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May 04, 2015

As ‘SNL’ spoofs Black Widow, leaked emails reveal studios’ gender bias

Posted in: Movies

Marvel fans have been wondering whether Scarlett Johansson will ever suit up for a Black Widow solo movie, following in the footsteps of Iron Man, Hulk, Thor and Captain America. If the studio ever gets around to it, they now have a hilarious “Saturday Night Live” spoof to remind them of what not to do.

When “The Avengers: Age of Ultron” co-star Johansson hosted “SNL” this weekend, it didn’t take long for her perpetually supporting role in the Marvel Cinematic Universe — and the state of onscreen female superheroes — to be skewered on the episode.

The spoof arrives at a time when Marvel Studios — and the superhero genre at large — has come under fire for the representation of female heroes on the big screen.

2004: Halle Berry as Catwoman in "Catwoman." (Doane Gregory / Warner Bros.)

Halle Berry in 2004’s “Catwoman.” (Doane Gregory / Warner Bros.)

A new batch of leaked emails from the Sony hack, posted at Wikileaks.org, indicates that Marvel Studios is still wary of female-driven superhero movies. In a leaked email sent to Sony’s Michael Lynton on Aug. 7, 2014, Marvel Entertainment Chief Executive Ike Perlmutter lists a number of recent (and not-so-recent) box office duds based on female superheroes — including 2004’s “Catwoman,” 2005’s “Elektra” and, bizarrely, “Supergirl” from 1984, a full three decades ago — with commentary about each film’s quality and low grosses.

The leak makes “SNL’s” faux trailer for the fictional “Black Widow: Age of Me” to appear impeccably timed.

The spoof video (above) answers the question, “Does Marvel not know how to make a girl superhero movie?” by reframing the butt-kicking Avenger Black Widow as a young professional looking for love and subjecting her to a slew of rom-com cliches, including an internship at a fashion magazine and a meet-cute with a dashing Ultron.

It also gives “SNL” cast members a chance to act out some superhero fantasies as they give their pal Black Widow romantic advice, with Beck Bennett playing squarer-than-usual Captain America, Jay Pharoah donning Samuel L. Jackson’s eye patch as Nick Fury, Taran Killam using Thor as a way to tweak the sassy gay roommate stereotype and Bobby Moynihan suiting up as a love-struck and hilariously grammar-impaired Incredible Hulk.

While Marvel hasn’t announced a “Black Widow” solo film, the studio has plans to bring the female hero “Captain Marvel” to the big screen in 2018, while Warner Bros. and DC Entertainment are developing a “Wonder Woman” feature for 2017, after first introducing her in next year’s “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.”

Scarlett Johansson as Natasha Romanoff, left, and Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner in "Avengers: Age of Ultron." (Jay Maidment / Marvel)

Scarlett Johansson as Natasha Romanoff, left, and Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner in “Avengers: Age of Ultron.” (Jay Maidment / Marvel)

Marvel has also been highly criticized for the lack of Black Widow-related toys and merchandise, with “Avengers” co-star Mark Ruffalo recently pointing out that fact on Twitter.

In the meantime, Johansson has praised Marvel and “Age of Ultron” writer-director Joss Whedon for the representation of heroic ladies in the film, which also stars Elizabeth Olsen as Scarlet Witch.

“For so long, female superheroes have been mistreated, and I think women’s roles in general are often oversimplified and generic and saccharine,” Johansson told the Los Angeles Times in April.

“I’ve finally been able to be a part of creating this character that is really multifaceted, and it’s fallen into what is generally a kind of male-dominated genre,” Johansson added. “To finally be sharing that with somebody else, and certainly with Lizzie, is a wonderful thing and a step in the right direction.”

— Dave Lewis | @LATHeroComplex

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