Scarlett Johansson On The Ridiculous, Sexist Portrayals Of Superheroines

In a conversation with Entertainment Weekly about a sequel to The Avengers, Scarlett Johansson drops some knowledge about why superheroine movies have tended to fail so badly:

I’d have to wear pasties to greenlight any of these movies…They’re always fighting in a bra, so while it might be exciting for a still photo, it’s ridiculous. One of the most exciting thing about [The Avengers,] is that in my opening scene the first thing you see is my character getting punched in the face. Everybody’s like, ‘Damn, it’s nice to see a girl get the shit kicked out of her…Superheroine movies are normally really corny and bad. They’re always like, fighting in four inch heels with their [thrusting out her chest] like a two-gun salute.

If you want audiences to respond to superheroines like they respond to superheroes, you have to treat them the same way. Their bodies can be admirable, but they should be framed so we admire what these heroes are capable of accomplishing with those bodies, not solely as objects of consumption. In The Avengers, we’re introduced to Captain America through a shot that presents his body as a beautiful thing, but we immediately see him using it to wreck a sandbag, and later, to perform remarkable feats. Ditto for their romances: My Super Ex-Girlfriend may have been meant as comedy, but its depiction of an insecure superheroine whipping out her powers solely to take revenge on a man who made her feel awful was sour and disappointing. In the X-Men movies, Dark Phoenix kills one lover and overdoes it with another, Rogue’s in constant danger of killing off any man she wants to touch, while the X-Men: First Class incarnation of Mystique has an implied encounter with Magneto that’s more about solidarity than a real relationship. It’d be nice to see a superheroine have a relationship, whether it’s with a superhero or a normal person, that’s about providing her with affirmation, with a reason to fight, rather than that acting as an illustration of her weakness.

Now, superheroines don’t have to fight the same way as superheroes, or to have the same priorities and motivations. In fact, it would be interesting for them to be different. But whether it’s Black Widow circumventing the need to torture Loki by conducting a skilled interrogation that never gets physical or Mystique grappling with the fact that having a power sometimes makes people more frightened of you than admiring, that difference should be a means of articulating that there are multiple kinds of power that are equally effective, not that being a woman with powers means you can never be equal to a man.