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Scarlett Johansson has changed a lot in the last decade. So too has her MCU character, Black Widow, who has evolved immensely since first appearing in 2010's Iron Man 2, particularly with regards to how sexualized she was.
“Ten years have passed and things have happened and I have a much different, more evolved understanding of myself,” she shared in an interview with Collider. “As a woman, I’m in a different place in my life, you know?”
That different place in her life, a place where she says she's more forgiving and accepting of herself, has also caused her to push back on how Black Widow is depicted. “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.”
Johansson is referencing the moment in Iron Man 2 when Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) ogles Black Widow from afar and tells Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow), “I want one.” (Pepper says no.) Tony, in Johansson’s words, “at one point calls [Black Widow] 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.”
Black Widow getting her own movie is something that didn’t happen until recently in the MCU, something that Johansson said is probably a good thing given how much she and her character have evolved over the years. “In some ways, I’m actually very thankful that it’s happening now, because we can actually make a movie that’s about real stuff and audiences want that. I think they always wanted that. Now the studio’s kind of caught up to that, which is fine. It’s all good. Better late than never.”
Black Widow premieres in theaters and will be available to Disney+ subscribers for an additional $29.99 starting July 9.