UPDATE: This story originally attributed the incorrect outlet and has since been corrected to confirm Scarlett Johansson's remarks were in response to a question posited by Sade Spencer on behalf of Hello Beautiful. Original story and updated citation continues below.
Most of the characters in the Marvel Cinematic Universe have evolved over the course of more than a decade, with filmmakers also offering fresh perspectives on how the characters are depicted, resulting in Black Widow star Scarlett Johansson reflecting on her frustrations with how her character was seen merely as a "piece of ass" by the other characters when she was introduced in Iron Man 2. The actor didn't condemn the entire experience, noting how much fun she had making the movie, instead reflecting on how reductive her debut installment into the MCU looks now when compared to films that offer more nuanced approaches to superheroes.
"It definitely has changed and I think part of that change has probably — it’s hard because I’m inside it, but probably a lot of that is actually from me too," Johansson recently recalled to Hello Beautiful. "I’m more accepting of myself, I think. All of that is related to that move away from the kind of hyper-sexualization of this character and, I mean, you look back at Iron Man 2 and while it was really fun and had a lot of great moments in it, the character is so sexualized, you know? Really talked about like she’s a piece of something, like a possession or a thing or whatever — like a piece of ass, really. And Tony even refers to her as something like that at one point."
When Johansson's "Natalie Rushman" is introduced in Iron Man 2, she takes on Jon Favreau's Happy in a boxing ring, while Robert Downey Jr.'s Tony Stark ogles photos of her modeling lingerie, concluding the scene by proclaiming, "I want one."
"At one point [Stark] calls her a piece of meat and maybe at that time that actually felt like a compliment, you know what I mean?" the actor pointed out. "Because my thinking was different. Maybe I even would have ... my own self-worth was probably measured against that type of comment or, like a lot of young women, you come into your own and you understand your own self-worth. It’s changing now. Now people, young girls, are getting a much more positive message, but it’s been incredible to be a part of that shift and be able to come out the other side and be a part of that old story, but also progress. Evolve. I think it’s pretty cool."
After a number of delays, Johansson's prequel film Black Widow will be landing in theaters and on Disney+ Premier Access on July 9th.