Four recent Scarlett Johansson films—Under the Skin, Her, Lucy, and Ghost in the Machine—work in tandem as a subversive, reactionary form of phallocentrism both disguised as and in repudiation of a posthuman ontology that heralds the obsolescence of man. These films, far from being feminist manifestos, are, upon closer examination, a male reaction to the perceived existential threat posed by posthumanism to masculinity, itself. Central to what Rosi Braidotti refers to as the “posthuman predicament” is Scarlett Johansson, whom I will address, not as a singular entity, but as a multiplicity that manifests simultaneously as a flesh-and-blood human being, as a Hollywood actor and icon, as a twenty-first-century female prototype, and, ultimately, as a rhetorical cultural construct. With her come-hither looks, husky voice, voluptuous figure, versatility, and social and political activism, Scarlett Johansson the actor presents as the ultimate liberated woman; Scarlett Johansson the cultural construct, however, performs a much different function. Informed by Johansson’s public persona and embedded in Johansson’s four characters and the fictional worlds they inhabit is an unsubtle threat to notions of male supremacy both implicit and historically manifest under the umbrella of humanism. Whether immolated, unplugged and decommissioned, vanished into the ether as a techno-consciousness, or digitally dissolved, Scarlett Johansson’s characters in these films personify man’s anxiety about the extinction of his humanist self.

You do not currently have access to this content.