I’d like to interrupt my analysis of The Avengers to draw your attention to a video by a friend of mine, Reuben Saunders, who has created a 1920s Jazz version of “The Humpty Dance.” The results speak for themselves.
We now scoot over to India, where we meet Bruce Banner. Or rather, first we meet a little Indian girl, who dashes through a slum in search of Dr. Banner to aid her dying father. The little girl’s desperation is palpable, and the good doctor can hardly help but follow her. Our hearts go out to the little girl, and we desperately want to see Dr. Banner help her father. Like everything in The Avengers, this is played out very quickly but with great efficiency. A little drama is created, as our protagonist shifts from Nick Fury to Black Widow to this little girl on her mission to save her father. And, because the direction is so sure and the production design so convincing, we accept the truth and stakes of the girl’s plight.
The little girl, it turns out, is bait, set by Black Widow to capture Bruce. The little girl, in her helplessness, plays on Bruce’s good nature and feelings of sympathy and gets him to go to an empty house. There’s a wonderful moment just before they get to the house where the police roll by and Bruce shields the little girl with his body, as though keeping her out of the hands of the authorities. He is, of course, keeping himself out of the hands of the authorities, but he plays the moment for the sake of the girl, as “the caring father.”
Kurt Vonnegut once said “We are what we pretend to be, so we must be very careful what we pretend to be.” This applies to no one in the comics universe more than Bruce Banner, who must be very careful indeed what he pretends to be. His life as a doctor is, in its way, a performance, or an act of contrition, a way to pay for the things he does as “the other guy.”
When the little girl leaves Bruce like a groom at the altar, we realize: the little girl isn’t just like Black Widow, she is Black Widow, using the patented Black Widow technique of getting men to let their guard down by putting on a weak-and-helpless act.