Disney accused of ‘gendered attack’ on Scarlett Johansson over Black Widow fallout

Campaign bodies have called out Disney for ‘attempting to characterise Johansson as insensitive or selfish for defending her contractual business rights’

Roisin O'Connor
Saturday 31 July 2021 08:43
Black Widow - Trailer

Disney has been accused of carrying out a “gendered attack” on Black Widow star Scarlett Johansson as she sues the conglomerate for breach of contract.

The company’s response to Johansson’s lawsuit – including the outing of her salary and the insinuation that Johansson was being “selfish” by demanding her contractual rights be carried out – has been widely criticised.

A joint statement from Women in Film, ReFrame and Time’s Up has defended the actor, commenting: “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 characterise Johansson as insensitive or selfish for defending her contractual business rights.”

“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.”

Johansson has alleged that the simultaneous release of Black Widow on Disney Plus as well as in cinemas violated her contract.

The actor’s lawsuit says that her compensation for the movie was “largely based” on Black Widow’s box office performance, and had “extracted a promise from Marvel that the release would be a ‘theatrical release’.’

In response, Disney claimed the lawsuit was “especially sad and distressing in its callous disregard for the horrific and prolonged global effects of the Covid-19 pandemic”.

The company’s reaction was widely criticised by industry experts and film critics.

“I don’t care how rich Scarlett Johansson already is,” wrote journalist Tomris Laffly. “She was f***ed over through a breach of contract and she should sue. You can’t really claim that you support professional women to demand what they’re worth and promised and then be like, ‘Except her, she’s doing fine as is.’”

Twitter user The Law Boy, a popular lawyer and podcast host, commented: “When someone says you breached a contract and you start talking about global pandemics you 100 per cent breached that contract.”

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