While we’re waiting to see whether or not Marvel will finally give Black Widow her own stand alone film, we can take this moment to look at the place Scarlett Johansson plays in the current universe of cinematic science fiction.
It’s interesting to recall that just a few years ago, Johansson was known primarily as an indie darling. After cutting her teeth as a child star in the 90s (most notably in Robert Redford’s The Horse Whisperer), she transitioned into more adult roles in 2001 with the one-two punch of Ghost World and The Man Who Wasn’t There. Though those two films were miles apart in subject matter, they had some tonal similarities—focusing on the existential ennui of a harried protagonist—Ghost World’s caustic high schooler Enid (Thora Birch) and Man’s laconic barber Ed (Billy Bob Thornton). Playing a supporting role in both films, Johansson’s character is inaccessible—a vision that the protagonist can’t reach. In Ghost World, she’s the childhood friend who grows up and away, lost to young adulthood. In The Man Who Wasn’t There, she’s the underage object of an older man’s shy desire, a would-be Lolita for a near-mute Humbert Humbert.