Empowerment or hypocrisy? Scarlett Johansson quits trans role after public backlash
Johansson had been cast in the film ‘Rug & Tug’ as crime lord Dante ‘Tex’ Gill, a real-life brothel owner who was born Lois Jean Gill but identified as a man. “In light of recent ethical questions raised surrounding my casting as Dante Tex Gill, I have decided to respectfully withdraw my participation in the project,” Johansson told Out Magazine.
“Our cultural understanding of transgender people continues to advance, and I’ve learned a lot from the community since making my first statement about my casting and realize it was insensitive.”
The actor had initially struck a defiant tone when members of the trans community disputed her appointment to the role. "Tell them that they can be directed to Jeffrey Tambor, Jared Leto, and Felicity Huffman's reps for comment," she said in a statement to Bustle, citing three actors who produced award-winning performances as trans characters.
The internet reaction has been mixed, with some calling her withdrawal a positive move towards transgender empowerment. Others congratulated Johansson for making way, while some of the more skeptical folk were a little more grudging in their praise.
So good of #ScarlettJohansson to withdraw from role of transgender man in Rub & Tug. This isn’t about disrespecting cisgender performers, it’s about transgender empowerment and equal opportunity! pic.twitter.com/WvidrIMMhE— Raylene (@q_publius33) July 14, 2018
I'm glad Scarlett Johansson has done the right thing here, and I appreciate the contrition she's shown over her initial response. Moving forward, I hope she'll keep this in mind for all roles in underrepresented communities, particularly people of color. https://t.co/rdifurTEBQ— Charlotte Clymer🏳️🌈 (@cmclymer) July 13, 2018
Hey Scarlett Johansson finally listened to people telling her not to exploit a marginalized identity for her personal gain.Good.— Eb (@EbThen) July 14, 2018
However, others on Twitter seemed to bemoan the ‘Lost In Translation’ star’s decision to vacate the role, with some labeling the move “a sad loss for reason.”
I am probably being overly emotional on the internet because of Actual Life Problems but I am so mad and frustrated with the internet right now over #ScarlettJohansson like.... This is the dumbest thing ever. GENDER IS SUPPOSED TO BE A SOCIAL CONSTRUCT.— คℓz (@tehAlz) July 14, 2018
#ScarlettJohansson should not have surrendered to the mob. A sad loss for reason, a victory for the worshipers of tribalism.— Michael Johnson (@M_Johnson2018) July 13, 2018
I can’t wait to play Scarlett Johansson as an actress who almost played a a trans guy in a Lifetime about when she almost played a trans man— Annie Lederman (@annielederman) July 14, 2018
Some online commentators were quick to point out that there was nothing like the same level of outrage when other actors took on trans roles, such as Eddie Redmayne in ‘The Danish Girl.’ It was also pointed out that pushing Johansson from the lead role may prove to be a net negative for trans activists in the long-term.
Where was the outcry and backlash for Eddie Redmayne? Exxxxxxactly, LGBTQ hypocrisy at its finest 🙄 #ScarlettJohansson— Laurence (@LondonLaurence) July 14, 2018
Following Scarlett Johansson pulling out of Rub n Tug, I expect there will be fewer films made by major studios with trans characters in leading roles. Now falls into the “too risky” category with no trans actors who can carry the box office. Well done TRAs.— ClassOfWomen (@ClassOfWomen) July 14, 2018
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