Actress Scarlett Johansson’s fight for justice in lawsuit against Disney emphasizes the Black Widow in her

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Image used with permission from Walt Disney Studios

Actress Scarlett Johansson, who reprises her role as Black Widow in Marvel’s “Black Widow,” has filed a lawsuit against Disney citing a contract breach.

Rida Zar

Since the 1930s, superheroes, largely regarded for their passion, sense of justice and commitment to the people, have served as role models for younger and older generations.

 As one of Marvel’s most popular warriors, the Black Widow is no exception to the rule. 

The actress behind this character, Scarlett Johansson, models this ideology after mass media and entertainment company, Disney, allegedly failed to fulfill its end of the bargain on her contract for her newest movie, “Black Widow.” 

According to The Wall Street Journal, Johansson filed a lawsuit in Los Angeles Superior Court on July 29 — 20 days after the movie’s release in theaters – citing an alleged contract breach for Disney’s decision to make the film available for pay per view streaming on Disney+ at the same time as it’s playing on the big screen.

All this without her consent, like how Thanos got rid of half the population with a snap of his fingers without seeking permission from anyone to do so.

In response, a statement was released by a Disney representative, who claimed that the Mickey Mouse flagship “fully complied with Ms. Johansson’s contract and furthermore, the release of ‘Black Widow’ on Disney+ with Premier Access significantly enhanced her ability to earn additional compensation.” 

If Johansson’s claims are accurate, and her lawyers can prove that she actually lost more money with the film being available for viewing online instead of just at the theaters, seeking out a way to reclaim the money Disney robbed her of is justifiable.

Like many other actors, her salary is largely based on the film’s box-office performance; by releasing the movie on Disney+ simultaneously, Disney prevents Johansson from making the money she warranted for her work. 

In the second weekend after the “Black Widow” movie’s release on July 9, it suffered a sharp decline in theater viewings — 11% more than the average decline of the past 10 Marvel movies. This can be explained by the viewers’ ability to simply purchase the movie and watch it from the comfort of their homes rather than making their way to the nearest cinema. 

The movie generated an additional $60 million from Disney+’s $30 rentals of “Black Widow.” At the time of a statement from Disney, Johansson had made $20 million as compensation for her work. However, had box-office sales increased with the profit made from Disney+, her salary could’ve substantially increased. 

Taking into consideration the profit generated by the actress’s hard work, her paycheck should reflect the value Disney sees in her. Yet, by allegedly violating their contract, not only does it ignore Johansson’s feelings, but it also gives the public the impression that the Mickey empire lacks regard for its employees.

Rather than caring for its actors and respecting the decisions reached in their contract, Disney prioritizes adding in-demand content to Disney+ to better establish and grow its own streaming platform. 

By doing this, Disney only ends up creating a worse relationship with its dedicated — and largely popular — actors who expect a salary equivalent to the work they put out. 

These actors depend on box-office success for their paychecks; making theater releases available on Disney+ simultaneously takes money right out of their pockets and sends the pay-per-view profits to Disney. 

The situation is particularly unfair to Johansson, who claims she was never made aware of the changes even after putting in the additional effort to ensure her movie would be released in theaters only first. 

According to The Wall Street Journal, in 2019 her representative contacted Marvel — a subsidiary of Disney and producer of “Black Widow” — in regards to the issue. Marvel chief counsel Dave Galluzzi told them that the film would be released as the traditional theater release first and that they “understand that should the plan change, we would need to discuss this with you and come to an understanding.”

Because Johansson confirmed the plan for the movie’s release prior to its publication, it’s only ethical that Disney upholds its end of the bargain and provides the actress with the compensation she agreed to. Anything otherwise displays the company’s inability to respect its employees in hopes of creating its own profit. 

Disney’s action is a slap in the face to an actress who dedicated nine movies to Marvel. 

Taking all of this into consideration, it’s only fair that Johansson sets her foot down and takes Disney to court. In fact, her lawsuit can set necessary guidelines on actors’ treatment and the consequences for violating a solidified contract. She’s doing her part to ensure this unfair behavior never occurs again to other actors who lack the platform she earned after 27 years in the entertainment industry. 

While some may argue that Johansson already received a hefty paycheck, that the court case will only add more money into lawyers’ pockets and would only be to satisfy her greed, they fail to note how the actress already has a net worth of approximately $165 million and a few more million won’t make a substantial difference. The effort taken to launch the lawsuit would far outweigh the benefits of winning, especially considering it puts her relationship with a company as large and powerful as Disney on the line. 

The suit claims that ”Disney intentionally induced Marvel’s breach of the agreement, without justification, in order to prevent Ms. Johansson from realizing the full benefit of her bargain with Marvel,” according to The Wall Street Journal.  

Understanding the gravity of her action, but still choosing to go forward with legal action, Johansson demonstrates the importance of this issue. Without someone taking the first steps to gain the rights actors working for Disney might lose, the cycle is bound to continue. 

In its essence, the lawsuit presents a large, powerful cooperation taking advantage of a single actress. If Johansson does not do anything to combat this injustice, nothing prevents Disney from continuing to undermine its actors who have dedicated their careers to perfecting their roles. 

Johansson brought to light a significant issue that other artists hoping to work with Disney should know about so that they too are not taken advantage of.  

It’s not difficult to see Black Widow in Johansson. As expected of someone playing a hero, she gives her all in the fight for justice, even for herself.