Hot Take: holding Disney accountable

Courtesy of The Wellesley News

Whitney Ervin, Features Editor

Disney has been at the forefront of entertainment for decades. When the company purchased Marvel in 2009 for $4 billion, they quickly made their money back and then some. Their expansion of the Marvel Cinematic Universe has become the stuff of Hollywood legend.

One of the players of this universe is Scarlett Johansson. The Oscar-nominated actress made her debut as Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow in 2010 in Iron Man 2 and has been a staple in the franchise ever since. The highly anticipated solo Black Widow film was released on July 9 on both Disney+ and in theatres across the globe.

On July 29, Johansson and her representatives filed a lawsuit against the media giant claiming the release of the film on Disney+ breached her contract. Furthermore, she alleges Disney refused to renegotiate her contract upon deciding to simultaneously release the film on their streaming service.

There has since been a war of words between the actress’s reps and the media giant. Johansson is a certified Hollywood heavyweight in her own right, and it’s easy to write this lawsuit off as greed. However, just a bit more digging reveals there is a darkness lingering over Disney’s famously squeaky-clean reputation.

In a statement to the Wall Street Journal her attorney John Berlinski said, “This will surely not be the last case where Hollywood talent stands up to Disney.”

In recent years, Disney has slowly begun amassing a huge catalog of work. There’s hardly anything they’re not connected to in some way, but they seem to be building this empire off the backs of others.

In April of 2021, the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America formed a task force with many other professional writing associations called #DisneyMustPay Task Force which includes heavyweight writers such as Neil Gaiman. In their statement, they include a list of media Disney has released in which authors have had contracts breached or were never paid for their work at all. The list is staggering and includes very well-known works such as Indiana Jones, Star Wars novelization, and Spider-Man.

Star Wars actor John Boyega alleged his role in the franchise was diminished because of his race. Although Boyega never took Disney to court, his statements shined a light on an issue Disney has often glossed over.

In an interview with GQ in 2020, he said, “What I say to Disney is do not market a black character as important and then push them aside.”

‘What does all of this have to do with Johansson?’ one might ask. The answer is simple: accountability.

Johansson is a very powerful actress, and this lawsuit could potentially go on to protect those who do not have the same power to take on Disney. Members of minorities like John Boyega or those who don’t have the spotlight like those writers who filed grievances with the #DisneyMustPay Task Force.

Everyone loves Disney, and there’s no doubt they’ve provided endless entertainment to generations. Likely, they will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. Johansson’s lawsuit highlights a very important thing Disney has forgotten along the way. They’re nothing without talent bringing their content to life, and people will not continuously accept being taken advantage of.

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