Scarlett Johansson reflects on Black Widow’s role in shaping the MCU for women


Black Widow was the MCU’s first female superhero. Now, there are a plethora of female heroes, and Scarlett Johansson reflected on how Black Widow led the way.

Before the MCU looked as diverse as it is today, there was only one female superhero among the five other Avengers at the time — Black Widow, played by Scarlett Johansson. First introduced as a secretary for Tony Stark while undercover, Black Widow proved to be a fierce fighter, shattering everyone’s expectations about how incredible she could be.

In a way, Black Widow’s character arc parallels the inclusion of women in the Marvel Cinematic Universe as a whole. Expectations were shattered when it came to feelings about female-led superhero movies, and the movie industry is slowly learning its lesson that audiences do want to see these kinds of movies.

Coming off the heels of this revelation with the super successful Captain MarvelEntertainment Weekly asked Johansson how she felt about Black Widow paving the way for this kind of success in the MCU.

For someone to be the first of her kind, Johansson was humble in her response, admitting she didn’t have a “total perspective on it,” and that she was just a small part in making that happen. Despite that, she says her character has grown, and that’s helped to make way for more three-dimensional female heroes in the films.

"She’s come into her own as a woman, saying, “Who am I? And what do I want? And what do I need out of my relationships and also out of my own self?” She’s someone who’s understanding her own self-worth. And that is such a powerful journey to see anybody take, but certainly to see a woman on screen represented in that way: a flawed superhero with a gray moral compass coming to terms with what’s happened to her. It’s definitely shown some sort of path for these other female superheroes to be able to walk down. I certainly don’t take credit for that, though."

One person Johansson did give credit to for the creation and empowerment of Black Widow was Avengers director Joss Whedon. This may seem like an odd choice, given the criticisms Whedon’s faced for his portrayal of female characters (and that Black Widow-Bruce Banner romance in Avengers: Age of Ultron), but Johansson defended his choices for Black Widow.

"[Whedon] is such a huge believer in strong female characters and story lines. He really celebrated the characters’ flaws and wanted to bring them to light. I say flaws — not really, but what she perceives [flaws] to be. Just having [Whedon’s] support and him wanting to shine a light on that character really made a huge difference."

For a huge movie studio like Marvel Studios, the credit, of course, is split. And Johansson does deserve a fair share of that credit for playing the MCU’s first female hero. Just like the other actors, she brought a character to life that women could resonate with and cheer on.

The love for her character was so great that people immediately wanted a Black Widow solo movie. It’s been almost 10 years since Scarlett Johansson first appeared on screen as Natasha Romanoff, and now we’re finally getting that solo movie. Even though it feels like it took forever for that to happen, at least Marvel is listening to its fans.

In the interview, Mark Ruffalo also gave some credit to Kevin Feige, Marvel Studio’s president, who he claims always believed in the power of having female heroes on screen. Feige had to push through a lot of resistance to get a female hero as the lead, but now we see that his resilience has paid off for Marvel’s future. We have Captain Marvel, Shuri, Gamora, and so many other female heroes in the MCU now. In the future, expect to see even more female heroes like Miss Marvel and Eternal’s Sersi to make their way to the big screen.

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Scarlett Johansson will appear as Black Widow in Avengers: Endgame, which is in theaters April 26. The Black Widow movie is expected to come out in 2020.