In the last few years cisgender actors playing transgender roles has become an ever growing issue, with an increasing backlash against the likes of Jared Leto in The Dallas Buyers Club, Eddie Redmayne in The Danish Girl and more recently Matt Bomer in Anything. The voices have grown loud enough that it’s difficult to imagine the major actors and their agents are completely unaware that the tide has shifted.
However, following criticism of Scarlett Johansson for taking a trans role in the upcoming biopic Rub & Tug, her agent has given a tone deaf response that appears to suggest she’s completely unaware of what’s been going in in the last few years. Rub & Tug will tell the story of Dante ‘Tex’ Gill, a real-life 1970s mob-style figure, who providing steroids to NFL player and ran a string of massage parlours. Gill was also very masculine, asked to be referred to by male pronouns and may have started hormone treatment.
Despite Johansson facing ‘whitewashing’ accusations for her role in Ghost In The Shell, her reps were dismissive of criticism of her for taking a trans role, saying of the critics (via Bustle), “Tell them that they can be directed to Jeffrey Tambor, Jared Leto and Felicity Huffman’s reps for comment.” While all those actors have had success playing trans roles, they were not without their critics and happened before a growing rethink of the issue was starting to gain mainstream traction.
There are growing voices that feel cisgender actors playing trans roles is particularly harmful as they feel it perpetuates the idea that their gender identity is something they are ‘dressing up’ or ‘acting’ as, rather than it being a innate part of themselves. The reaction of Johansson’s reps is yet more evidence of how difficult it often is for trans people to have their voices heard.