Disney Damaged Its Own Reputation by Attacking Scarlett Johansson, Media Claims

Ouch. Disney is getting scolded by media outlets for its treatment Black Widow actress Scarlett Johansson during litigation over her royalty check.

‘ScarJo’ is suing Disney for a breach of contract, stating that a simultaneous Disney Plus Premier Access release was not part of the agreed upon release strategy for Black Widow, and that she has lost millions of dollars in theatrical royalties because of it.

Disney legal shot back by making Johansson’s salary public (a big no-no in Hollywood) and implying the actress was just being cold-hearted and greedy during the pandemic.

“There is no merit whatsoever to this filing. The lawsuit is especially sad and distressing in its callous disregard for the horrific and prolonged global effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Disney has fully complied with Ms. Johansson’s contract and furthermore, the release of ‘Black Widow’ on Disney+ with Premier Access has significantly enhanced her ability to earn additional compensation on top of the $20M she has received to date,” a Walt Disney Company spokesperson said.

Well, Disney’s handling of the situation isn’t sitting well with the media. And it seems like they’re damaging their own brand by making public statements such as this.

Inc. recently published an article titled “Disney’s Response to Scarlett Johansson’s ‘Black Widow’ Lawsuit Is an Example of the 1 Thing No Company Should Ever Do.”

So, yeah, they’re bluntly telling Disney it was a bad idea in the headline.

In the article, author Jason Aten says that “More than any other company on earth, Disney has carefully built a reputation as a magical place.”

But he claims that reputation has now been tarnished.

In this case, however, Disney’s response makes the company seem cold-hearted, callous, and vindictive. It peels back the curtain and reveals a much uglier story.

The way you keep your promises to the people who work for you says a lot about whether you’ll keep the promises you make to your customers. By lashing out at Johansson, and using the pandemic in an attempt to shame her, Disney has essentially broken its promise not only to her, but also to all of us. That’s something no company should ever do.

And he’s not alone.

Major publications like Forbes and The Wrap have also called out Disney’s actions. The latter going so far as to say that this is “brand carnage.”

A recent NBC News headline screams “Disney Co.’s Covid excuse in Scarlett Johansson lawsuit is darkly comical and clearly flawed.”

So wait, Scarlett Johansson is the greedy one? Whether someone is making $20 million per movie or $20 per hour, a deal is a deal. One party cannot breach a contract and then claim it’s OK because the injured party is rich. Especially if the breaching party is really, really rich, like Disney is.

[…] Disney’s high ground also has a lot of craters in it. If the defendants here were really concerned about the health risks of a theatrical release, why release it in theaters at all? The decision to release the film online evinces Disney’s concern — for its own bottom line.

And that seems to be the media at large’s takeaway. Disney was simply looking out for its own bottom line, is using the pandemic as an excuse, and tried to make ScarJo out to be the “greedy” one in the eye of the public.

And it’s backfired spectacularly.

Disney is in no position to claim they took the moral high ground during the pandemic. Its own Cast Members were tossed overboard at the first sign of distress and forced to use food pantries, while its own executives raked in millions of dollars in bonuses and incentives during “these unprecedented times.”

Like Inc. said, people are starting to see through the façade. And Disney has no one to blame but themselves for that.

The next quarterly earnings call should be fun. Bring popcorn.


Pirates & Princesses (PNP) is an independent, opinionated fan-powered news blog that covers Disney and Universal Theme Parks, Themed Entertainment and related Pop Culture from a consumer's point of view. Opinions expressed by our contributors do not necessarily reflect the views of PNP, its editors, affiliates, sponsors or advertisers. PNP is an unofficial news source and has no connection to The Walt Disney Company, NBCUniversal or any other company that we may cover.