It seems to be the season for film award heckled. A few weeks ago 12 Years A Slave director Steve McQueen was shouted at by famously contrarian film critic Armand White as “an embarrassing doorman and garbage man” at the New York Critics Circle Awards (White lost his job and membership of the Critics Circle over the incident).
Now, while Jared Leto was accepting one of the Santa Barbara Film Festival’s Virtuosos Awards on Tuesday for his performance as transgender AIDS patient Rayon in Dallas Buyers Club, a woman in the crowd yelled, “You don’t deserve an award. Trans misogyny does not deserve an award!”
THR says Leto asked the woman to explain what she meant, to which she replied, “You’re a man. You shouldn’t play a transgendered role!”
Leto continued to engage with the young woman (who some reports have suggested was transgender herself), saying, “Because I’m a man, I don’t deserve to play that part? So you would hold a role against someone who happened to be gay or lesbian — they can’t play a straight part?”Then you’ve made sure people that are gay, people that aren’t straight, people like the Rayons of the world would never have the opportunity to turn the tables and explore parts of that art.”
This response reportedly gained a large round of applause from the audience. The actor then invited the young woman backstage and spent 15 minutes talking to her and her friend.
It’s a situation where you can see both sides. Leto is right that it would be wrong to tell a gay person they can’t play a straight role. However if you shift that to saying white actors should be able to play African-Americans, few people would agree that was right. It would undoubtedly have been better if they had found a transgender person to play the role, but does having Jared Leto in the part intrinsically amount to ‘trans misogyny’?