The journey of Black Widow as a character in the Marvel Cinematic Universe has been a long one, and she has been there since the beginning when she debuted in Iron Man 2. Although, upon reflection from some producers at Marvel Studios, some aspects of her introduction could have been done without the unnecessary objectification.
One goal of Marvel Studios moving forward is to make a "conscientious effort" not to objectify its female characters. This change at the studio happened over time with the help of actresses like Scarlett Johansson, as explained in her latest interview.
NO TENNIS WHITES FOR BLACK WIDOW
In an interview with Fatherly, Scarlett Johansson was asked about the sexualization of Natasha Romanoff in previous MCU films and how Black Widow addresses that.
Johansson explained that there was "an evolution of her look," which was helped by "gaining the trust of the executives at Marvel:"
"After Iron Man to going into Avengers, there’s been an evolution of her look. I think part of that is just gaining the trust of the executives at Marvel and kind of sitting in the character and just being able to make decisions for her. That really happened fairly early on."
Despite her more sexualized beginning, Johansson still gives praise to costume designer Mary Zophres for providing her "an absolutely beautiful femme fatale look" in Iron Man 2:
"I mean, in Iron Man 2, I worked with the amazing incredible costume designer Mary Zophres, who created an absolutely beautiful femme fatale look for the character. And it was very stunning."
Johansson compared the evolution of Natasha as a character to the costumes she wore on set and how even Marvel was interested in the character being "a shape-shifter:"
"In some says I look at it as a costume she was wearing — at the time, Marvel was interested in the character being a shape-shifter. When we were doing Captain America: The Winter Soldier — this is a really funny thing — the look is fantastic and utilitarian."
However, there was one introduction for Black Widow in the Captain America: The First Avenger sequel that was scrapped, which involved her wearing "tennis whites" and "a blonde wig:"
"She first drives up in this beautiful car and picks up Cap, and initially in the script, it was like, she arrives in her tennis whites, with a blonde wig. It was very quickly killed."
The actress mentioned that in the beginning, she worked with a lot of male writers. But over time, there was a gradual transition, with Johansson stating that "You have to be a part of the change" due to the continuing cultural shifts:
"You work with a lot of male writers. Things were shifting. You have to be a part of the change. Audiences are also demanding stuff and there’s a cultural shift and it feeds everything into a more progressive direction. It’s been a process, it’s been a process."
COLLABORATIVE EFFORT OF POSITIVE CHANGE
Coupled with Marvel Studios no longer pushing for extended picture deals with actors and stars like Scarlett Johansson and Tom Hiddleston becoming executive producers on their respective projects, it seems like the future for the studio is a more collaborative one with its performers.
Hopefully, this means that actors will be more willing to work with Marvel Studios than in the past, such as Joaquin Phoenix who turned down the role of Doctor Strange. The reason has never been outright confirmed, but it likely involved that enormous deal he would have to sign, along with any lack of involvement in the project.
This is something that is no longer the case, at least with actresses like Scarlett Johansson.