Scarlett Johansson is facing backlash after news of her latest role as a transgender man in an upcoming film from 21st Century Fox production house New Regency.
Johansson, who came under scrutiny last year for playing a Japanese character in Ghost in the Shell, will star in Rub & Tug, a true story based on the life of Dante “Tex” Gill, who ran a chain of Pittsburgh massage parlors as fronts for prostitution houses in the 1970s and ’80s. Reports of Johansson’s casting prompted criticism across social media, which intensified after an unidentified representative dismissed claims of appropriation.
“Tell them that they can be directed to Jeffrey Tambor, Jared Leto, and Felicity Huffman’s reps for comment,” Johansson’s rep told Bustle, referencing other cisgender actors who have played transgender roles.
Trans actors like Trace Lysette, who stars in Amazon’s Transparent (which tells the story of a man coming out as a trans woman), were quick to respond.
“Oh word?? So you can continue to play us but we can’t play y’all? Hollywood is so fucked,” Lysette said. “I wouldn’t be as upset if I was getting in the same rooms as Jennifer Lawrence and Scarlett for cis roles, but we know that’s not the case.
“And 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,” she added.
Leto won an Academy Award in 2014 for his role in Dallas Buyers Club; Huffman and Eddie Redmayne received Oscar nominations for their roles in Transamerica and The Danish Girl, respectively.
Often, however, trans characters are absent from Hollywood movies altogether. LGBTQ advocacy group GLAAD found in its latest Studio Responsibility Index that there were zero transgender characters in the 109 films distributed by major studios in 2017. That’s likely because none of those 109 movies were transgender-inclusive stories, the report found.
One possible solution to fix the issue? Give trans actors a roundtable to voice their concerns, writer and actress Jen Richards suggested.
“Hey @THR, this trans casting issue isn’t going away and there are a roundtable’s worth of us who could lay out all the finer points quite clearly,” Richards tweeted, imploring the Hollywood Reporter, which hosts a roundtable series with film and television stars.
“We’d love the chance to have our voices heard by the industry,” she added.