Scarlett Johansson stated that she doesn’t think it’s problematic for her to take the role of a transgender character, despite being cisgender.
The actress is set to star in a biopic about the transgender crime boss, Dante ‘Tex’ Gill, who operated a massage parlour in Pittsburgh’s underground sex work industry during the 1970’s.
In a statement obtained by Bustle, the actress said via her representative, “Tell them they can be directed to Jeffrey Tambor, Jared Leto, and Felicity Huffman’s reps for comment.” Tambor, Leto and Huffman have all taken roles as transgender characters while their gender identity is cis.
Descriptions of Gill vary depending on the source. Some outlets describe the character as a “transmasculine crime boss”, or said the real-life Gill was a lesbian “who dressed like a man in suits and ties, wore short hair, and sideburns and preferred to be called ‘Mr. Gill’” or that Gill “succeeded in the prostitution business by assuming the identity of a man”.
Gill’s obituary alleged that “she may have undergone the initial stages of a sex change that made her masculine” and that Gill “insisted she was a man.”
Johansson is no stranger to casting controversy. Last year, she received criticism for taking the role of Motoko- a character who is Japanese, in the original version of Ghost in the Shell. The new film, Rub and Tug, and Ghost in the Shell are both directed by Rupert Sanders.
People took to Twitter to voice their disapproval of Johansson, taking the role.
A trans man should have been cast instead of Scarlett Johansson and it doesn't surprise she took the role ?? https://t.co/vpD80bRwNK
— Jamal (@ItsJam_Ok) July 3, 2018
The weirdest part to me is that the director was heavily criticised for white washing when it came to casting Scarlett Johansson as Motoko.
Not only does he make a similar mistake here but it's with the same actor. How do you blatantly make the same mistake twice?
— Crow (@GregorArnott) July 3, 2018
Scarlett Johansson is the type of white woman that complains about injustice only to turn around and underhand POC and trans ppl RATHER than do anything to stand up to rich white men…. ? https://t.co/3qymUqdoeL
— normie adjacent (@kish_lal) July 3, 2018
The controversy is no surprise for many LGBT+ movie fans, who have called out the lack of representation before. Recently, Jurassic World cut a character’s coming out scene, which received harsh criticism from fans.
Other production companies have tried to become more diverse in their casting. Some have sent out casting calls looking for transgender people to play transgender characters.
“The problem with this entire situation should be immediately apparent,” said Connor Garel in a Vice article. “The practice of casting cisgender actors as trans people perpetuates the idea that trans people, somehow, are pretending to be something they aren’t, that being trans is inherently an act or performance.”
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