Scarlett Johansson recognizes the over-sexualization of her character in early MCU films, but is glad Black Widow will move away from that early representation. Johansson will be reprising her MCU role as Natasha Romanoff in the upcoming film Black Widow, which is set to premiere on July 9th. The film was originally set to premiere in May 2020 but was delayed three times due to the Covid-19 pandemic. After a long MCU feature film hiatus, fans will be flocking to the theaters to witness the first solo Black Widow film.
Johansson made her MCU debut in Iron Man 2, in which she appears as an undercover S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent. Johansson went on to star in seven more MCU films as Black Widow, allowing her character to grow immensely. Despite her dark past as a dangerous assassin, Romanoff leaves that behind her as she fights alongside the Avengers, takes on the role of a mediator in Captain America: Civil War, and sacrifices herself in Avengers: Endgame. However, despite Romanoff’s heroism, the MCU didn’t always approach her character in the right way, something that will be rectified by Black Widow.
During our recent set visit, Johansson responded to a question posed by Sade Spence regarding the way her character was hyper-sexualized in the earlier films and how Black Widow will be different. In Iron Man 2, particularly, her character was treated like a possession and a “piece of ass.” However, Black Widow portrays her character in a much different light and signifies how films are moving away from the sexualization of female superheroes to send a more positive message to girls. Check out her statement below:
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. What does he say? Yeah and at one point [Tony] calls her a piece of meat and maybe 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. Evolve. I think it’s pretty cool.
While Johansson is a bit critical of the MCU’s earlier treatment of her character, she herself struggled with understanding a woman’s self-worth. At the time, she admits she might have taken a comment about being a ‘piece of meat’ as a compliment, before she truly started growing into herself and improving her self-confidence. Now, she is excited that films like Black Widow are shifting their focus onto the strength and worth of their female heroes. The rectifying of her character’s past sexualization is part of a larger evolution in films to instill positive messages of self-worth in young girls, and Johansson is proud to be a part of it.
The sexualization of heroines is a problem that has plagued many superhero franchises. Rather than focus on the strength or courage of these characters, the films highlight their sexuality with extremely tight or revealing costumes, very physical and erotic combat scenes, and constant love affairs with male characters. However, some films are starting to rectify this. The Black Widow trailers and posters show a woman who is tough and fierce, fighting with everything she has against someone who wants to take her life, rather than a woman in a revealing costume who gets catcalled and engages in fight scenes that are awkwardly intimate. Hopefully more films will follow in the footsteps of Black Widow to realistically and positively portray female heroes so that young girls can see themselves in them.
Source: Sade Spence
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