The journey of Black Widow
through the Marvel
Cinematic Universe is essentially a prime example of the “how it started versus how it is going” meme.
When we first met the Avenger in 2010's "Iron Man 2," she was little more than a form-fitting catsuit and wig with an impressive arsenal of martial arts moves. Now, more than a decade later, the Avenger is at the center of her own stand-alone film, thanks in large part to Scarlett Johansson
's investment in her on-screen alter ego's humanity.
In an interview
with Collider about the evolution
of her character, the actress opened up about the sexist origins of Black Widow, aka Natasha Romanoff, whom she described as being treated as a "possession" in her first iteration.
“You look back at ‘Iron Man 2,’ and while it was a lot of fun and had a lot of great moments in it, the character is so sexualized,” she said, “really talked about like she’s a piece of something, like a possession or a thing or whatever — like a piece of ass, really.”
In her first scene in the franchise, Johansson's character goes undercover as a personal assistant to Tony Stark, who openly ogles her, prompting Gwyneth Paltrow
's Pepper Potts to compare her to a "very expensive sexual harassment lawsuit
" in the works. After browsing through photos
of Johansson in lingerie, Stark tells Potts, "I want one."
“At one point, [Tony Stark] calls her a piece of meat, and maybe at the time that felt like a compliment, because my thinking was different.... My own self-worth was probably measured against that type of comment,” Johansson continued.
Johansson believes that the evolution of Black Widow in later films is due to a “move away from the kind of hyper-sexualization,” which allows the creative team to present a multidimensional version of the comic book
While Widow's sexuality
remains an important part of her personality, Johansson now believes that "her strength was actually her vulnerability."
“Young girls are receiving a much more positive message, but it’s been incredible to be a part of that shift and to be able to come out the other side and be a part of that old story, but also progress,” she added.
The upcoming film "Black Widow," which takes place before the events of "Avengers: Endgame" and explores the character's mysterious origins, also marks a turning point for Johansson off-screen.
“I’m a mother, and my life is different,” she explained. “Obviously, 10 years have passed and things have happened, and I have a much different, more evolved understanding of myself. As a woman, I’m in a different place in my life, you know? And I felt more forgiving of myself, as a woman, and not — sometimes probably not enough. I’m more accepting of myself.”
After multiple COVID-19-related delays, the film, directed by Cate Shortland and co-starring Florence Pugh as a possible Black Widow replacement, is finally set to hit theaters and premiere on Disney
+ via Premier Access on July 9, 2021.