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Scarlett Johansson: Black Widow Was ‘Sexualized’ and Treated ‘Like a Piece of Ass’ at First

Johansson said "it’s been incredible" to watch Black Widow's representation change over a decade.

Scarlett Johansson in "Iron Man 2"

Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow

Paramount Pictures

Scarlett Johansson is finally getting a standalone movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe after 11 years with the upcoming release of “Black Widow.” The Oscar nominee made her MCU debut in “Iron Man 2,” and she told reporters during a set visit roundtable (via HelloBeautiful and Collider) that Black Widow was “so sexualized” and treated “like a possession” in her early MCU appearance. That’s not how the character is depicted in “Black Widow,” which makes the film complete a full transformation for the superhero’s representation on the big screen.

“It definitely has changed and I think part of that change has probably — it’s hard because I’m inside it, but probably a lot of that is actually from me too,” Johansson said when asked about the sexualization of Black Widow. “I’ll be 35 years old and 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? And I felt more forgiving of myself, as a woman, and not — sometimes probably not enough. I’m more accepting of myself, I think.”

Johansson added, “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. What does he say?”

What Johansson is referring to is a scene in “Iron Man 2” where Tony Stark meets Black Widow/Natasha Romanoff. Tony’s right-hand man Happy Hogan is knocked out in the boxing ring by Natasha, leaving Stark impressed. Stark later tells Pepper Popps, “I want one,” referring to Natasha.

“Yeah and at one point [Tony] calls her a piece of meat and maybe at that time that actually felt like a compliment. You know what I mean?” Johansson said. “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. Evolve. I think it’s pretty cool.”

“Black Widow” is opening in theaters and streaming on Disney+ via its Premier Access banner on July 9.

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