At least, that’s the goal. Organizer, Kristin Rielly put together the event – which will find Black Widow cosplayers cropping up in secret locations throughout the world creating buzz, getting their images online, and trending the message #WEWANTWIDOW – in response to the dearth of Black Widow merchandise, and to show Marvel Entertainment (and the world!) that fans love the character and want things like a Black Widow movie! One day three weeks ago, she just had the idea and ran with it!
In an exclusive interview with The Mary Sue, Rielly says:
Since social media is the best form of communication, I decided to make a private event and start inviting friends and encouraged them to invite their friends. I literally had the idea on the couch about three weeks ago, created the event, and invited about forty fangirls I know. In about an hour there were over 300 invites sent out. I remember turning to my hubby saying, ”I think I just did a thing!”
Once I got supporters, I got volunteers, dubbed “City Captains” to help work out locations for their city’s mob to meet and help gather more cosplayers to the event. They have been instrumental in making this a successful event. And Jay Justice, the Philly Captain and my second-in-command, has been instrumental in keeping our group focused and maintaining the integrity of our mission.
She also describes how the idea started and why she decided to actually follow it through:
After seeing Age of Ultron and Black Widow’s [abrupt back-story scene], and writing several posts for Fashionably Geek about the new Avengers line this and that – almost all missing Black Widow images, I just had enough. To top it all off, Hasbro and Mattel both released action figures of Captain America and Iron Man on Black Widow’s motorcycle in her most badass AoU scene, instead of a Black Widow action figure. I’ve seen so many posts and tweets expressing outrage at the obvious inequality of Black Widow on film and in the stores, but I feel like Marvel and Disney aren’t getting it. I thought if Black Widows started popping up all over at the same time, that would send the clearest and loudest message.
In addition to some amazing Black Widow cosplay, here’s what Rielly hopes will happen when all is said and done:
I hope that this is the beginning of a more inclusive superhero universe for future movies and merchandise. I hope that the companies making awesome movies and fantastic toys and clothes realize that they can do even more because they have a bigger demographic than they originally thought. And I hope this inspires more geek girls to stand up and continue to have a strong and positive voice for inclusion in our community.
Well, Rielly has already inspired that kind of activism. Jennifer K. Stuller, pop culture historian, co-founder and current Board VP of GeekGirlCon, and Seattle resident decided to take the plunge and organize the Black Widow Flash Mob where she lives. “Kristin contacted me to ask if I’d be willing to take up the mantle,” Stuller explains. “Like a metaphorical Lady Thor (of what is a very Norse region of the US!) I was delighted to be gifted worthy of picking up our local hammer. I love community organizing, especially with geeky women and allies, and especially for a cause. It’s what driven much of my work over the past decade.”
Stuller believes that campaigns like this – not just live gatherings, but the numbers possible with hashtag campaigns – can make a real difference. “We’ve reached a point where gathering publicly isn’t necessarily enough to amplify our voices,” she says. “Social media, and particularly hashtag campaigns and memes (that utilize image and text combinations) really do have a cultural impact – and sometimes a political one.” She cites a recent Forbes Magazine article that suggests the importance of feminist hashtag campaigns.
Meanwhile, Andrea Levine, New York’s City Captain, has helped organize this for very personal reasons, not the least of which is the fact that she worries about the options presented to a special young girl in her life. “I have a very young niece who loves superheroes,” says Levine. “But there isn’t much out there for her. The figures available are far too sexual and definitely not age appropriate. I’m already seeing signs of this affecting her. She’s not seeing the female superheroes, so she’s getting the message that superheroes aren’t for girls. That’s bull. I want her to grow up thinking she can be the superhero instead of the damsel in distress.”
Like Rielly, Stuller and Levine believe that showing strength in numbers, not to mention potential dollars, might encourage change. Says Stuller:
Executives empowered with making decisions probably don’t care about our desires – as fans or as females. But it’s shocking that they don’t seem to care about our dollars. Our dollars should be their incentive, and perhaps some visualization of that potential for them – through images and text that goes viral and gains news coverage – should speak to them in a way that accomplishes something beneficial to everyone with a stake in these stories. (Be it emotional or monetary.)
For Levine, it’s less about the impact on Marvel or Disney and more about inspiring fellow fans:
I’m a realist. There have been many outlets, including The Mary Sue, that have called Disney and Marvel out on their treatment of Black Widow, but there’s only so much they can do. We need the people to get involved in a more organized way, and I’d like this Flash Mob to help get that ball rolling. I want the people to see that their voices can be heard without resorting to name calling, threats, people bashing, or any other one of the countless negative ways we have become accustomed to seeing when there’s a protest. This is a fun and positive way of getting people involved and sending a message.