Scarlett Johansson Says Black Widow Was “Hyper-Sexualized” In ‘Iron Man 2’

"Maybe at that time that actually felt like a compliment...because my thinking was different."

The Black Widow that first appeared in 2010’s Iron Man 2 isn’t quite the same superhero that will grace the big screen in Black Widow come July. But that’s kind of a good thing, according to star Scarlett Johansson, who talked to Collider on June 15th. Johansson says she’s seen a massive change in the way female superheroes are presented and are much less sexualized than they once were. In fact, she believes her character Black Widow (real name Natasha Romanov) was “hyper-sexualized” in Iron Man 2, but no one was really paying attention to that sort of thing at the time.

It definitely has changed, she said, regarding Black Widow’s sexualization, 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 continued, “I’ll be 35 years old and I’m a mom and my life is different. As a woman, I’m in a different place in my life…I’m more accepting of myself, I think. All of that is related to that move away from the kind of hyper-sexualization of this character.”

“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. Tony [played by Robert Downy Jr.] even refers to her as something like that at one point. What does he say? ‘I want some.'”

“Maybe at that time that actually felt like a compliment…because my thinking was different,” Johansson told Collider of her character being called “a piece of meat.” “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,” she continued. “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.”

It is pretty cool, and we can’t wait to see how Johansson and Black Widow director Cate Shortland have evolved the character to redefine what a badass female superhero can look and act like outside the lens of the male gaze.

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