Scarlett Johansson seems not to have learned a thing from the backlash she faced for her movie Ghost in the Shell, when fans called her out for “whitewashing” a character created in Japanese comics and cinema more than 20 years ago. The 33-year-old actress is in hot water again, this time for taking the role of real-life crime boss Dante “Tex” Gill, who ran secret brothels in the 1970s, in the upcoming film Rub & Tug (which is being directed by Ghost in the Shell‘s Rupert Sanders). Critics have pointed out that since Gill’s obituary stated that he identified as a man, the role should be played by a trans man and not a cisgender woman.
“You’re making a movie about a fat, Trans man who was a crime boss and Scarlett Johansson is the first name that comes to mind? Really?” one tweet read. Another person wrote: “Scarlett Johansson is playing a trans man in her next movie because her ultimate career goal is to take an acting job from a member of each and every marginalized group.”
In a statement to Bustle via her spokesperson, the actress reportedly said, “Tell them that they can be directed to Jeffrey Tambor, Jared Leto, and Felicity Huffman’s reps for comment.”
But therein lies the problem. In pointing to other cisgender actors who have played trans characters, the Avengers star is missing the issue at hand — and ignoring the fact that all of these actors were also criticized by transgender people and allies.
Tambor’s role on Transparent has faced plenty of backlash from the queer community, especially in light of allegations of harassment against trans actress and costar Trace Lysette. And when Leto won an Oscar for his portrayal of trans woman Rayon in Dallas Buyers Club, many said the role should have gone to a trans woman and not a cis man. Huffman played a trans woman in 2005’s Transamerica, a role that also could have gone to a trans actress.
Since Gill identified as a man, it’s problematic for Johansson to portray him in a movie, as she identifies as a woman. There are plenty of trans actors who could tackle the role instead, and they should be allowed that opportunity.
(photo via Neilson Barnard/Getty Images)