The Dynamics and Dualities of BruceNat
Wow, this is a complex question! There is a lot of duality in these characters, but I think what I love best about the two of them together is that in their relationship they emerge from that duality to some extent.
Natasha’s role as Hulk tamer probably started as a professional one, all for the good of the team etc., but we see that she goes deeper than that and forms a real emotional connection with the Big Guy and with Bruce. If we can glean anything from Natasha’s developing arc in the movies, it’s that trust and real emotional connection are rare things for her. In her relationship with Bruce/Hulk, I would argue that she’s at her least divided between the super spy/assassin and the woman who wants to have some kind of real life with real connections because both sides of her are involved in the lullaby and in the relationship. Professional and personal all blended into the healthy outlet of helping someone and truly connecting with them — an integration of all the disparate parts of Natasha.
Bruce, too, is far more integrated on both the intrapersonal and interpersonal levels in AoU, and it’s a direct result of his partnership with Natasha. Their teamwork to manage the Hulk allows Bruce to be a functioning part of the team when he hasn’t been able to fully function in society for years. He’s much more at peace with the Hulk situation at the beginning of AoU than we’ve ever seen him, because for the first time, he feels a measure of safety. Yes, he has doubts (“It’s not you I don’t trust.”), but he has a support system that mainly consists of Natasha. Tony is very supportive, too, but I think his acceptance of the Hulk stems more from a blatant disregard for danger than a well-founded belief that there is none. His practical contribution to solving the Hulk problem was to help create a means of violent suppression for the Hulk with Bruce’s help. The Hulkbuster is a court of last resort; the lullaby is much more like a solution. In the lullaby, Natasha works with the Hulk instead of against him and smooths the transition between Bruce and Hulk — an integration of the disparate parts of Bruce.
In conclusion, I think they move in the direction of wholeness when they function as a unit, and I think that’s beautiful.
Reactions and Responses to BruceNat
Ah, the reactions of the public. I actually did an in-depth and highly scientific study of the layman’s reaction to BruceNat. And by “highly scientific study” I mean that I dragged my mom with me when I went to see AoU the third time, and questioned her afterwards. SCIENCE.
My mom disappointed me terribly, I have to say. She likes Mark Ruffalo (I inherited my taste from somewhere ehehe) but called Bruce a “wimp.” It was kind of hilarious because she complained about him always being so non-confrontational and then complained about the Hulk causing too much violence and mayhem. (“Mom, these things are related issues,” I insisted.) And although she “wasn’t feeling” the BruceNat relationship, she got upset with him for leaving her in the end. After talking about BruceNat for a few minutes, though, she did finally admit that she could see that they might connect over the fact that they both feel broken. Thankfully I didn’t have to disown her in a family feud/ship war. Which would have been totally called for if she hadn’t recanted. ;)
(I’m kidding, I love my mom, and she doesn’t give a single solitary crap about Marvel, so she was coming into the entire situation blind lol.)
Other than that, most people just don’t care, in my experience. Most times the reaction I encounter is that people are not passionately for or against BruceNat. My best friend doesn’t care for Marvel movies and only went because her husband likes them, and she was lukewarm over the whole thing. She has a bizarre dislike for Mark Ruffalo, though.
The number of people in my life that I love too much to disown for unforgivable offenses is staggering.
As for fellow cinema-goers, I don’t remember there being much of a reaction when I went to see the movie on opening night. But I was also dead tired after a full day of work, so I don’t remember a lot about that screening. I had to go back and see it a second time in order to properly understand some aspects of the plot, because I had been so brain dead. So, um, people could have been totally into it and I might not have noticed. :0 In later viewings, I remember at least one person in the audience audibly saying “yay” when Bruce and Natasha kissed. So there’s that. :D
On the internet, as we all know, everyone lost their minds over BruceNat. If was such an ugly ideological melee that I aggressively wrote fanfic because the relationship just made so much sense to me, despite the valid points about the lack of buildup/development and criticisms of how the relationship was handled and written. But whatever, THIS SHIP IS SO MUCH FUN. As for the haters, I just try to avoid them, because fighting over fictional relationships is ridiculous. So often, our personal preferences in these issues are colored by our own experiences, so there isn’t necessarily a correct answer to the question “What is the best ship?” in the first place. I’m sure there are lots of beautifully written fics and meta for Clintasha, Romanogers, et al. out there, but I prefer BruceNat for many reasons. I think it had beautiful canon moments, and that the potential for the relationship to become an extremely healthy, positive one for two broken people is boundless. But ship and let ship! I’m just glad that the BruceNat corner of Tumblr is a happy place. I love you all, fellow BruceNat shippers. Including you, HulkWidowAnon. <3