Anonymous asked: I think that Scarlett does a fantastic job as Natasha, but some of my friends aren't convinced. Do you like her as Natasha?
Scarlett Johansson doesn’t fit my ephemeral mental image— I see Natasha as taller, more angular, more balletic. I also really wish they’d have found someone of Slavic descent to play her. This said, I realize pretty well that no one can cast to my ephemeral mental image, and I think Johansson’s done fine in the role. She was much better in the Avengers, when the script gave her more to do than act as a cypher secretary and be oogled by Tony Stark, but I thought she did fine (not good, but fine) with what she had in Iron Man 2 as well.
The thing about film stars is that we tend to form strong attachments to them outside of their films. I don’t really invest in celeb culture or fandom and so I hadn’t seen many of Johansson’s films before Iron Man 2 and none of them had forced me to draw line-in-the-sand conclusions about her acting ability. But I’m kind of really fascinated by how her star-image has spun into the perception of the Natasha character. Johansson is an actress who is probably more famous for being attractive than for her acting ability— she tends to take roles in smallish art house type pictures that don’t gross big $$$, but the tabloid cameras follow her around and she dated Sean Penn that one time. I don’t really blame her (or, more realistically, her management) for this; I don’t think Hollywood provides much for 20-something women to do besides be attractive, though I doubt she arrived at 166 Sex Symbol Ave by accident.
As a result, though, I think a lot of people decided that Black Widow was eyecandy in the Avengers film because they see Scarlett Johansson as eyecandy. Even people who praised the character tended to highlight Joss Whedon as the big factor— “Joss Whedon’s Black Widow”— at least partly, I believe, because Whedon has a much more “feminist” reputation than Johansson. Meanwhile, when critics wanted to praise the Hulk, it was praise for “Mark Ruffalo’s Hulk”, though really the Hulk is a character that depends much more on the skills of the special effects team and than Black Widow does.
I can’t say I like all of this. But it does, in a weird way, totally fit the concept of Black Widow, and makes Johansson an absolutely inspired casting choice.