Scarlett Johansson has been cast for upcoming movie, Rub & Tug, for the lead role of a transgender man. This has resulted in severe backlash towards the actress as well as the casters, who are being accused of not considering transgender actors for the role.
The film tells the true story of Dante ‘Tex’ Gill, who ran a chain of massage parlors – that were in fact brothels – in Pittsburgh in the 1970s. Rub & Tug follows his life story as he transitions from female to male, and then dominates the world of prostitution and crime. Gill was born as Lois Jean Gill but lived as a man. He died in 2003.
Many took to Twitter to voice their opinions about the casting preferences.
We have to stop hiring non-trans actors to play trans characters. In my opinion, it's equally as traumatic & offensive as black-face. It also shows how lazy, unwoke, and complicit in transphobia you are. #CASTAUTHENTICALLY! https://t.co/3WW1cOzrEE
— Steven Canals (@StevenCanals) July 3, 2018
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.
— Faith Choyce (@faithchoyce) July 3, 2018
What’s next? Is Scarlett Johansson going to play Barack Obama?
— Eugene Gu, MD (@eugenegu) July 4, 2018
No offense to Scarlett Johansson but there are many beautiful trans women in the world, and I MEAN MANY…so ask Hollywood to keep looking!
— Tshepi Makhatha (@TshepiMakhatha) July 4, 2018
trans actors: nobody will hire me cuz they only want cis people ?
film industry: hey, we gon make a movie about a trans person
trans people: finally! a role perfect for me ?
film industry: no sorry lol we got scarlett johansson
this time haha maybe the next one ?
— taylor (@ribsnroyals) July 4, 2018
Some came to the actress’s defense, saying it makes no sense that actors only play roles that represent their real-life social groups or orientations.
#ScarlettJohansson All you idiots bashing on Scarlett Johansson for portraying a transgender male in a film even though she is cis:
This is not a documentary. This is a film. She is not transgender in real life, she is ACTING as one. That’s what ACTORS do.
— menaka (@xerohy) July 4, 2018
Why is everyone mad that #ScarlettJohansson is playing a trans character? Yes I understand that the lgbt community rather have a trans character play a trans, but by that logic it’s saying, gays can only play gay, straight only straight, so on. She’s a great actress..(1/2)
— Vince Cardieri (@VinceCardieri) July 4, 2018
Not really sure why Scarlett Johansson playing a trans individual is a problem. If people can only play roles that represent them, LGBT actors will have a lot less roles.
— Sid Woodram (@SWoodram) July 3, 2018
The actress has since responded to the barrage of critics with a short and dismissive statement. Bustle obtained a statement from her rep, saying, “Tell them that they can be directed to Jeffrey Tambor, Jared Leto, and Felicity Huffman’s reps for comment.”
This was in reference to actors and actresses who have played transgender roles in recent years, and have been critically acclaimed for the portrayals. Jared Leto played a transgender woman in the 2014 Dallas Buyer’s Club, and won an Oscar for his performance. Felicity Huffman played a transgender man in Transamerica. Others including Hilary Swank and Eddie Redmayne have also appeared in similar roles.
Scarlett Johansson’s film choices have been similarly received in the past. Ghost in the Shell, also by the same director, Rupert Sanders, was met with similar criticism; the 33-year-old actress was cast to play a Japanese character, Asian soldier Mira Killian, and was widely bashed for ‘whitewashing’ for playing. At the time, the actress gave an interview to Marie Claire, saying she felt enormous pressure on her shoulders.
She said, “Diversity is important in Hollywood, and I would never want to feel like I was playing a character that was offensive. [However,] having a franchise with a female protagonist driving it is such a rare opportunity.”
Rub & Tug is all set to go into production later this year and, along with Johansson, stars Tobey Maguire.