People always say representation matters. That’s why when Scarlett Johansson took the role of Dante Gill, a transgender man in the upcoming Movie “Rub and Tug,” she faced immediate backlash from mainly transgender actors and Twitter users. This is not the first time Johansson has faced backlash. In 2017, many criticized her for her role in the American adaptation of the Japanese Manga series, “Ghost in the Shell.”
The “Rub and Tug” backlash was initiated by transgender actors claiming that such casting decisions take opportunities away from members of marginalized groups. On Twitter, actress Tracy Lysette from HBO’s “Transparent” tweeted, “Not only do you play us and steal our narrative and our opportunity, but you pat yourselves on the back with trophies and accolades for mimicking what we have lived.”
This isn’t the first case in which a cisgender actor has played the role of a transgender character. Some big movie occurrences include: “Dallas Buyers Club” with Jared Leto,” “The Danish Girl with Eddie Redmayne, and “Boys Don’t Cry” with Hilary Swank.
According to the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), in 2017 there was no representation of any transgender characters in any large studio. Many actors have highlighted the fact that transgender actors do exist in Hollywood, they just aren’t getting the roles. Another transgender actress from Netflix’s “Sense8,” Jamie Clayton, tweeted, “Actors who are trans never even get to audition FOR ANYTHING OTHER THAN ROLES OF TRANS CHARACTERS.” Although trans actors occasionally receive the role of transgender characters, they never receive roles of cisgender characters while cisgender actors can receive roles of both characters pretty easily.
Since receiving criticism, Scarlett Johansson has stepped down from the role. In a public statement, Johansson apologized to the transgender community for making a misstep, saying,
“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.”
For now, it is currently unclear whether or not the movie will recast Scarlett Johansson or go on into production.
Some movies that have cast transgender actor/actress include: “A Fantastic Woman” and “Tangerine.”
Sources: New York Times, CNN and Variety Magazine