Scarlett Johansson is a well-known actress, but her most popular role is without a doubt Marvel’s Natasha “The Black Widow” Romanoff. This character debuted in Iron Man 2 (2010). We are introduced to Johansson’s character under the pretense that Natalie Rushman (Johansson) is a representative from legal to help turn Stark Industries over to Pepper Potts, and later gets the job as Tony Stark’s assistant. While it is not revealed to the audience that Natalie Rushman is Natasha Romanoff until further into the movie, most marvel fans watched this movie knowing exactly who Johansson was hired to play.
Throughout the film, Natasha Romanoff is portrayed as “eye-candy.” There are even a few scenes where other characters talk down to Johansson’s character. In her first on-screen appearance, Romanoff steps into a boxing ring with Tony Stark’s driver, Happy Hogan. Tony Stark starts off the interaction by telling Happy to “give her a [boxing] lesson.” Happy goes on to ask if her previous lessons were at “Booty Boot Camp.” At first glance, this little piece of dialogue seems like a way for Happy to get a sense of the level of experience Romanoff has, but that is not the underlying message. This one suggestion insinuated that Romanoff had no real experience with boxing, and therefore had no idea what she was doing. Romanoff goes on to prove that she is a skilled fighter by using an overly-sexualized maneuver. Being the Black Widow, Romanoff is skilled in all styles of fighting, so she knows many ways to disarm, and even take down, an opponent. Even with this piece of knowledge, the directors still chose to use a move that involves wrapping her legs around Happy’s neck. Most viewers might watch this scene with one thought: If it were a man in this scene, would he have used the same move?
After accepting the position as Tony Stark’s assistant, we begin to see Romanoff more often. In her first appearance, Romanoff is seen wearing a skintight button-up shirt and trousers, but in her next few scenes, Romanoff is seen in even less clothing. Within a few minutes of her introduction into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Natasha Romanoff has gone from this legal representative with very little skin showing, in tight clothing, to an over-payed assistant in inappropriate clothing.
As a genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist, Tony Stark is know to throw and attend extravagant parties. While attending these events, Romanoff is still acting as Tony Stark’s assistant and she should be dressed as such. During one dinner meeting/event, Romanoff is wearing a super low-cut dress; anyone can see what she has on underneath. At another party, Romanoff is wearing an even shorter and tighter spaghetti strap dress. With so many of these subtle choices, one after another, the viewer cannot help but wonder: Why does Scarlett Johansson have to wear such outfits; especially since Gwyneth Paltrow’s Pepper Potts is always in professional clothing? In every scene that Pepper Potts is in, she is wearing a dress, or skirt, that is near knee-length and has a super high neckline.
It seems that the director, Jon Favreau (who also portrayed Happy Hogan), has made the conscious decision to portray Johansson’s character in this way. To Favreau, is Natasha Romanoff really a superhero? Or is Natasha Romanoff just meant to be super-hot?