Black Widow

We Need To Talk About Natasha Romanoff's Family Before 'Black Widow' Premieres

by Ani Bundel

Black Widow will be the first film dedicated to the Marvel Cinematic Universe's original Avenger. But even though fans have not seen Natasha Romanoff solo before, viewers thought they already knew her story. Born in Russia, she was taken from her mother at a young age and trained from childhood in a place known as "the Red Room." There, she was turned into a deadly assassin for the USSR, with a ballerina cover. But the new trailer seems to suggest that's not true. So who is Black Widow's mother? It's not who the trailer is suggesting.

The point of confusion comes in the trailer's last clip, a scene of all four main characters around the dinner table, discussing their plan of action. There's Alexei Shostakov, the Red Guardian (David Harbour). Next to him, across the table from Natasha, is Melina Vostokoff (Rachel Weisz), a Black Widow operative known as the Iron Maiden. To her right sits Yelena Belova (Florence Pugh), Natasha's sister in Black Widowhood.

As Natasha outlines her plan, Melina tells her to stop slouching. When Romanoff protests, Alexei snaps, "Listen to your mother!"

Fans are understandable thrown by this. Is the trailer revealing Vostokoff is Natasha's mother? Unless the movie is seriously retconning Romanoff's backstory, the answer is no.

Vostokoff is a character who, like Natasha and Yelena, has been through the Red Room training. In the comics, she's an older figure who resents Natasha's effortless ability to perform the tasks her teachers demand. When their paths first cross in 1982's Marvel Fanfare #11, she's a villain with who Black Widow must face off.

Here she's no longer an enemy of Natasha, but a colleague, though clearly one who is ready and willing to scold Romanoff whenever the occasion arises. There may be some old, lingering jealousy there, but if so, it's water under the bridge. What matters is that they are on the same side, against the Taskmaster.

But that doesn't mean she's secretly Natasha's mom. Alexei referring to Melina as "mother" is not in the biological sense, but a spiritual one. Melina is the older female of the group, the den mother/mentor figure to these two younger Black Widows, Yelena and Natasha. (In the same vein, Alexei is attempting to position himself as the patriarch of the group by talking like this.) These characters are emotionally bound, not biologically. They are Natasha's first "found family" before she was part of the Avengers.

Black Widow opens in theaters on Friday, May 1, 2020.