Scarlett Johansson Is Not Happy About A Sexualized Black Widow

How does Scarlett Johansson feel about how Marvel portrays Black Widow? Here's what she has to say.

By Faith McKay | Published

This article is more than 2 years old

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When Scarlett Johansson joined the Marvel Cinematic Universe as Black Widow, we’d actually been seeing her on screen for a long time already. That makes it easier to forget that at the time, she was only in her early 20s. These days, the actress views her time on screen differently than she used to, especially in terms of the sexualization of her superhero character.

Back in 2019, she did an interview with Collider. At the time, she believed that her solo movie, Black Widow, was about to release. Scarlett Johansson and her fans had been waiting on the possibility of a solo movie for Black Widow for a very long time, often believing it would never happen. The moment of its impending release had her reflecting on the early years of Natasha Romanoff in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. In particular, Collider specifically asked the actress about the sexualization of superheroes and how that affected Black Widow. The actress first explained that at the time of the interview, she was about to turn 35 years old. During her time as Black Widow for Marvel, she has become a mother. The years had changed her. Now, Scarlett Johansson has a more evolved understanding of herself, and that affects how she plays her character. “As a woman, I’m in a different place in my life, you know?” she explained.

“All of that is related to that move away from the kind of hyper-sexualization of this character and, I mean, you look back at Iron Man 2 and while it was really fun and had a lot of great moments in it, the character is so sexualized, you know? Really talked about like she’s a piece of something, like a possession or a thing or whatever — like a piece of ass, really. And Tony even refers to her as something like that at one point. “

Scarlett Johansson goes on to say that in her early twenties when she was first playing Black Widow, her way of thinking was different. She saw the sexualization in Iron Man 2 very differently than she does now. Moreover, she expects that audiences see it differently as well.

“(M)aybe at that time that actually felt like a compliment. You know what I mean? Because my thinking was different. Maybe I even would have, you know, my own self-worth was probably measured against that type of comment or, like a lot of young women, you come into your own and you understand your own self-worth. It’s changing now. Now people, young girls, are getting a much more positive message, but it’s been incredible to be a part of that shift and be able to come out the other side and be a part of that old story, but also progress.”

It sounds like today, Scarlett Johansson would play Black Widow differently. At the same time, it sounds like she has a healthy perspective on things. Cancel culture, when it gets carried away, can insist that everyone needs to get everything “right”, however, when a career has longevity, there’s something to be said for a change in perspective. What Scarlett Johansson considered okay when she was in her early twenties isn’t something she’s comfortable with now. At the same time, what audiences found acceptable in 2010 isn’t the same as what audiences consider acceptable today. When an actress has the opportunity to play a character for as long as she has, that’s bound to happen.

We’ve seen Scarlett Johansson mature over the years, particularly in how she handles interviewers. When an actor signs up with Marvel, they do a lot of interviews all around the world. When an actress signs up to be a superhero, and wears a skin-tight costume, they are often asked particularly rude questions. That has been particularly harsh for Johansson, who sits on interviews with her male counterparts who don’t get asked the things she does. This has resulted in compiled videos of her responding to rude questions about her body and her clothes. Often, she makes a joke of it, but other times, like in this interview with Collider, she answers fairly seriously. The actress has all grown up now. It’ll be interesting to see how this affects the way she plays Natasha in her solo movie and the roles she takes as she moves forward in her career.