Scarlett Johansson was cast to play a transgender man for her next movie role—and when LGBTQ fans and actors expressed their concerns, the actress dug herself deeper into a hole.
On Monday, The Hollywood Reporter confirmed that the 33-year-old actress would play the lead in Rub & Tug, a film about a real-life trans man who owned a massage parlor in the ’70s and ’80s. Fans and fellow actors—including trans Sense8 star Jamie Clayton—were critical of Johansson’s choice to accept the role, arguing that it took an opportunity away from a transgender actor.
Actors who are trans never even get to audition FOR ANYTHING OTHER THAN ROLES OF TRANS CHARACTERS. THATS THE REAL ISSUE. WE CANT EVEN GET IN THE ROOM. Cast actors WHO ARE TRANS as NON TRANS CHARACTERS. I DARE YOU #RupertSanders @NewRegency #ScarlettJohansson https://t.co/RkrW8MeGcG
— Jamie Clayton (@MsJamieClayton) July 4, 2018
But things devolved quickly when Johansson addressed the controversy in the worst way possible: by deflecting toward other cis actors who took trans roles, including Transparent’s Jeffrey Tambor, who fell from grace after being accused of sexually assaulting two trans women on set.
“Tell them that they can be directed to Jeffrey Tambor, Jared Leto, and Felicity Huffman’s reps for comment,” Johansson’s team told Bustle, purportedly from the actress herself.
Scarlett Johansson had to know there would be justified pushback on her playing a trans man in a new movie. But WOW at this "update."
Is she insinuating her right to a play a trans man is a White Feminist™ issue bc cis white actors have played trans women? I'm disgusted. pic.twitter.com/V0a43UAJu5
— Kevin Allred (@KevinAllred) July 3, 2018
On playing a trans man in her new film, Scarlett Johansson sounds dumb as hell pic.twitter.com/5ycags4iR8
— Ira (@ira) July 4, 2018
It isn’t the first time ScarJo has faced backlash for accepting a marginalized role. The actress also starred in 2017’s Ghost in the Shell, a sci-fi film based off of a Japanese manga of the same name—and helmed by the same director as Rub & Tug.
Johansson’s character was Asian, and fans of the manga were upset to see a white woman cast in a role that was a natural fit for an Asian actor.
Scarlett Johansson played an Asian character in "Ghost in the Shell". Now she's playing a transgender man in a new movie, and people are calling her out for taking roles from underrepresented communities: pic.twitter.com/pRoiNg5YIZ
— AJ+ (@ajplus) July 3, 2018
The fucking hubris of invoking Tambor with this response when he was literally fired from playing a trans woman for sexually harassing several of us. Way to really underline that you openly disdain the community you’re happy to portray for prestige ScarJo. https://t.co/tj3GqIVh3B
— Riley Silverman ️ (@rileyjsilverman) July 3, 2018
Production for Rub & Tug begins February 2019.