Black Widow‘s opening credits depict several real-world politicians with the movie’s fictionalized villain General Dreykov (Ray Winstone). In the harrowing sequence set to Malia J’s haunting cover of Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” Drekykov watches as his soldiers kidnap young girls, including an 11-year-old Natasha Romanoff (Ever Anderson) and her six-year-old adopted sister Yelena Belova (Violet McGraw) to transport them to his top-secret Red Room where they are eventually psychologically brainwashed and trained as deadly assassins, known as Widows. Later in the montage, Dreykov appears edited into photographs of both current and former world leaders, highlighted by a red circle surrounding his visage.
Directed by Cate Shortland, Natasha Romanoff’s (Scarlett Johansson) long-awaited debut solo film, takes place in between the events of Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Infinity War and centers on the aforementioned Avenger’s reunion with the surrogate family by whom she was raised in Ohio from a young age until she and Yelena were relinquished to the Red Room. In Black Widow, Natasha reconnects with Yelena (Florence Pugh) and her “parents” Alexei Shostakov aka Red Guardian (David Harbour), and Melina Vostokoff (Rachel Weisz), to conclude her unfinished business of freeing the widows and vanquishing Dreykov’s Red Room for good.
In Black Widow‘s opening title sequence, the images of Dreykov with real politicians help characterize Black Widow’s villain as an egomaniacal misogynist from the beginning through the company he keeps. This relevant portion of the movie underscores how Dreykov’s sinister persona evidently derives from real-world figures such as former film producer and convicted sex offender Harvey Weinstein and former financer and sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein, who often fraternized with well-known public figures during the height of their crimes. The depictions also reinforce the idea that the world’s most powerful people are all complicit in the upholding of a patriarchal society that objectifies and preys on women. As Dreykov says to Natasha during their confrontation at the Red Room in Black Widow‘s third act, “These world leaders, these great men, they answer to me and my Widows”—a statement that further exemplifies Dreykov’s manipulation and intimidation of high-ranking politicians that enabled his Red Room to thrive for more than 80 years. Here are all of the politicians that Dreykov influenced in the MCU’s canon, according to Black Widow‘s opening credits.
Dreykov is first portrayed alongside the United States’ 39th President, Jimmy Carter, in Black Widow‘s introduction, implying that the two figures met during Carter’s tenure in the White House from 1977 to 1981. Carter’s inclusion is particularly interesting considering the turbulent relationship between the Soviet Union and the U.S. during Carter’s presidency. Before his appointment at the Red Room’s helm, Dreykov served as a high-ranking officer in the Soviet Armed Forces. By juxtaposing the pair alongside each other, Black Widow demonstrates the extent of Dreykov’s manipulation abilities in that he could even make his enemies smile.
The 42nd U.S. President Bill Clinton is the second former American commander in chief to appear with Dreykov in Black Widow‘s opening credits. The association between the two is fitting, given Clinton’s complicated history with women. The former president has accumulated four public sexual assault and sexual harassment allegations. Additionally, Clinton had an affair with then-22-year-old White House intern Monica Lewinsky, which will be the focus of Ryan Murphy’s American Crime Story: Impeachment. In Dreykov’s case, Black Widow reveals the Red Room overseer’s horrific abuse of young girls, which includes involuntary sterilization and certain death for those deemed too weak. While Clinton’s and Dreykov’s actions are far from equivalent, they both evidence the longstanding power imbalance relating to gender that still prevails today.
As Russia’s first president, serving from 1991 to 1999, Boris Yeltsin is an obvious choice to align with Dreykov. Their coordination in the MCU, as with the other political figures, was likely initiated by Dreykov in an attempt to influence the most powerful individuals in close proximity to his affairs. Accordingly, Dreykov’s lofty connections allowed him to eventually transition from the use of psychological conditioning to mind control technology as a means to subjugate the Widows. Catering to world leaders, particularly Russians, also helped Dreykov keep his Red Room operation under wraps. Dreykov’s military history likely earned him a good reputation among Russia’s elites, thus compelling politicians to naturally view him as an ally.
Former President George W. Bush’s National Security Advisor, and later Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice is shown meeting with Dreykov in Black Widow‘s opening credits montage. As part of the Bush administration from 2002-2008, Rice engaged with foreign leaders like Russian President Vladimir Putin. Within the context of the MCU, it makes sense that Dreykov would come into contact with Rice due to her role within the U.S. Government and the frequent contact between the U.S. and Russia during this period. Rice also stands out as the only woman depicted next to Dreykov in the series of photos, making the general’s convergence with the American foreign policy leader particularly interesting, considering Dreykov’s irredeemable violent misogyny toward women and girls–who he labels as “trash” and “the only natural resource that the world has too much of.”
Putin, Yeltsin’s successor to the Russian presidency, is the final real-world politician featured in Black Widow‘s opening credits. The collaboration between Dreykov and the current Russian leader comes as no surprise, given the pair’s shared national origin, as well as their known misogynistic views on women. Putin, who initially held Russia’s highest office from 1999 to 2008, and was reelected in 2012, compiles a history of sexist remarks and notably signed a law decriminalizing domestic violence in 2017—which has contributed to the enforcement of traditional gender roles and stereotypes in the eastern European nation. Although Russia has seen a rise in women’s involvement in politics under Putin’s leadership, it has yet to yield any progress on gender equality. The manner in which both Dreykov in the MCU and Putin in the real world have historically exploited women for the benefit of their own power provides a chillingly accurate representation of the link between the inherent misogyny within society, highlighting one of Black Widow‘s most prominent themes.