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The Black Widow Movie, a Kernel of Corn, and What I’m Doing to Survive COVID-19

I’m genuinely sad that the Black Widow movie has been postponed. I know it’s silly in the midst of a worldwide pandemic to worry myself over something as petty and trivial as a movie, but I’m never as deep as I wish I were.

Truth is, I love the character and I’ve enjoyed Scarlett Johansson’s portrayal of her in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), particularly over the course of what is now 20+ movies and counting. I was excited for the solo film, particular because it includes Taskmaster and Hopper.

Moreover, I’m bummed that the MCU has been delayed, period. MCU Cosmic has the updated dates, but the gist is that every movie slides a spot, while production for the Disney+ shows like Falcon and Winter Soldier are on hiatus for now.

It’s OK to be upset about MCU delays because the MCU is the GOAT, certainly in box office haul but in other metrics as well, such as critic scores compared to other superhero or action franchises. But to fully understand why the MCU is the GOAT, let me share an apocryphal tale about a kernel of corn.

There are countless versions of the legend, but here is the way I’ve heard it most often told: A man saved the king’s life and, in return, wanted to marry the princess. The king said no but offered anything else in his kingdom.

So the man pulled out a chessboard and said, “Then all I want is a very small thing. Give me one kernal of corn for the first square on the board, then double it for every square after that — one kernal of corn for the first square, two for the second, four for the third, eight for the fourth until the end of the board.”

It seemed so little to ask that the king quickly said yes.

But you know how this ends. There are 64 squares on a chessboard. By the 21st square, simply by doubling, we are over a million kernels of corn. By the 30th square, the number crosses a billion. By the 39th, a trillion.

By square 64, the number is 9,223,372,036,854,780,000 — which is not quite as many stars as there are in the Marvel Universe, but let’s just say that those tiny kernels of corn certainly add up.

And so the MCU are the kernels of corn that keep doubling. Popping that corn gives you plenty of popcorn for all the happy moviegoers who have enjoyed the MCU in the theaters.

  • You start with an excellent actress like Scarlett Johansson. Now double it because of the rich and vibrant Black Widow character found in Marvel comics.
  • Now double it again because of the amazing action sequences in the MCU. Nerds on Twitter pick them apart and gripe and moan, yet the action of the MCU is as thrilling as any franchise in movie history.
  • Now double it again because of the music, perhaps the biggest complaint of the complainy complainers of Twitter, yet MCU music has a way of simply blending in to the background only to surface when an emotion is called for.
  • Now double it again for the post-credits scenes, a now-common practice that was wholly fresh when early MCU movies started to implement them.
  • Now double it again because no movie franchise in history — none at all — built a larger and more interconnected universe than the MCU, where characters and plotlines weave and flow throughout all the films.
  • Now double it again because …

I’ve been able to really appreciate how all the tiny little elements of the MCU add up to make something so big as I’ve been rewatching it straight through with my 11-year-old daughter during the quarantine.

To hear my daughter’s excited gasp when Black Widow was revealed in Iron Man 2 was pure magic. It was such a tiny thing at the time and probably wouldn’t be listed by many as a memorable part of the MCU, yet take Black Widow’s introduction in Iron Man 2 and double it. Now double it again when Black Widow appears in Avengers. Now double it again when…

So, I realize it’s a tiny thing but everything has added to me being really disappointed that Black Widow has been delayed at the box office. But the silver lining? My daughter and I have plenty of time to watch every MCU movie straight through. And when Black Widow finally does hit theaters? My daughter and I will be there together, sharing nothing but the biggest bag of popcorn ever.

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