Hidden messages are common-place in the world of Marvel Studios. Captain America: The Winter Soldier criticizes the practice of government surveillance. The Thor movies are about forgiveness and the negative side-effects of pride, Guardians of the Galaxy is a parable about the evils of Islamic terrorism, and Iron Man 3 is a character study of a man overcoming severe PTSD.
Avengers: Age of Ultron focuses on a different element that we never saw in the ten Marvel films that came before it. No, I don’t mean the religious story-line. Enough has been written about that and my conservative Christian self won’t be able to shed any new light on it. While watching the movie in early May with my father and younger brother, I noticed how the character Hawkeye was used to explore the importance of parents in providing a stable family life and applied that theme to the Avengers, a group of adults who (all except Hawkeye) have “daddy issues” of their own. There are three main attributes to Hawkeyes character which he learned from being a father. These traits are responsibility, wholeness, and inner strength.
What can make a person more responsible than holding the lives of children in your hands? Holding the lives of children that you helped to create with the person you love in your hands. Iron Man, Captain America, Black Widow, Thor, and Dr. Bruce Banner all understand the responsibility that they have to protect the lives of people who do not share their blood. Hawkeye, also known as Clint Barton, adds this responsibility to the responsibility he has to protect the safety and happiness of his wife and children. For example, Barton knew that he was going to draw the interest of dangerous people when he joined the spy agency known as S.H.I.E.L.D. His one request of director Nick Fury upon signing up was to keep his family safe. Fury set Barton up with a simple, isolated farm in the countryside of upstate New York. Barton accordingly kept his family secret, even to his fellow Avengers with the exception of Black Widow. We are led to believe that heroes fight solely for the greater good but I really don’t think that’s true. Nobody fights for the abstract when they have something concrete to defend. Soldiers naturally care for their family’s safety more than other families and that (among other personal reasons of course) is why they fight. Most people understand that a secured country leads to your family enjoying a greater amount of safety. If you can “end the fight and go home”, as Tony Stark says in the film, you will be able to enjoy safety and peace. In a world of murderous robots and marauding alien armies, Clint Barton’s greatest responsibility to his family is to keep them out of harm’s way.
A strong family can provide stability for individuals as well as wholeness. As the only Avenger with a stable home life, Hawkeye is whole, and is thus the most stable of all the ‘Earth’s mightiest heroes’. This inner strength is what allows him to bounce back from being controlled by Loki in a few moments before the climax of the first movie. A family is a deeply complicated and intricate web of relationships and emotions between people who are connected by blood. Each member of the family needs each other in order for life to work. Barton’s wife supports her husband’s involvement in S.H.I.E.L.D. and the Avengers and holds down the fort while he’s gone. Barton reciprocates her faith by always calling her after his missions to assure her that he is safe. As a father of multiple young children, Barton had to learn patience and calm to solve stressful situations like an intense argument between his kids. These situations, of course, would not require the use of his bow and arrow. A good parent must understand the intricacies of the human mind like a therapist. Equally, a calm father who is at peace within himself will instill peace within his family. Barton’s wholeness prevents him from falling prey to the Scarlett Witch’s mind control power which shakes every other Avenger to the core. He is able to pick-up his teammates and put them all back together in order to face the enemy. As Jeremy Renner, the actor who portrays Hawkeye, has said about the character, Clint Barton is “the grounding rod of the Avengers”. When all others fall prey to fear and anger, Hawkeye does not. Stark and Captain America worry about the threat from Ultron while cutting wood for Barton’s winter pile after a defeat in the fictional African country of Wakanda,. In their eyes, the world is falling apart and their team is falling apart with it. Curiously, while the world crumbles, Barton takes the opportunity to teach his son how to repair the banisters on the porch. When a person who is whole faces an obstacle, they overcome by finding their center. Barton’s center is in raising his family. In a crucial scene, Barton’s wife acknowledges that her husband is not in the same league physically as the god-like beings he works with, but he is needed to keep them together. Hawkeye is not merely a grounding rod. He is also glue. In the end, the Earth’s mightiest heroes are held together by Clint Barton’s inner-strength.
With all of the other Avengers indisposed by the Scarlett Witch’s “magic”, Barton takes charge and collects them into the Quin-jet. He makes the split-second decision to take them to the safest place he knows, his home. It is up to Hawkeye to pick up all of the broken pieces and put them back together again. Hawkeye is not the only character to have a parental-centric storyline. Halfway through the movie, Natasha Romanov and Bruce Banner have a conversation about how the two of them are unable to have children due to the former being sterilized by the Russian government before her first spy missions and the latter being prone to becoming a “giant green rage monster” when his heart rate gets too high. They both agree that being reproductively challenged is what makes them right for each other. Unlike the Bartons, they are not meant to have a family. Preventing yourself from having children because you know you will bring them into an unhealthy situation is just as productive as being a good parent. Romanov is a close enough friend to the Bartons for their children to call her ‘Auntie Nat’. Closely observing how they raise a family really put Romanov’s inability, and perhaps her being unfit to have a family, into perspective for her. A good parent is calm enough to be able to assess the situation at hand and adjust to make a flexible decision that benefits his entire family. For example, when the Maximoff twins doubt themselves and begin to panic during the battle with Ultron, it is Hawkeye who settles them down with his steady hand and inspires them to stand and fight with the rest of the Avengers. Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch lost their parents at an early age when their apartment building was shelled during an unnamed Eastern European conflict. As a result, the two siblings had no one else to turn to for help except each other and were forced to grow up faster than the normal person. Without the type of stability provided by loving parents they, the children, did not grow up with the traits of responsibility, wholeness, or inner strength. At the beginning of the movie, the Maximoffs are nothing more than grown children. It takes an experienced father to help them achieve their full potential. Hawkeye stands in as their father figure during the climactic battle and helps them become the catalyst to the Avengers’ victory.
If Clint Barton never had the experiences of being a father, Hawkeye wouldn’t have been able to pick up his fellow Avengers and the world would have been destroyed. In Avengers: Age of Ultron, parenthood (being a good parent) is lauded as an important part of growing into a fully and well adjusted human being. Anybody can have sex and make a child. That part’s easy. Only those who shoulder the responsibility to raise them correctly, and through that experience grow into whole, stable, responsible, and strong human beings capable of passing those traits to their offspring may truly be allowed to call themselves parents.