Discussion Packet

Black Widow (2021) – Discussion Guide

Discussion Guide:

  1. Why did Yelena and Natasha seem to remember living in Ohio prior to 1995 so differently?
    Caregiver Note: While Yelena and Natasha had the same experiences living with Alexei and Melina they had very different ways of how they remember those experiences. While Natasha is quick to point out short-falls of their surrogate parents and how they weren’t a “real” family, Yelena points out that this was literally the only family she ever knew and that it was “real” for her. In the same way, children in the same sibling group may also frame memories differently based on their ages, emotional ages at the time of trauma, their resilience, and just how they personally react to instances of trauma. Because Natasha longs for a connection with her biological family and has experienced some bonding outside of the Black Widow Ops Program, it makes sense that Natasha would draw on these experiences and compare them. Much like Natasha, your teen may need help talking through these things and honoring their very valid emotions, good and bad, so caregivers should be prepared to engage in some hard talks of this nature.
  2. How come Natasha seemed to change her mind on how she viewed the Ohio family? What changed?
    Caregiver Note: Over the course of the film, Natasha gets a lot more context for why her surrogate parents behaved the way they did. Alexei being immature and braggadocious? That was a cover for being betrayed and discarded so harshly by Draykov after his years of service, longing for what could have been. Melina didn’t fight back, not because she was a coward but because she was literally programmed like the others to be unable to fight back and was tortured in the same ways as all the Widows. Sometimes with time, new experiences, and information like this your teen may cycle through different ways of how they view their past. Sometimes with rose-colored glasses, and sometimes seething with pain and rage. No matter what, all of these feelings are valid and do have space for acknowledgement and honor. This is where you, the caregiver that is stronger, wiser, and kinder can help organize these very messy feelings and show your teen lots of love and patience while they cycle through the various emotions they may experience in the safety of your home.
  3. Has there ever been a time where you felt one way about a memory but over time it changed?
    Caregiver Note: This may be a hard question for your teen depending on their level of insight into their own emotions and their level of trust in you. It’s okay to let your teen guide how far this one goes. If we try too hard to force these emotions it can be difficult. This does not have to be a one-time discussion and can be a theme that is revisited again off and on to check in with your teen as they progress through therapy and development.
  4. What were the best parts of how Alexei and Melina raised Natasha and Yelena? What were the not-so-great parts?
    Caregiver Note: Your teen may or may not have noticed, but even through Natasha’s perspective we see some strengths in Alexei and Melina in addition to their weaknesses. Alexei appears to be very protective and uses his physical strength and resources to the best of his knowledge to take care of the girls. He also exposes the girls to music and other fun things we see in the photobook. Melina is kind and caring, and pays attention to the girls’ needs while in play or in mealtimes. This doesn’t even touch on her tactical prowess and intelligence either. However, as adults with their own unresolved trauma they have some pretty prominent weaknesses. Alexei is easy to trigger fits of rage from, impulsive, self-absorbed, and really not a very bright dude. Melina is manipulative, cold, calculating, and very much focused on her own survival throughout the experiences. While they each get redemption in the end, both adults show how in not dealing with their own past traumas they transferred some of that trauma to the children in their care. This, along with the trauma suffered from being trafficked and tortured, just adds to the dysfunction we see in Natasha’s ability to form relationships with her fellow Avengers.
  5. Why did Alexei and Melina struggle in their roles and parents even though they “acted the part”?
    Caregiver Note: While Alexei and Melina may have “studied up” on their “roles” as parents, they didn’t really do the internal work needed to parent a child with trauma. As a caretaker yourself you may have come across situations by now that have triggered something in you. It is important for caregivers to not hide these feelings but to find healthy ways to cope with and process these triggers. Like Alexei and Melina, we risk transferring our trauma to our children when we choose to push away the personal inner work required to achieve self-actualization and to heal the trauma in our children. While talking through these parts, think of ways you can help soothe your inner traumas as well. Trust me, not only do you deserve it anyway but this will greatly help you in your parenting down the line even if you haven’t needed to yet.
