David Harbour Updates: Alexei Shostakov, AKA the Red Guardian, formerly Russia’s beloved son and now a national disgrace imprisoned in an iron arctic gulag for two decades, isn’t the lead in Black Widow, Marvel’s first female superhero’s standalone film.
Natasha Romanoff, a Russian assassin and nimble killing machine so tormented by her past that she becomes an Avenger in the hopes of clearing her conscience of years’ worth of bloodstains. Shostakov (David Harbour of Stranger Things fame) isn’t even her co-star.
He serves as a supporting role and comedic relief, with the support questionable and the humor centered on his belly overflowing out over his super suit. His body has taken a beating in prison; for every tattoo, he’s gotten, he looks to have gained twice as much weight. Shostakov is a joke and a has-been.
He’s also a welcome sight in a studio franchise machine that churns out dudes and spits out men, muscular, purring specimens of the masculine physique honed over months of rigorous training. Remember Rob McElhenney’s Instagram post from 2018 on what it takes to attain that body: Six days a week, lift weights, don’t drink alcohol, and especially don’t eat anything nice, and run like you’re running the Boston Marathon. Easy! Anyone can get ripped if they give up their lives and spend all of their money on getting rock-hard abs.
Whether it’s a Chris—whether Hemsworth, Evans, or Pratt—or Paul Rudd, Kumail Nanjiani, Robert Downey Jr., or Anthony Mackie—the guys on Marvel’s roster virtually all go through this change. Flab is prohibited in the MCU.
Harbour is an exception for Black Widow. He was jacked for Hellboy in 2019, so he’s no stranger to delectable rock-hard pecs, but here he’s doughier, reduced in the same manner Shostakov was but without the harsh imprisonment. When Romanoff and her “sister,” Yelena (Florence Pugh), free their “father,” Shostakov, and rush him away to safety, he digs up his old Red Guardian suit; he was a symbol of Soviet pride and Russia’s reaction to Captain America when Captain America was trapped under the Arctic.
It’s as follows: A opportunity to don his former colors once more, to recall what it felt like to be his country’s champion. As a result, the film begins with Shostakov’s suit-up sequence, a superhero movie trope in which the protagonist gets dressed up to rescue the day. However, there is a flaw: the outfit does not fit.
Nothing ever seems to go right for Shostakov. He was never allowed to battle the hero he was created to fight. In the 1990s, when his deep cover operation in the United States went tits up and he departed the nation with Natasha, Yelena, and his “wife,” Melina, his surrogate “family” was destroyed by his superiors (Rachel Weisz).
What did David Harbour say About this?
Black Widow strains, huffs, bellows, and groans his way into his red leather armor in the present. The scenario would be tragic if Shostakov wasn’t so resolutely resistive to the pain of his personal failings. When Shostakov looks in the mirror, all he sees is grandeur, which makes the sightless sorrowful and more befuddling, like seeing a disabled dog skateboard.
It’s simpler to chuckle at David Harbour portrayal than to realize how significant it is for a dad bod to play a key role in a Marvel film like Black Widow. He isn’t the story’s focal point; rather, he is a supporting character who is neither vital nor inconsequential.
He spends most of his screen time uncomfortably providing fatherly advice and praise to the girls he knew, now grown into ladies capable of remorseless murder, and giving speeches he never gets to finish because his audience either can’t hear him or isn’t interested in listening.
Shostakov, on the other hand, makes an effort. Oh, he tries: to be a good father, a decent Russian, a hero to his family, if not to the rest of the world. Despite his blunders, he manages to come out on top in the end when he acknowledges his moral and emotional flaws. There is no way to communicate. He’s well aware that he’d fumble it.
But his physique isn’t a flaw, not just because he refuses to perceive himself as “less than” because he has a dad bod, but also because the movie doesn’t see him that way. True, his love handles are the subject of a few one-liners, especially when he’s dressed up. But it’s also true that chub or no chub, Shostakov is still as powerful as a bear, and about as hairy as well; even better, Melina openly pines for him at the dinner table, oblivious to Natasha and Yelena’s hunger.
Marvel and go together like oil and water. One of the horniest scenes in the MCU is Shostakov and Melina lusting for each other in broad daylight. But, horniness aside, Black Widow’s suggestion that a man with David Harbour body may be desirable, even “hot,” sounds downright revolutionary.
Marvel has worked hard over the last 13 years to establish “Marvel bod” as an industry standard and cultural ideal. Harbour and his stealth abs respond with Black Widow: they’re there, but they’re masked from radar detection by a distinct layer of pudge. It’s not like Harbour didn’t prepare for the film in any way.
It’s because his training was designed to improve his strength rather than his looks. Black Widow, on the other hand, makes his looks appealing. Shostakov may be an old bozo and a remnant of a bygone era, but he’s still a desirable commodity. He’s well aware of it. The rest of us now do as well.
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