SNL and Scarlett Johanson parody Marvel’s sexism with Black Widow rom-com

Warning: This post contains spoilers for Avengers: Age of Ultron.

Sexism within the superhero movie genre, and particularly when it comes to Black Widow (played by Scarlett Johanson) is a well-documented phenomenon. The first Avengers films had far too many gratuitous “butt-shots” of Black Widow to deny that objectification was anything but a key component to her presence in the first film. Black Widow, though undeniably beautiful, is more than just her skin-tight, leather suit. She’s a Soviet-trained spy who has better hand-to-hand combat skills than anyone else on the team except for, maybe, Captain America. Basically, she’s a boss!

In the first film, Black Widow’s story arch included her moral dilemma of working to erase the “red in her ledger.” Though a simple metaphor, there’s some substance behind her desires and reasoning to be a part of S.H.I.E.L.D. and the Avengers. In Age of Ultron, Black Widow’s storyline is about her relationship with Bruce Banner and her inability to have children. This is a continuation of the theme involving her struggle to reconcile her past with her present, but done in such a way that evokes eye-rolling and jeers at the corruption of her character. Saturday Night Live agrees, providing this excellent parody of the Black Widow storylines in Age of Ultron, while poking fun at Marvel’s incredible sexism.

The internet scuffle happening around Black Widow’s character development and representation hopefully represents a turning point regarding the integration of women into Avengers and Marvel films. In announcing the next phase of films, Marvel left out Black Widow, instead choosing to introduce a new female character: Captain Marvel. Captain Marvel, slated to premiere in 2018, will be the first superhero film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe to feature a woman…after the first 14 centered male characters nearly exclusively. What makes Marvel so frustrating is the fact that there are women in their films — they just largely support the men in their “avenging,” even when they are capable to be draws in their own right. Black Widow should have had a movie in phase three, alongside Captain Marvel. There can be multiple films featuring women!

As I’ve written before, women can drive a market and have huge purchasing power. Superheros don’t have to be for men and boys, and in fact many people of all genders enjoy comic books and their live-action counterparts. Comics have had many progressive moments, including multiple queer characters, and interesting story lines including women. It’s time for Marvel to realize that by simply playing to the market they assume will show up, they miss so many people wishing to be included, ready to buy ALL the Black Widow toys.


Katie Barnes (they/them/their) is a pop-culture obsessed activist and writer. While at St. Olaf College studying History and (oddly) Russian (among other things), Katie fell in love with politics, and doing the hard work in the hard places. A retired fanfiction writer, Katie now actually enjoys writing with their name attached. Katie actually loves cornfields, and thinks there is nothing better than a summer night's drive through the Indiana countryside. They love basketball and are a huge fan of the UConn women's team. When not fighting the good fight, you can usually find Katie watching sports, writing, or reading a good book.

Katie Barnes is a pop-culture obsessed activist and writer.

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