I’ve been writing about the potential Black Widow film since 2013, and I’ve been rooting for it to happen for many years prior. Now that the official trailer is out, I’m surprised at just how much I don’t care about it anymore.
To say I’ve been pulling for Black Widow to have her own solo film would be an understatement. I’ve written about it here on this website so many times over the years, I’m sure I’ve lost count (some easy to find examples: 1, 2). But now the trailer is out and I can confidently say I don’t care anymore. And I’m honestly more surprised at this than I should be.
A large part of this has to do with Scarlett Johansson and her highly offensive actions the past few years. Trouble began when she took the part of an Asian character in Ghost In The Shell, which is a mistake I could have forgiven if she’d realized how big of a deal that casting choice was when people began to point out the issues. Audiences have evolved a lot over the years and things that were interpreted as acceptable a decade ago are being called out much more openly than ever before. It was never right, but I could forgive an actor for not understanding the implications of such a choice prior to audiences feeling confident enough to raise their voices so vocally against it.
But she then doubled down and took the role of a trans man in Rub & Tug immediately after that (we outlined why this is problematic in Why Scarlett Johansson Wanting to Play a Trans Man in ‘Rub & Tug’ Is Wrong). Instead of listening to the criticism about taking roles from marginalized communities, she fought back by saying she should be able to play anyone, or ‘every tree‘ she wants. The project was eventually scrapped, but the damage had been done. Many fans in the LGBTQ+ community had been soured on her as an actress and it was going to be hard to move on from it.
But some of us wanted to try to move on, even if we felt betrayed by her consistent lack of care for marginalized communities. We’d invested so much in the character that we tried to separate the artist from the art. It was going to be a struggle, but we were rooting for Natasha Romanoff and we felt we had to try to put up with ScarJo’s antics. Maybe she should could just lay low for a while, we thought, and we could enjoy the film separate from the controversy.
But then, as if the Ghost in the Shell and Rub & Tug issues weren’t enough, she defended Woody Allen. Any enthusiasm I had for Black Widow was completely sunk at that point, even if I hadn’t fully realized it at the time. She did eventually apologize for her reaction to the backlash for Rub & Tug (too little too late, in my opinion), but she’s clung to her defense of Woody Allen through it all. Woody Allen is going to be the hill she chooses to die on and I don’t think any amount of critical media coverage about it will change her mind.
Trying to put aside one or two issues with an actor to enjoy their work is a struggle, but doable under certain circumstances. Lord knows I have a small collection of problematic faves. But this? It crossed too many lines too many times with far too much defensiveness over being called out and not enough listening to fairly legitimate issues regarding these choices.
But somehow I still wanted to try, you know? I’ve devoted so much of my time to rallying for this film and it felt like a betrayal to have an actress care so little about fans from marginalized communities that have been rooting for her to succeed.
I’m a die hard Marvel Cinematic Universe fan. I’ve camped out overnight at SDCC to get into the MCU panel in Hall H for many years and plan to do it again for as long as they keep showing up to the con. The feeling of being in that room, surrounded with the electric energy of other die hard MCU fans, cheering as our favorite creators and actors take the stage – it’s something that’s hard to describe. It’s life changing, and there’s a reason I keep doing it year after year.
So when they introduced the Black Widow film last summer, showed us those exclusive clips, and passed out collectible Black Widow baseball caps to the audience, I maybe should have realized something was wrong when I felt numb to it all. I sat mostly silent through this part of the presentation, clapping politely when it was appropriate, but otherwise I was still and felt dead inside.
After all these years of loudly demanding that this film get made, and now it’s right here in front of me, I feel nothing for it.
Some may also feel that the timing of this film is off. The character is dead, and this feels like a bone being thrown to an audience after the fact. The Infinity Saga is over, but here’s your Black Widow film! To an extent I can agree with this, but I feel like I’d be able to push past this. I managed to enjoy Rogue One despite knowing exactly how that was going to end.
I’m not going to tell people to not go see this film. I still think it’s important to have a diverse array of leads in MCU films and we should show our support to these efforts. I would be absolutely thrilled if this film does well, despite my personal issues with the lead actress. But I may not be able to separate myself from the controversy anymore and don’t think I’ll be able to go see it in theaters. If I do, I may wait a while and not go opening weekend.
This isn’t a call to action, but a personal choice based on my own discomfort with ScarJo’s actions. And I wish I didn’t feel like I had to do this. But if my experience in Hall H was any indicator, paying to see the film on the first night to feel that excitement of the opening night crowd will be a complete waste of money to me. Black Widow has been ruined for me and I don’t think I can try to pretend that I’m rooting for her any longer.
Author: Angel Wilson
Angel is the admin of The Geekiary and a geek culture commentator. They earned a BA in Film & Digital Media from UC Santa Cruz. They have contributed to various podcasts and webcasts including An Englishman in San Diego, Free to Be Radio, and Genre TV for All. They’ve also written for Friends of Comic Con and is a 2019 Hugo Award winner for contributing fanfic on AO3. They identify as queer.
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