Feminist Groups Accuse Disney of ‘Gendered’ Attack on Scarlett Johansson

HOLLYWOOD, CA - MARCH 13: Actress Scarlett Johansson attends Marvel's "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" premiere at the El Capitan Theatre on March 13, 2014 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for Disney)
Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for Disney

Feminist advocacy groups Time’s Up, Women in Film Los Angeles, and ReFrame are accusing Disney of launching a “gendered character attack” against Scarlett Johansson over the company’s response to the actress’ Black Widow lawsuit filed against them on Thursday.

Johansson has filed a lawsuit against The Walt Disney Co. over its simultaneous theatrical and streaming release of Black Widow, claiming Disney broke its promise to her that it would open the movie in cinemas first. The actress has alleged the “day-and-date” release benefited Disney executives while depriving her of box-office receipts.

Disney reacted to the lawsuit on Thursday, stating that Johansson had already been paid $20 million for the film and that the release on Disney+ boosted her ability to “earn additional compensation.”

“There is no merit whatsoever to this filing,” a Disney spokesperson told USA Today. “The lawsuit is especially sad and distressing in its callous disregard for the horrific and prolonged global effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

“Disney has fully complied with Ms. Johansson’s contract and furthermore, the release of ‘Black Widow’ on Disney+ with Premier Access has significantly enhanced her ability to earn additional compensation on top of the $20M she has received to date,” the spokesperson added.

On Friday, the feminist advocacy groups released a joint statement, calling Disney’s response to Johansson’s lawsuit a “gendered character attack” against her and accusing the company of attempting to characterize her as “selfish.”

“While we take no position on the business issues in the litigation between Scarlett Johansson and The Walt Disney Company, we stand firmly against Disney’s recent statement which attempts to characterize Johansson as insensitive or selfish for defending her contractual business rights,” they wrote.

“This gendered character attack has no place in a business dispute and contributes to an environment in which women and girls are perceived as less able than men to protect their own interests without facing ad hominem criticism,” the advocacy groups added.

That same day, Bryan Lourd, co-chairman of the Creative Artists Agency and Johansson’s agent, issued a response as well, claiming Disney “shamelessly and falsely accused Ms. Johansson of being insensitive to the global COVID pandemic, in an attempt to make her appear to be someone they and I know she isn’t,” according to USA Today.

Lourd also called Disney’s response “a direct attack on her character” that is “beneath the company that many of us in the creative community have worked with successfully for decades.”

Johansson — who has an estimated net worth of $165 million and topped the Forbes list of highest-paid actresses in 2019 — complained earlier this month that women are underpaid in Hollywood, adding that she is “still fighting that damn fight” to get paid what she is worth.

You can follow Alana Mastrangelo on Facebook and Twitter at @ARmastrangelo, and on Instagram.


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