Clint. Oh, Clint. The movies have not done you justice, my dear.
This isn’t to say there’s anything wrong with MCU Clint; quite the contrary. He’s a fantastic character, we just don’t get to see as much of him as I would like.
And I get it, in movies, you can only focus on so many characters, and the story being told by the MCU is based heavily on the contrasting philosophies of Tony and Steve, and the tension created by them respecting each other and wanting to be friends, but also being fundamentally opposed to one another’s outlooks. Hence, they take center stage.
But we still get some great moments with Clint in the MCU, which I love, because he feels like the most grounded of the core six. He’s usually the one fully acknowledging how ridiculous the whole situation is.
And he does so in a light-hearted, joking manner. I love him for that, because I feel like the rest of the group needs it so badly. Tony’s father was Howard (ew), Steve’s been taking care of himself for a long time, and feels utterly alone in the world. Natasha has been a soldier-spy since she was a child, Thor’s father is Odin (eep), and Bruce…well, as I mentioned in my last breakdown, he didn’t have the best relationship with his dad, either.
So then there’s Clint, who’s sort of the “dad” of the group, the way one is a dad to adult children—supportive, loving, willing to do whatever it takes, but also willing to listen to them when it’s something they know more about or follow their lead when they’re in their element. He trusts his team, he cares about them, and he’s a stable force in their lives that they all know they can lean on when in need. He gives them all a certainty they desperately crave.
We see this most clearly in Age of Ultron. When they are broken and battered and utterly defeated, what does Clint do? He takes them home. He takes them somewhere quiet and safe where they can recuperate. And his wife, Velma Laura, sees this so clearly. When Clint tries to tell her that they are much more powerful than he, and do not need him, she counters that they do need him…and that is far, far more frightening.
She understands what he brings to the team. A grounded sense of reality. A link to the “why” for which every “what” they have to do links back to. What they have to do is fight battles and win wars; why they have to do it is for people like Clint’s family—the civilians and children who deserve their chance at life.
He’s also a refreshing source of lighthearted snark. Because Clint is this down-to-earth, Skynyrd-esque “Simple Man”, he has relatively uncomplicated relationships with the rest of the Avengers. He meets Thor when the Prince of Asgard is at his lowest, so even knowing him as a Norse God, he’s got a different first-impression of the ancient warrior than most would ever get. He and Tony occasionally snark at each other, but keep it pretty simple beyond that. He and Steve clearly respect each other, and appreciate that the other is the kind of person they can count on. He’s best buds with Natasha, which is adorable and appreciated, and he seems to be unbothered by (though still realistically aware of) Bruce’s angrier side. He’s got an ease with which he deals with all these outrageous and impossible people, and it’s something I wish we got to see more of in the movies.
But the thing is, this doesn’t mean Clint is an uncomplicated guy. In fact, I’d argue that the more someone is capable of being this kind of calm and capable force to others, the more hardship they’ve likely triumphed over. The movies don’t get into Clint’s background at all (I cannot WAIT to get to the characters who actually have MCU-official backstory I can build off), but the comics paint a grim picture. An orphan at a young age, Clint is certainly no stranger to tragedy, and while I know there’s no confirmation of this in the MCU, it doesn’t change the fact that the comics inform the movies, and so I can’t help but feel that this fun, caring guy with major dad-energy and a willingness to risk his life to do the right thing is the same kid who was alone with his brother, trying to make it in a carnival.
This is why he bonds, I think, to Wanda and Pietro so strongly, and why he’s so determined to save them. Whenever I watch Age of Ultron, I can’t help but feel like he’s seeing himself—a lost, scared, angry kid teetering on the edge of becoming something great or something terrible. He knows what it’s like to stand on that precipice. He knows what it’s like to be hurt and terrified and on the verge of making a huge mistake. And he wants to save them in ways he was never saved. Maybe that’s just me superimposing a character history onto a much less complicated secondary character on a team in an action flick, but I can’t help it; Clint is clearly a guy who’s been through it, came out the other side, built a life for himself he never thought he’d get to have, and wants to give others the same opportunity.
And with Pietro dying, he feels like he failed both of them.
This shows up in his protectiveness of Wanda. I think Clint would have sided with Cap in Civil War anyway, but with Wanda in the mix, there was no question about where he would land on that issue. He made a choice similar to the one Cap had to make, actually, but I’ll come back to that point in a future character breakdown. He feels so responsible for everyone, because in his heart, more than anything, he’s a father, and he took this job to protect, not to cause harm.
You can see this in every Avengers movie, actually: Whenever Clint feels he’s failed or committed some wrong—usually an instance where he didn’t really do anything wrong, but he takes too much on and feels responsible for everything—he’s so quick to try and make it right. In The Avengers, he fights with a mad fervor to make up for what Loki forced him to do, despite no one blaming him for his actions in that state. In Age of Ultron, he attaches to the Maximoff twins more than anyone else on the team (at least initially), and takes responsibility for Pietro’s death, even though no one else blames him or holds him responsible. And that leads to his actions in Civil War, which is how we wind up with a man who takes the house arrest option we hear about in Infinity War—because all those other choices have strained his family, and he realizes he can’t keep asking this of them. Maybe his wife, who certainly seems to know what she signed on for and be willing to make compromises for his work, but not his children.
So yeah, Clint is someone who’s happy to blend into the background, to be a secondary character, to be a little forgotten or ignored at times, because he wants you to focus on the family he’s so proud of. And not just his wife and kids, but his hero-family, too. He wants the world to recognize and acknowledge and accept the heroes he knows work so hard for the greater good, and he wants to be left alone so he can spend down time between missions sitting on his porch and doing repairs around the house. And he’ll be wisecracking the whole time, in true Dad fashion.
In conclusion: Clint is great and I hope we get more of him in future movies.