When it comes to female representation, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has come a long way in recent years and next week, a very specific element of representation will finally make its way to the big screen. The MCU’s first female superhero, Natasha Romanoff, will finally get her own movie 11 years after her introduction in Iron Man 2 and when we see the character in Black Widow when it opens on July 9, she will be a far cry from the stereotypically sexualized character we first met her as. It’s an evolution not lost on Marvel Studios’ Executive Vice President of Production Victorio Alonso. Alonso told Time that there has been an effort to not objectify women in the MCU.
In the piece, Alonso, who is also a producer on Black Widow, recalled the scene in Iron Man 2 when, after Natasha (Scarlett Johansson) beats Happy Hogan boxing, Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) Google’s for photos of an underwear-clad Natasha and says “I want one” in reference to Pepper Potts’ comment that Natasha is “potentially a very expensive sexual harassment lawsuit.”
“It bothered me then and it bothers me now,” Alonso said. “I remember thinking, ‘She’s not a thing.’ But how apropos: the world sees a sexy woman and thinks that because she is beautiful, that’s all she has to give.”
While Johansson has steadily worked to develop Natasha as a character over each of her appearances in the MCU, progress has been slow even as the demand for a Black Widow solo film ramped up.
“There was always a myth that women’s stories don’t sell,” Alonso said. “That super-heroes can’t be women. We had to demystify a bunch of these myths that were very much a part of what Hollywood was all about.”
That demystification has come incrementally. Thor: Ragnarok saw the introduction of the MCU’s first primary female villain with Cate Blanchett’s Hela and in 2019, Captain Marvel saw the MCU’s first solo female lead with Brie Larson’s Carol Danvers/Captain Marvel. Avengers: Endgame saw the women of the MCU take a more active role in the action, prompting calls for an A-Force movie and, next week, Black Widow will finally get her solo film, one in which she’s a very different character than the Natasha we first met in Iron Man 2.
“I think there is a conscientious effort not to objectify women,” Alonso said.
Black Widow director Cate Shortland said something similar, noting that how Natasha was first presented was not who she really was.
“She was a character created for the male gaze,” Shortland said. “Initially, even the way she moved, the way she dressed —it was helpful as a stepping-stone. But it wasn’t who she was.”
Black Widow is now set to hit theaters and Disney+ on July 9th. If you haven’t signed up for Disney+ yet, you can try it out here.