It’s been evident for a long time that the future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe will place a greater emphasis on diversity, representation and inclusion than ever before, and Black Widow will be the next major step towards leveling the franchise’s playing field.
Not only is Phase Four’s theatrical kickoff the first of the studio’s comic book blockbusters to be directed solely by a woman as Cate Shortland follows in the footsteps of Anna Boden co-helming Captain Marvel alongside Ryan Fleck, it’s also the third MCU effort to boast a female title character. Scarlett Johansson’s Natasha Romanoff follows up Brie Larson’s Carol Danvers as women to take top billing in their own mega budget standalone offerings.
Looking at the upcoming slate of big screen and Disney Plus projects, the likes of Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, Eternals, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, The Marvels, Blade, Ms. Marvel, Ironheart and others all boast plenty of diversity on either side of the camera to continue in a similar vein.
In a new interview to promote Black Widow, Marvel Studios’ Executive Vice President of Film Production Victoria Alonso reiterated that the long-running series will no longer look to objectify women, after she directly used Tony Stark’s comments on Natasha during her first appearance in Iron Man 2 as an example.
“It bothered me then and it bothers me now. 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. There was always a myth that women’s stories don’t sell. That superheroes 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. I think there is a conscientious effort not to objectify women.”
Of course, looking at the sheer size of Chris Hemsworth’s arms, the majority of the MCU’s male superheroes will continue to enjoy the shirtless scenes that are surely contractually obligated to highlight the hard work they put in, but in a few years we could realistically be talking about Black Widow as a genuine turning point in terms of evening things out.