Scarlett Johansson Criticizes Black Widow’s Sexualized Portrayal in 'Iron Man 2'

Scarlett Johansson spoke candidly about the "hypersexualization" of Natasha Romanoff when she made her debut appearance in Marvel's 'Iron Man 2.'

Scarlett Johansson attends the 2020 Vanity Fair Oscar Party.

Image via Getty/Toni Anne Barson

Scarlett Johansson attends the 2020 Vanity Fair Oscar Party.

Scarlett Johansson will bid farewell (maybe) to her Marvel character Natasha Romanoff next month with the long overdue standalone film, Black Widow.

Since Romanoff made her debut in 2010’s Iron Man 2, the character has undergone considerable growth that culminated in her sacrifice in Avengers: Endgame in an effort to obtain the Soul Stone. Similarly, Johansson has pushed the studio to develop a more nuanced role that moved past Natasha’s sexualized portrayal in the first film, which the actress touched upon while answering a question from Sade Spence for Hello Beautiful during a 2019 visit to the Black Widow set.

“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,” Johansson said. “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.”

Johansson recalled Romanoff being openly talked about in Iron Man 2 in a possessive manner with Tony Stark saying, “I want one,” after she left the room. “All of that is related to that move away from the kind of hypersexualization of this character and, I mean, you look 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,” she said. 

View this video on YouTube

Johansson wondered if Romanoff’s portrayal in Iron Man 2 reflected the perspective of many young women in regards to the male gaze and how it incorrectly equates to their own self-worth. “Maybe at that time, maybe that actually felt like a compliment. You know what I mean?” she said at the time. “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 believes that Romanoff’s sexuality may have initially been her strength, but over time, it became her vulnerability. Black Widow will be simultaneously released in theaters and made available on Disney+ Premier Access on July 9. 

Latest in Pop Culture