American actress Scarlett Johansson, who has previously come under scrutiny for alleged “whitewashing” in her role in ‘Ghost in the Shell’ has now faced backlash over her new role in the upcoming film ‘Rub & Tug’.
The film is based on the life of Dante “Tex” Gill, a notorious figure in the underworld who managed an empire of illegal massage parlours in Pittsburgh during the late 70’s and early 80’s.
Dante Gill (preferred name “Mr Gill” at the time) was born as Lois Jean Gill, and stood out for her masculine clothing and hairstyles and her relationship with Cynthia Bruno. The massage parlours she ran were a front for prostitution, and she was convicted of tax evasion in 1984 and spent seven years in prison. She died in 2003 at 72.
People have said that casting Scarlett, who is not transgender, as such a character is highly problematic, and were quick to post about their disapproval through Twitter.
Literally the LEAST you could do when making a movie about trans people is to cast a trans person in the role that was written for them. Scarlett Johansson needs to stop naievely choosing roles, and studios need to do better.
— Derek Abolish ICE Sherry 🌹 (@NotKyleMSherry) July 4, 2018
Dear #ScarlettJohansson, the way you can use your privilege as a white cis woman is to amplify the voices of underrepresented communities, not speak for them.
— Elise Bauman (@baumanelise) July 4, 2018
Responding to the criticism, Scarlett released a short statement, saying: “Tell them that they can be directed to Jeffrey Tambor, Jared Leto and Felicity Huffman’s reps for comment”. Her comment referred to other actors who have played transgender characters in recent years. All three of them received critical acclaim for their portrayal of transgender characters. Jeffrey Tambor won an Oscar on playing Maura Pfefferman in ‘Transparent’, Jared Leto won an Oscar playing a transgender woman in ‘Dallas Buyers Club’, and Felicity Huffman was nominated an Oscar for her role in ‘Transamerica’.
While there have been a few that have defended the decision to cast her in the role, the criticism has kept coming, and there’s even been an article published listing transgender actors who could’ve played the role instead.
This isn’t the first time the actress has been the centre of controversy, as she previously faced accusations of “whitewashing” after being cast as cyborg soldier Mira Killian / Major Kusanagi in the 2017 film, ‘Ghost In The Shell’. The role was originally written as East Asian, whereas Scarlett clearly isn’t, but surely that decision is down to the producer, the director, and the casting director in the end.
‘Rub & Tug’ is due to go into production next year. Scarlett, along with actor Tobey Maguire star in the film, which is directed by Rupert Sanders, who also directed the aforementioned ‘Ghost In The Shell’ movie.
Do you think an actual transgender actor should play this role, or do you think Scarlett Johansson will be a good fit? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.
Story by Emily Clark
Featured Photo Credit: Mashable