Scarlett Johansson's scary experience being sexualized as young actress

Darcy Rafter October 12, 2022
Scarlett Johansson's scary experience being sexualized as young actress

Scarlett Johansson sat down with Dax Shepard and Monica Padman, co-hosts of podcast Armchair Expert, to talk about her experiences growing up in Hollywood’s entertainment industry.

The Oscar-winning actress’ breakout role was in 2001 indie film Ghost World, which she starred in at 15. She went on to feature in 2003’s Lost In Translation in which she played a character five years older than her actual age.

Discover what Johansson had to say on the podcast’s 500th episode as she opens up about navigating the industry and being hypersexualized as a young actress…

Photo by Tommaso Boddi/Getty Images

Scarlett Johansson on being ‘pigeonholed’

With an acting career that began when she was only nine years old, Scarlett Johansson, now 37, says she was “pigeonholed” into hyper-sexualized roles early on in her career.

“I kind of became objectified and pigeonholed in this way where I felt like I wasn’t getting offers for work for things I wanted to do,” she told Shepard. “But I remember thinking to myself, ‘I think people think I’m like, 40 years old.'”

Shepard said Johansson being labeled as “15 going on 30” must have been a “blessing and a curse.”

Johansson sees shift in acting industry

Johansson recalls being exposed to things that didn’t feel “age appropriate” but her mom was “really good about protecting” her. However, Scarlett acknowledged a lot had changed since then.

She pointed to Zendaya as a “great example” of someone who went from starring on the Disney Channel to taking on hard-hitting roles such as Rue in Euphoria. Johansson also noted Florence Pugh, who played her little sister in Black Widow, was another good example of someone who “works in all different genres – you see all these different colors in her paint box.”

And, while Scarlett accepts there’s still a long way to go, figures such as Zendaya and Pugh give her hope for future generations of women in the acting industry.

Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Scarlett Johansson’s scary experience of being sexualized

Thanks to her Manhattan upbringing, Johansson believes she was mature for her age but it led to her being hyper-sexualized, which meant for a period she wasn’t being put forward for roles she wanted to do.

She said: “I think everybody thought I was older and I’d been [acting] for a long time and then I got kind of pigeonholed into this weird hyper-sexualized thing. It was like, that’s the kind of career you have. These are the roles you’ve played and I was like, ‘This is it I guess.'”

Johansson admitted she was fully aware pigeonholing would affect her career span in Hollywood, which was “scary at that time.” Thankfully, Scarlett escaped typecasting and has gone on to enjoy a multi-decade career.

Scarlett Johansson felt like she was 33 at 23

The actress started experiencing things a lot younger than her peers. For example, she married when she was 23 and, by that point, “felt like I was 33.”

Johansson has now been married three times. Her first marriage was to fellow actor Ryan Reynolds, from 2008 to 2011, followed by Romain Dauriac, with whom she shares daughter Rose. The couple split after two years together. In 2020, Scarlett married Colin Jost. They now have a son, Cosmo. 

WASHINGTON, DC – DECEMBER 05: Scarlett Johansson and Colin Jost attend the 44th Kennedy Center Honors at The Kennedy Center on December 05, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Paul Morigi/Getty Images)
Have something to tell us about this article?
Let us know
Darcy is an experienced journalist working on GRV Media’s audience team across The Focus, Reality Titbit, and HITC. Darcy studied Media and Communications at Goldsmiths University and whilst there she completed a work internship with GRV Media. After gaining a first-class BA (Hons) degree, Darcy joined the team full-time. Since then she has become a social media specialist and her expertise lies in tracking trends. With five years of experience in media, she is particularly passionate about celebrity culture and entertainment. When she’s not writing about The Kardashians, she’s binge-watching it!