While Johansson’s first Marvel appearance in Iron Man 2 may have relied somewhat upon sex appeal, this was quickly nixed in favor of characterizing her as the most cerebral Avenger. Her most important scenes in The Avengers relied upon her intelligence and skills as a spy, to the extent that she even managed to outwit Loki, the God of Lies. At the end of the movie, she’s the one who closes the portal that let all the aliens into New York. Then in Winter Soldier she’s given second billing to Captain America, a meaty role that showcases a wide-ranging skillset that stretches far beyond just “kicking ass.” At no point during any of these movies does she seduce anyone, by the way.

Sadly, there’s very little sign of this character in the most easily accessible reviews of both The Avengers and Winter Soldier. Judging by the Guardian, WSJ, or New Yorker, Black Widow is more like a blow-up doll with a black belt. By their logic, if she’s wearing a tight outfit, then she must be a sexy ass-kicker, meaning that she must be the token female character, and therefore is little more than eye candy.

With that thought process in mind, it must make perfect sense to relegate Black Widow to a single sniggering comment about her catsuit, because obviously Scarlett Johansson is just there for decoration. And if you’ve read in the New York Times that Black Widow is a token female character, then chances are you’ll have internalized that opinion before you even buy a ticket. The feedback loop of misogynist preconceptions continues on, and in the end, we all lose out.

Gavia Baker-Whitelaw, Every review of Black Widow in ‘Captain America’ is wrong (via fyeahmcublackwidow)

It’d help if they wouldn’t use the catsuit, then, you know? Or if they didn’t unzip it? v0v

(via taterpie)

I’m torn about this, because even though Black Widow isn’t overly sexualized in Winter Soldier, she doesn’t really have that much agency in it, either. Think about it – despite having more experience than Cap, she lets him take the lead in the fight against Hydra, and is shown throughout to be entirely subservient to the alpha male in her life at the time – first Fury, then Cap.

Beyond that, she’s shown to be unclear about who she “is,” unclear about her convictions or ambition beyond making up for (apologizing for?) her past and someone who teases Cap about his love life. She has more lines of dialogue suggesting that he should date someone than she does about having any kind of external life of her own. I’m not quite sure in what way Widow really has a “meaty role” in the movie beyond “she’s in a lot of scenes,” to be honest. Johannson is very charming, but it’s a horrifically underwritten role at best.

(Also, I’d argue that Avengers really relied upon her intelligence or skills as a spy; we’re told that she’s an amazing spy*, but think about it – we first come across her when she’s been captured, and that’s about all the actual spy stuff she has in the movie. The rest of it is all kicking ass. Which is fine and great, but it’s not the same thing as showcasing her intelligence or spy skills.)

(* This is not something that’s limited to Widow in the Marvel movies, by the way; Hawkeye, too, we’re told is a great spy and amazing marksman, but it’s never really proven.)