Most relationships in the Marvel Cinematic Universe are doomed. Too many of them involve women who do not have superpowers. That makes the girlfriends the least interesting part of a universe all about superpowers. Who will be the first to go when scripts require 45 superheroes fighting at an airport? The boring girlfriend, that’s who. Maybe they’ll find room for you in the sequel, honey.
Worse, Marvel does not really want these relationships to work. Superhero stories are, by nature, immature. Nobody wants Iron Man mowing the lawn or changing diapers. He has to be out kicking butt. The girls at home are just wet blankets keeping the heroes away from the man’s cool work. The MCU puts up with them for a movie or two, but we all know nothing more happens.
Marvel needs the heroes to stick to the status quo. After almost a decade of this film franchise, these characters have not been allowed to change or grow. Nobody will ever settle down. Nobody wants them to.
We complain a lot about the villains that never seem to work in the MCU, but these five relationships are a sign of a bigger issue in this universe:
Betty Ross – The Incredible Hulk
Betty was Bruce Banner’s girlfriend and fellow scientist. Her name is on the scientific papers for the Gamma Ray experiments that turned her boyfriend all big, green and mean. But Betty was also the daughter of General Ross, Hulk’s nemesis. That made Betty a central character to the Hulk films. She was first played by Jennifer Connelly, then by Liv Tyler. Neither lasted very long.
The Hulk films are now only barely canon. 2003’s Hulk, directed by Ang Lee is totally out of continuity. Most of 2008’s The Incredible Hulk is shaky thanks to development issues. Edward Norton’s Bruce Banner will never appear again. It is not looking good for the rest of the cast either.
This leaves poor Betty Ross in an awkward spot. At the beginning of The Incredible Hulk, Betty has not seen Bruce for years. She moved on with her life and was dating Ty Burrell. Bruce Banner returns for a few days; they share a touching moment under a waterfall. Then Hulk fights the Abomination in Harlem. In the end, Hulk leaves to somehow transform into Mark Ruffalo and join the Avengers.
He never even calls Betty back. He probably just forgot about her just like everybody forgot about his movies.
Jane Foster – Thor
Jane was an astrophysicist who discovers Thor, a hunky Norse god. She is given a lot to do in Thor: The Dark World, where she accidentally trips over the Aether, the Infinity McGuffin of that story. But the relationship seemed superficial. Natalie Portman and Chris Hemsworth never had much chemistry.
So, in the upcoming Thor: Ragnarok, Jane is gone. Thor is going to have a new love interest, Valkyrie, played by Tessa Thompson. According to reports, Jane will not even be referenced in the new movie. That’s pretty cold, all in all. If you recall, Thor’s mom actually died protecting Jane from Dark Elves. That should mean something, but… eh. Tessa Thompson is a hotter star right now.
Most of Thor’s interest in the planet Earth came from how sexy our astrophysicists were. I mean, have you seen Stellan Skarsgard? But as we know, long distance interdimensional relationships never work out.
On the other hand, nobody is going to miss Kat Dennings.
Christine Palmer – Doctor Strange
Technically Rachel McAdams’ character in Doctor Strange is never explicitly a love interest. Her relationship with Doctor
Hugo, I mean, Stephen Strange never gets past the point of concerned friend. Maybe Marvel was looking for something a bit progressive. Their hot Muggle character does not fall in love with the hero. That’s a twist.
But instead, Christine Palmer has nothing to do. Being rescued from a villain’s clutches and getting an end-of-the-movie-kiss is not much. But it’s something. Rachel McAdams has about three scenes altogether. Her entire role is to set up how brilliant Stephen Strange is. Later she sets up how much selfish and vain he is. Finally, she’s there to show how cool his powers are. Christine has nothing of her own.
Then again, Stephen Strange is already madly in love – with himself. I would not be surprised if we never see Christine Palmer again. She should move on from this jerk. Get a make-over, and buy something nice for herself. Have a night out. Just the girls. She works hard. She deserves it.
Pepper Potts – Iron Man
Gwyneth Paltrow’s Pepper Potts has been with the Marvel Cinematic Universe since the beginning. She was a key character all through the Iron Man trilogy. The MCU simply dumping her is probably the saddest entry on this list.
Pepper started as a mere secretary kicking bimbos out of Tony Stark’s bed. Eventually, she became his wife, a rare feat for superhero love interests who are more likely to end up in fridges then in a wedding gown. As the films progressed, the writers gave Pepper plenty of other things to do. They made her CEO of Stark Industries, let her wear the Iron Man suit, and even gave her superpowers of her own.
Pepper and Tony’s relationship dominated Iron Man 3. Tony’s arc in that film was all about his struggle to overcome PTSD to be a functioning husband. He even promised to give up the superhero biz. Paltrow and Robert Downey Jr. had a real rapport. This was a believable choice for the characters and a major turn in the MCU. Pepper put up with Tony’s alcoholism, brief insanity, and endless obsession with his toys. It was time she got something out of the relationship.
But that’s real character growth, and that won’t do. Think of all the Hulkbuster Armor toys Disney would not be able to sell if Tony were to really retire? So in Avengers: Age of Ultron, Tony is back in the suit, with no explanation. Then, by Captain America: Civil War, it is revealed that he has separated with Pepper Potts. Tony did find time to get over things and flirt with Aunt May.
Gwyneth Paltrow has no MCU movies on the horizon.
Black Widow – Everybody
Scarlett Johannson has plenty of job security as Black Widow, being one of only two female superheroes on the Avengers. However, she’s also the only hero in the entire universe without superpowers or even a good gimmick. I mean, even freaking Pepper Potts got those Extremis powers for a bit. Worse, Black Widow seems to be perpetually single.
Considering her job has her working with plenty of eligible bachelors, this is odd. You’d think a young woman could pick up at least one of her dashing co-workers. Over the course of Black Widow’s career, we’ve seen relationships teased between her and Iron Man, Hawkeye, Captain America, and most recently, Bruce Banner. (Just another nail in poor What’s-Her-Name Ross’ coffin.) But none of them ever go anywhere. Black Widow and Hulk’s romance was one of the more interesting subplots of Age of Ultron. Yet the film ends with neither of them making a move.