This rant is focussing on a slight spoiler for Ultron here, so if you haven't seen it yet, here's your warning to leave. If you've seen the movie, or if you just don't give a damn about spoilers, then hey, welcome!
Okay, so I've come across a lot of hate towards Black Widow in this movie regarding a certain character development that happens. See, there's a subplot in the film involving her and Bruce Banner as a romantic couple. Some people criticize this as taking away from Widow's character, believing that now that she's in this subplot that she's sacrificed her female empowerment or humanity... which really should illustrate right there how much the people who say these things don't get about character development, woman empowerment, or humanity.
Now, I'll be the first to admit, I'm not the biggest fan of Widow; I didn't like her in the first Avengers, I really hated her in Iron Man 2, and while she's grown some in Winter Soldier, I still find her to be bland, needlessly written to be a "strong female character" with the need to constantly remind us that she's a woman, and that she's given these lines that just sound so cliche and on the nose- "I'm multitasking!" "Always picking up after you boys."- Really? So, no, it's safe to say, I don't really like her all that much.
So it might come as a shock to some of you that I'm coming out and defending her like this, but come on. If you're nitpicking the romance plot that sadly ended too abruptly (like many things in Ultron), then frankly you're just looking for shit to complain about, because this romance actually developed both Widow and Banner as characters. And I never got the sense that this was like the next big phase in the "Black Widow Woman Character Development" whiteboard outline; this felt very natural and human, and that's especially excellent for Widow's character, because to me she's always needed something to help flesh her out.
Now, some might say "well giving her a romance is just shoving her back into being a damsel." You could read it that way, sure. Or you could read it as just another relationship that Widow's forged with another character. The fact that she's a woman doesn't automatically have to factor into this, after all; I didn't see many people decry Banner for this sort of thing in the film. This relationship isn't a detriment to Black Widow, it's a good thing. And what really helps it is that the romance part isn't the main focus of their relationship. It's not like Widow and Bruce announce to the team and to the audience "ta-da! We're dating! Isn't that great?!" This is a strained relationship, it's a painful thing for both characters, and that's really human. Indeed, I'd argue that this is something that Whedon shouldn't have cut at all... but that just goes back to me wanting to see the three-and-a-half hour version of the film.
Yeah, I'm not a fan of Black Widow, and I have a wealth of reasons for that. No, I wasn't really a fan of Ultron either, and again I have reasons for that. But the Bruce/Widow relationship is not one of them. This is a strength for both the film and for the two characters, with Ruffalo and Johansson imbuing a lot of personality and emotion into the two scenes that this is brought up. The relationship doesn't ruin Black Widow's femininity either; it certainly doesn't detract from her role as the female representation or as a supposedly badass feminist icon. It strengthens her as a person, focusing on her humanity rather than her being a woman, and that's something that I can get behind.
That's all I wanted to say about this. The end.