How Scarlett Johansson hurt years of excitement for the Black Widow movie


The Black Widow movie has garnered a lot of hype as one of Marvel’s most demanded movies. But Scarlett Johansson just put that in jeopardy.

If you rewind the clock back to 2012 as Marvel was just reaching new heights with the Avengers, you might hear the cry from thousands of fans demanding a Black Widow movie — female fans, in particular, who were celebrating the only female superhero in the MCU.

That energy carried out pretty much all through the years, never fizzling, but amplified even more when word finally got around that a Black Widow movie was finally happening. More news is building by the day, and the movie’s even signed on its director. But now, those years worth of longing, celebration, and anticipation are starting to feel ruined as the Black Widow star, Scarlett Johansson, is haphazardly destroying her career.

Just last week, Scarlett Johansson defended herself against a controversial decision to play a trans man in an upcoming movie, Rub & Tug —  and it took her until Friday to finally drop out of the project. We at Culturess have already talked about how both Johansson and Hollywood have completely disregarded trans actors when it comes to trans roles. And that is only just one strike against Johansson in the out-of-touch missteps she’s taken in her career.

Previously, Johansson came under fire for her role in Ghost in the Shell, in which she had played a character that was originally Japanese. The warning signs for Ghost in the Shell at the box office should have been clear for Rub & Tug when audiences didn’t show up as predicted due to the casting decision. And now, it’s starting to feel like Black Widow might catch the slack from these two controversies as well.

It’s certainly such a shame, because the Black Widow movie has amassed so much hype over the years. Before we got characters like Gamora, Hope van Dyne, Shuri and others in the MCU, Black Widow was the only female hero to look up to. She carried her own weight, she didn’t take anything from anyone, and (you had to admit) her fighting style was completely bad-to-the-bone.  Even despite the bump in Natasha Romanov’s character arc in Avengers: Age of Ultron, she was still a great character — and certainly one that deserved her own solo movie.

The other Avengers (save for Hawkeye) had gotten their own solo movies. But Black Widow always played second fiddle, working in the background of the lead male characters. What could that mean for the female fans who looked up to her? That they’d always have to live in the shadow of a man, not getting the fair credit for the hard work that they do? (Sorry Tony Stark and Steve Rogers. Natasha saved your butts lots of times. Admit it!) That certainly wouldn’t be something Black Widow would let happen.

But now that Scarlett Johansson’s starting to display this serial problematic behavior, it makes wanting a Black Widow movie bittersweet. Are we to support a movie we’ve been longing for so much, even after what the lead actress has done? Is Marvel Studios supposed to celebrate a movie with an actress who has come under fire?

While there may be no right or wrong answers, Scarlett Johansson’s success is in her own hands. Yes, the world still needs a Black Widow movie. Unfortunately, it’s the lead actress who might ruin a good character and movie because of her own missteps. Although Johansson did backtrack and issue a statement to apologize, the damage has already been done. As a professor of mine once taught my class, “It’s not what you meant to do; it’s what did.” Further action to help out the trans and the rest of the LGBTQ community would help her to rebuild her credibility, but it will take a while before that trust is gained once again.

Aside from the Black Widow movie, there are other projects to make up for the long cry for a solo female hero MCU movie. The Captain Marvel movie has finished filming and will be out in 2019. Marvel Studios is also moving forward with a Ms. Marvel movie, featuring the first female Muslim hero to appear in the MCU.

Related Story: Don't just blame Scarlett Johansson, blame Hollywood

So Marvel might have its hands dirtied with the Black Widow movie, but female fans, in particular, should take more pleasure in knowing that the Scarlett Johansson news isn’t the end of the world.

The MCU’s got Jane Foster, Okoye, Agent Hill and so many others who aren’t Black Widow (and aren’t played by Scarlett Johansson). So we can continue to celebrate them, and hope that Marvel continues to celebrate their awesome ladies of the MCU as well.

This story has been updated to include Scarlett Johansson’s decision to step down from the Rub & Tug role.