Scarlett Johansson Reflects on Black Widow’s Sexualized First Appearance in Iron Man 2

After more than 10 years of being a supporting character to other Marvel heroes, Natasha Romanoff is finally getting her own movie next month in Black Widow. The superspy has come a long way since her first appearance in Iron Man 2, primarily in how she’s gone from crowd-pleasing eye candy to a fully-realized, complex character. Now, in a new interview with Collider, Scarlett Johansson is reflecting on her early days in the MCU.

“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,” said Johannson. “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.”

“All of that is related to that move away from the kind of hyper-sexualization of this character,” continued Johansson. “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.”

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In hindsight, Iron Man 2 is rife with sight gags that leveraged Johansson’s status as a Hollywood sex symbol. For example, there’s a scene where Natasha changed into her tactical suit in the backseat of Happy Hogan’s car. Happy even tried to get a peek in his rearview mirror. Johansson also brought up Natasha’s very first scene in the film. After she pins Happy during an impromptu boxing match, Tony Stark turns to Pepper Potts and says, “I want one.” Regardless, Johansson is happy that this objectification was phased out over subsequent installments.

“And maybe at that time that actually felt like a compliment,” added Johansson. “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. Evolve. I think it’s pretty cool.”

Black Widow hits theaters and Disney+ Premier Access on July 9.

Do you agree with Johansson’s remarks about how Natasha was depicted in Iron Man 2? Tell us what you think in the comment section below!

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