Actress Scarlett Johansson has pulled out of acting in a forthcoming movie 'Rub and Tug' about a trans man, after facing intense criticism from the LGBT community.
Last week, it was announced that Johansson had accepted the role of Dante 'Tex' Gill, a trans man who owned a string of massage parlours in 1970s Pittsburgh.
The film will be directed by Rupert Sanders, the same director that Johansson worked with on the film 'Ghost in the Shell', which saw her portray a Japanese person and also garnered extreme criticism for erasure of marginalised groups.
After the announcement, the star faced a major backlash among the trans community, led by actresses Trace Lysette and Jamie Clayton.
Taking to Twitter, 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.
Clayton echoed her thoughts:
We can't even get in the room. Cast actors who are trans as non-trans characters. I dare you.
Initially, Johansson issued a dismissive statement defending her decision to play the trans character by referring to other actors and actresses that had played trans characters in films.
Speaking to Bustle magazine, the statement read:
Tell them that they can be directed to Jeffrey Tambor, Jared Leto, and Felicity Huffman‘s reps for comment.
Needless to say, the dismissive riposte garnered frustrated and angry backlash, with many saying that Johansson should simply 'know better', and that she should understand how erasure works in Hollywood considering she's worked in it as a cis white woman for over two decades.
Now, Johansson has issued a statement, in which she says that she's now rejected the role, in OUT magazine:
In light of recent ethical questions raised surrounding my casting as Dante Tex Gill, I have decided to respectfully withdraw my participation in the project.
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.
I have great admiration and love for the trans community and am grateful that the conversation regarding inclusivity in Hollywood continues.
According to GLAAD, LGBTQ+ characters dropped 40% in 2017 from the previous year, with no representation of trans characters in any major studio release.
While I would have loved the opportunity to bring Dante’s story and transition to life, I understand why many feel he should be portrayed by a transgender person, and I am thankful that this casting debate, albeit controversial, has sparked a larger conversation about diversity and representation in film.
I believe that all artists should be considered equally and fairly.
My production company, These Pictures, actively pursues projects that both entertain and push boundaries.
We look forward to working with every community to bring these most poignant and important stories to audiences worldwide.