  6. What are things you would like to work on before you get older, like Natasha?
    Caregiver Note: One great thing about this film is that in addition to seeing caretaking adults get their unfinished business taken care of we also see Natasha continuing her internal work through the course of this film. Natasha has endured a lot of trauma and certainly needs a lot of therapy and support. It is fantastic to see Natasha work through the unresolved things about her identity as a part of a family (biological/surrogate/found). This can be another area of inspiration to talk to your child about their personal goals for growth. This response may vary based on your child’s comfort level and level of trust in you but, again, can always be revisited. This really is a wonderful way to frame talking about internal work as your teen may struggle to make these abstract connections on their own.
  7. How many families does Natasha have?
    Caregiver Note: This is a great question to engage your child into the story. Natasha does mention having multiple families, but how many are there really? Ultimately the main focus we see are the mother Natasha never knew that never stopped looking for her, the surrogate family, and her Avengers that have become her found family.
  8. What family does Yelena focus most on?
    Caregiver Note: Because of Yelena’s age, to her the surrogate spy family of Natasha, Melina, and Alexei are her true family. By the end of the film we can also identify a familial bond with the other Black Widows as they return for her and set out to rescue the other Black Widows from the mind-control bondage. Though at first Yelena’s only “family” was that surrogate family, by the end of it Yelena was able to move forward with an expanded sense of family and more connections than when she only regarded those that raised her as family.
  9. How did the definition of family change for both Yelena and Natasha?
    Caregiver Note: By the end of the movie both Natasha and Yelena were able to integrate all of their feelings and longing for family and acknowledge that this was a much more complicated dynamic for each of them than perhaps for their peers. Natasha was able to identify that though her biological, surrogate, and current family are all different they all take space and honor in her life and identity. Yelena was able to identify a family as being more than the memories of the past and find renewed relationships in both old connections and new ones in her Black Widow Ops Program sisters and rescuing those she’s not met yet. By shifting this definition of family both characters are able to identify more connections than before to connect to their culture, sense of identity, and senses of purpose for future goals.
  10. Activity: Lifebooks
    Caregiver Note: When a child enters the child welfare system or is adopted there is often a huge gap for that child in terms of pictures, souvenirs, and other connections to memories. To help with this many agencies in the USA are asking caregivers to work on Lifebooks with their children in care. This can not only be a fun, ongoing activity to do with your child as you create memories together and with any other important connections to your child this also creates a scrapbook or album of those years to honor the experiences and people important to your child. If you’ve never done one you may structure this as directed in the link from Tennessee Department of Children Services below! Feel free to get as creative with this as you’d like in terms of scrapbooking and how you take the photos, but again consider this to be an ongoing part of your parenting so your child can look back on all the wonderful memories they made while in your care, whether you only have your child for a season or for a lifetime.For more information about Lifebooks in general, feel free to check out this resource from Tennessee DCS –

[Donate to this Project]

About the Author: Rachael Rathe

Rachael B. Rathe is an East Tennessee native with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Psychology with a Minor in Child & Family Studies from The University of Tennessee Knoxville. She has worked in mental health since 2013 and in foster care/adoptions for a private provider agency since 2014. Rachael was inspired to work in the field after working with children and teens on a volunteer basis 2008 – 2013. Rachael’s ideal self-care day involves snuggling on a couch with her kitties (Tabitha, Fergus, and Rufus) while enjoying a good movie or book. She also enjoys galivanting around conventions concerning all things nerd and geekery.

**Transfiguring Adoption is a nonprofit organization seeking to nurture growth in foster and adoptive families by giving a HOOT about their families. Transfiguring Adoption does not intend for its reviewers nor its review to be professional, medical or legal advice. These reviews and discussion guides are intended to help parents to better be able to connect and understand their children who come from traumatic backgrounds.


Lost Password

Please enter your username or email address. You will receive a link to create a new password via email.