Scarlett Johansson criticises ‘hypersexualisation’ of Black Widow in Iron Man 2

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Scarlett Johansson has spoken out against the sexualisation of Black Widow in Iron Man 2, the 2010 blockbuster in which her character first appeared in the Marvel Cinematic Universe series.

Speaking to Collider in the run-up to the release of the standalone Black Widow film, Johansson said: “While [Iron Man 2] was really fun and had a lot of great moments in it, the character is so sexualised, you know? [She is] 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 … ‘I want some.’”

Scarlett Johansson and a decade of gender politics in the Marvel universe Read more

Johansson appears to be referring to the scene in Iron Man 2 when, as Natalie Rushman, Black Widow meets Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr) for the first time. After flicking through a series of pictures of Rushman, including one of the character in lingerie, Stark tells Gwyneth Paltrow’s Pepper Potts: “I want one.” (Potts earlier refers to Rushman as “a very expensive sexual harassment lawsuit if you keep ogling her”.)

Johansson added: “Maybe at that time that actually felt like a compliment. You know what I mean? Because my thinking was different … My own self-worth was probably measured against that type of comment [but], like a lot of young women, you come into your own and you understand your own self-worth.”

Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow in Iron Man 2. Photograph: François Duhamel/AP

Johansson went on to say that “young girls are getting a much more positive message” and that “it’s been incredible to be a part of that shift and be able to come out the other side”.

Johansson praised the “move away from the kind of hypersexualization of this character” in the new Black Widow film, which co-stars Florence Pugh and is directed by Cate Shortland. She said: “I’m a mom and my life is different. 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?”

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