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Actress Scarlett Johansson is under fire for accepting the role of real-life trans man Dante “Tex” Gill in mob drama Rub & Tug but she doesn't seem to care that she's taking work from transgender actors.
The film will be directed by Rupert Sanders, who was also criticised for casting her in last year’s flop “Ghost In The Shell.” That film was based on a cult Japanese manga story and anime movie and critics accused Sanders of “whitewashing” by casting Johansson instead of using an Asian actress.
Johansson caused outrage by responding to criticism of her casting in Rub & Tug by releasing an inflammatory statement to Bustle:
“Tell them that they can be directed to Jeffrey Tambor, Jared Leto, and Felicity Huffman’s reps for comment,” the statement read.
Hollywood has a history of excluding trans actors and actresses from playing trans characters and honouring cis-gendered actors for taking the roles.
Tambor won numerous Golden Globe and Emmy awards for playing a trans woman in TV show Transparent. Leto won a Golden Globe and Oscar for playing an HIV-positive transwoman in the film Dallas Buyers Club and Huffman was nominated for an Oscar for portraying a trans woman in Transamerica. Eddie Romayne was also nominated for an Oscar for playing trans in The Danish Girl.
Two of the most high profile trans actresses today, Trace Lysette and Jamie Clayton, expressed their outrage at Johansson's casting on Twitter.
Lysette, best known for her work on Transparent, wrote “I wouldn’t be as upset if I was getting in the same rooms as Jennifer Lawrence and Scarlett for cis roles,” she wrote. “But we know that’s not the case. A mess.”
Clayton, who worked on Sense8, wrote “Actors who are trans never even get to audition FOR ANYTHING OTHER THAN ROLES OF TRANS CHARACTERS. THAT'S THE REAL ISSUE. WE CAN'T EVEN GET IN THE ROOM. Cast actors WHO ARE TRANS as NON TRANS CHARACTERS. I DARE YOU."
Transgender activist Charlotte Clymer wrote on Twitter that she will now boycott Johansson’s movies.
“Yeah, I'm gonna avoid Scarlett Johansson movies moving forward after her response. Even if this topic were complex (and it's not: trans people should play trans people), flippantly dismissing concerns over this new role really says a lot about her views regarding trans people,” she wrote.
Last year, a group of high-profile transgender actors and actresses worked with ScreenCrush and GLAAD on a public service announcement calling for more trans representation in Hollywood.
Earlier this year, transgender actress Jen Richards told Buzzfeed News that while people of colour and women are fighting for equal pay in Hollywood, transgender performers are struggling to even get in the door for an audition.
“We are so far behind that pay equity is a nonissue for us right now...I think any of us would just be so thrilled to get a deeper part and to get paid at all. Like that would feel like such progress."