely explored with Natasha Romanoff, the movie centers around taking down the Red Room, and it's sickening villain, Dreykov. Many of Marvel's villains are likable in some way- not justifiable, but likable; Obadiah Stone's (from Iron Man) betrayal centered around his friendly appearances, Agatha (from Wandavision) has an admittedly catchy theme song making light of her villainy, Thanos was depicted as genuinely believing in a greater purpose, and of course, fan-favorite Loki of Asgard earned himself several appearances, a redemption arc, and a TV series dedicated to him. However, unlike some justifiable likability for Marvel's main villains, Dreykov was never meant to be likable in any shape or form. From the beginning, he was spoken of first. This established his inexcusable nature and actions because, had the audience seen him first, they would have been allowed to create their own thoughts and opinions about him. However, this was not the goal. Even when the audience sees Dreykov for the first time, there is very little to no show of charm, or wit. Intelligence, sure, but Marvel limits this intelligence to his capability to run the program.
And of course, what he says delivers the point surrounding Dreykox’s unforgivable nature. He clearly treats the Widows/women/girls as disposable, and literally describes them as the trash and filth of the world. He views girls as vulnerable, and as objects he can manipulate. In his mind, girls are like extra parts found in the junkyard- some are more useful than others, but they all are a part of junk. This is an incredibly nauseating, and sick perspective on women and girls, and calls to his nature as a villain. However, this villain isn't some far away alien with magic stones. This isn't the kind of villain the audience can put distance between, and bask in the escapist theme of such a far-off, unrealistic villain. No, Dreykov is real. Too many individuals- many of them typically men- carry this exact mindset, and mistreat thousands of people (typically children, women, and many, many minority groups including those with disabilities, of different races, the LGBTQ+ community, etc). Dreykov, with his horrible state of mind, operated a program which kidnapped, bought and sold little girls to serve his greater purpose. The Red Room was a program built to control, manipulate and brainwash these girls.
While there isn't a hidden program creating assassins out of young girls, there are several trafficking groups, systems, and industries regularly controlling, manipulating, and to a certain extent brainwashing individuals. According to a 2017 report by the International Labor Organization and the Walk Free Foundation, 24.9 million people were victims of some form of trafficking (Human Trafficking by the Numbers), and according to Safe Horizon's statistics, women and girls made up 71% of all victims (Human Trafficking Statistics and Facts). There isn't a need to dive deeper into the statistics, nor the theme/symbolism behind the Red Room. It’s spelled out: Human trafficking is a major, global issue, and the Red Room focuses on specifically the exploitations of young girls. This doesn't invalidate or exclude the experiences of others- simply, that's a portion of the conversation that Marvel creators chose to focus on. And the image Marvel chooses to paint of the red room condemns it and it's system. It was the priority for the main characters to take it down, because it's an incredibly large, and harmful issue. Additionally, the movie condemns Dreykov without any hint of sympathy, indirectly hinting to audience members who may share some of the same beliefs, that they are unjustifiably wrong.
Black Widow was hard-hitting and emotional, mostly because of the shocking relevance of its theme. If trafficking wasn't an issue or problem, Marvel would have gone a different direction with the movie, but they didn't. They made their symbolism clear, which was accomplished through a series of images in the introduction of the movie, and specifically the resolution and condemnation of the Red Room. What these girls went through was devastating, and the system that put them through it all was destroyed. It was admittedly incredibly satisfying, and additionally hopeful to watch the movie resolve by destroying the Red Room. But Marvel's message remains abundantly clear:
The Red Room is real. And deserves to be destroyed.
For more information on Trafficking:
To Get Help:
U.S National Human Trafficking Hotline: Call 1 (888) 373-7888, Text "BeFree" to 233733
Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline: 800-422-4453
National Dating Abuse Helpline: 1-866-331-9474
National Sexual Assault Hotline: 800-656-4673
National Teen Dating Abuse Hotline: 866-331-9474 TTY: 866-31-8453
Teen Suicide Hotline: 1-800-SUICIDE (784-2433) TTY: 800-799-4TTY SPANISH: 800-273-TALK
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255
*The Trevor Project: 866-488-7386
*The Trevor Project is specifically for LGBTQ+ young adults*