After a two-month-long legal battle over Black Widow’s hybrid release between Scarlett Johansson and Disney, it appears that money emerged victorious as the actress settled outside court.
When Scarlett Johansson sued Disney in July 2021, it was expected that the lawsuit would change how studios and stars approach contracts in the post-Covid world. Johansson’s resolve seemed so strong that the lawsuit was anticipated to turn into a full-blown courtroom drama.
- Scarlett Johansson going after Disney
- Scarlett Johansson biting the dust
However, Disney, with all its might, knew better and, along with Scarlett Johansson, decided to take the easy way out. In the end, this little skirmish between the actress and the media giant has set a precedent about how stars are remunerated. From now, studios will think twice about cutting corners when it comes to paying their artists.
DISNEY IN THE WOODS
The pandemic drove studios to prioritise streaming in order to cut down on losses. However, this fuelled the already simmering resentment among many artists about their work not finding a proper release on the big screen. In a way, it had always been inevitable that given the circumstances, a big star like Johansson would go after Disney for her payday.
Perhaps filmmaker Christopher Nolan‘s decision to end his collaboration with Warner Bros. after a decades-long partnership foreshadowed the passionate sentiments that drove Johansson to sue Disney. While Chris Nolan was appalled that Warner Bros. had shifted all their films to streaming without a prior conversation with filmmakers, Scarlett Johansson went after Disney because they did not comply with her contract, despite constant reminders.
While Johansson’s complaints were about a legal breach of her contract with Disney, in both cases, it came down to the artists feeling disrespected by studios. After all, in her lawsuit, the ‘Black Widow‘ actress had expressed that she provided Disney and Marvel ‘every opportunity to right their wrong’ before filing the lawsuit.
However, they failed to live up to their promise, which was an exclusive theatrical release of ‘Black Widow’ to which Johansson’s earnings are tied. Instead, Disney took up a hybrid release by simultaneously releasing the film in theatres and for streaming. The actress claimed this decision was an “intentionally induced breach of Agreement” that she had with Marvel and prevented her “from realising the full benefit of her bargain”.
The way Disney responded to Johansson’s lawsuit was nothing short of an ex’s attempt to refute the allegations of mistreatment made against them by discrediting the person who made them. Disney responded by saying that the lawsuit was divested of any “merits” and blamed the actress for her “callous disregard” about the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. The statement made it clear that the media giant was more focused on Scarlett Johansson not acquiescing to their self-interest rather than their breach of agreement and taking some responsibility for it.
In addition to publicly smearing the actress’ name, Disney displayed its own ‘callous disregard’ by revealing Johansson’s paycheck for the film. All of this raises whether Disney would have done the same, in terms of their legal and public relations treatment, if another star like Robert Downey Jr. or Chris Evans were involved.
Since the answer is a resounding no, it would have been cathartic and groundbreaking to see Scarlett Johansson take Disney to court. That she has only recently revealed she felt her character Black Widow is hyper-sexualised in the Marvel Cinematic Universe was also an indication of the systemic sexism that existed within Marvel which enabled her to be treated this way.
However, in the end, the actress needs to put her efforts into advancing her career instead of draining her resources over a lawsuit. Scarlett Johansson eventually took the easy way and succumbed to Disney’s power by settling for an unrevealed amount. While we do not know how much Disney had to empty their pockets in order to make the lawsuit go away, it is clear that it was an amount big enough to quieten the concerns of the actress.
The actress expressed her happiness to have “resolved her differences with Disney ” and added that she looks forward to continuing her “collaboration” with the media giant. While this settlement came out of the blue, it was not entirely surprising. Disney had no way to get out of it except paying Scarlett Johansson for the losses she incurred due to a hybrid release.
Besides, the actress has set a strong example that if a media giant thinks they can get away with self-indulgent behaviour, they are wrong. Artists, especially female artists, will be the last to stay quiet. Despite not going with all guns ablaze into court, Scarlett Johansson has empowered all artists in Hollywood to voice their grievances courageously and to demand to be rewarded according to their worth.
What do you make of Scarlett Johansson settling with Disney in the lawsuit over Black Widow release? Comment below!