After more than a year of delays due to the pandemic, Marvel’s Black Widow is finally landing in theaters and Disney Plus with premiere access.
The spy thriller movie will see Scarlett Johansson’s Natasha Romanoff return to her beginnings to confront her past. The trained assassin was the first female avenger to grace our screens back in 2010’s Iron Man 2, becoming known for her killer looks and deadly skill set. The character oozed sex appeal. As a result, Johansson spent much of Marvel Cinematic Universe press tours fielding questions about her hip-hugging bodysuit and diet from both men and women reporters.
Black Widow no longer leads with her body as seen in more recent Avengers titles. She has certainly come a long way and a huge part of that is owed to Johansson. HelloBeautiful’s Sade Spence learned more about this when she traveled to the set of Black Widow and asked Johansson about the hyper sexualization of her character, how the character has grown, and how the standalone film will be different.
“Yeah, it definitely has changed,” Johansson said after settling into a tent on the studio grounds. She’d just walked off set, outfitted in a red wig pulled into a loose braid and her face marked with a few faux bruises and dirt. “I think part of that change is probably — it’s hard because like I’m inside it — but I think a lot of that is actually, it’s also like coming from me, too. You know, I’m 35 years old, and I’m a mom, and my life is different.”
As many of women can probably attest to, we are not the same as we were a decade ago and the type of treatment we accepted (or even entertained) from men has changed, too. The same can be said for Johansson and Romanoff.
Reflecting on her character’s beginnings in the MCU, she said, “While [the movie] was really fun and had a lot of great moments… the character is like so sexualized … talked about like she’s like a piece of something and like a possession. I think Tony even says something like that.”
He does. In Iron Man 2, the billionaire playboy says “ I want one” as Romanoff leaves the room.
Johansson goes on to draw on Romanoff’s growth, bringing up a valid point regarding many young women’s early experiences regarding the male gaze.
“Maybe at that time, maybe that actually felt like a compliment. You know what I mean?” she explained. “My thinking was different. My own self-worth was probably measured against that type of comment like a lot of young women. But as you come into your own … and you understand yourself without changing now.”
Johansson went on to share what it meant for her to be part of this change as a woman, mom, actor, and Natasha Romanoff.
“We’re getting like a much more positive message [now], but it’s really been incredible to be a part of that shift and be able to come out the other side, and not just be a part of that story but actually evolve,” she continued.
“Obviously, it’s 10 years… and so much has happened. I have a much different, more evolved understanding of myself as a woman. I’m in a different place in my life. I feel more forgiving of myself as a woman. Sometimes, probably not enough. All of that is what is needed to move away from the kind of hyper sexualization of this character.”
Before departing she left with a few more important words about Black Widow, in that her strength was once her “sexuality,” and “then that changed over time. Her strength was actually her vulnerability.”
Florence Pugh is entering the MCU as Romanoff’s estranged sister Yelena Belova. She told reporters Black Widow also confronts another sensitive subject for women: abuse.
“I think that’s one of the heartbreaks about this film… is that it is essentially about women that have been abused,” Pugh said, elaborating on the Black Widow program known for finding young girls, sterilizing them, and training them to become deadly assassins.
“Whether it’s about a system, or whether it’s about physical abuse, they’ve all been in some way, trapped and I think this film is the realization of the life that was taken from [them]. And that’s how Natasha and Yelena start repairing.”
The highly-anticipated film features a star-studded cast: Rachel Weisz, David Harbour, and O.T Fagbenle.
Black Widow bows in theaters and Disney+ with Premiere Access on July 9.