“...furthering the disenfranchisement of LGBT people on-screen,”
July 8, 2018 2:16 PM   Subscribe

Scarlett Johansson continues problematic streak, will play a trans man [The Verge] “A year after Scarlett Johansson’s appearance in 2017’s adaptation of Ghost in the Shell, in which she played a canonically Asian woman and sparked a conversation about whitewashing in Hollywood, the actor has made yet another questionable decision: next year, she’ll be starring in Ghost director Rupert Sanders’ Rub & Tug, a biopic based on the real-life story of massage parlor boss Dante “Tex” Gill.”

• Johansson’s response [Bustle]
“Tell them that they can be directed to Jeffrey Tambor, Jared Leto, and Felicity Huffman’s reps for comment.”
• Trans Actors Protesting Scarlett Johansson's Trans Role Are Told They're Jealous, Unskilled Whiners [The Muse]
“Trans actors are asking why, of all roles, she would choose what, for a trans man, would be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Trace Lysette of Transparent tweeted a link to the Bustle story with the captions.”
“Oh word?? So you can continue to play us but we can’t play y’all? Hollywood is so fucked... 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. A mess. [...] And not only do you play us and steal our narrative and our opportunity but you pat yourselves on the back with trophies and accolades for mimicking what we have lived... so twisted. I’m so done...”
• Johansson is teaming up with her Ghost in the Shell director for another problematic casting choice. [Vox]
“Tambor, Leto, and Huffman are all cisgender actors who have played transgender roles; Tambor in the Amazon original series Transparent, Leto in 2013’s Dallas Buyers Club, and Huffman in 2005’s Transamerica. In other words, Johansson’s answer is more of an excuse: “If everyone else is doing it, I can do it, too.” This would be flawed thinking even without the added knowledge that each example she’s cited is a performance that was critically acclaimed, suggesting that the idea of playing a transgender character as awards bait factored into the casting decision. (Tambor won a Golden Globe and two Emmys for his performance as Maura Pfefferman; Leto won an Oscar, a Golden Globe, and a SAG Award; and Huffman won a Golden Globe.) ”
• Scarlett Johansson can’t do this: “Pose” shows why authenticity matters in LGBT stories [Salon]
“But “Pose” sets its target on greater sights than merely entertaining with sparkling visions of queer artists on a quest to capture "realness," always pursuing some approximation of the genuine article, some sacrificing their bodies to achieve it. What each episode does naturally, and beautifully, is take us into the stories of marginalized people with plots pegged to their lives and identities, making these stories central as opposed to auxiliary. It’s not giving anything away to say this week’s episode, like many before it, brings viewers nose to nose with the despair of the AIDS crisis in a way that makes the past present. As much as people would like to believe that HIV is under control, it’s not. Few Americans care that it’s still ravaging Third World countries. But it’s also hitting crisis levels in Florida. That said, “Pose” doesn’t lash itself to one distinct message or issue, choosing instead (and wisely) to connect us to how the people living with these issues cope with them or fall short.”
• Why Scarlett Johansson Shouldn’t Play a Trans Man [The New York Times]
“Jared Leto and Eddie Redmayne were lauded for their courage in portraying trans women on film (“Dallas Buyers Club” and “The Danish Girl”) — but not so much by transgender women themselves, many of whom found the performances mannered, studied and implausible. If you haven’t walked in our shoes, you wouldn’t notice the difference. But we have, and we do. Trans actors should play trans roles because we can do the best job. The freedom to live our lives out loud ought to include the chance to make art from the complex, difficult, joyful reality of our lives. When Hollywood tells us that they love us, that we belong to them, we need to resist.”
• Sorry, Scarlett Johansson, but there's a difference between playing a role and playing an identity [Independent]
“Just a few years ago, Buffalo Bill was pretty much the only “transgender” point of reference for straight, cisgender people. Literally the only representation of an entire community of already misunderstood people was a twisted serial killer. In a society already hostile to people living outside the ascribed confines of gender, and regardless of what was intended, this character acted to further marginalise us and make us seem like freakish and terrifying “others”. Put simply, characters like this increase stigma, and therefore violence. Fast-forward to the present day and it’s a positive relief that transgender people are represented on screen, page and stage in a much more varied and generally kinder way. But I can’t pretend I’m not disappointed that every time we’re given space in mainstream cinema, it’s through a cisgender actor.”
posted by Fizz (154 comments total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
 
Why? For a shot at an Oscar? I can't imagine Johansson doesn't have her pick of many other roles. And if she wins an Oscar for this won't it be, I don't know, tainted? Like winning a game by cheating? I hope this choice does lasting damage to her "brand" such as it is, but this is America so probably not.
posted by axiom at 2:33 PM on July 8 [2 favorites]


The transgender label appears to be one that is by no means certain, per this 2014 article.
posted by gsh at 2:43 PM on July 8 [3 favorites]


q: what’s the difference between ScarJo and the Kola Superdeep Borehole project?
a: one of them has stopped digging
posted by murphy slaw at 2:46 PM on July 8 [30 favorites]


Motoko was removed from her dying mother's womb and given a prosthetic body! Like I needed more reasons not to watch this movie.
posted by Brocktoon at 2:52 PM on July 8


She and Jared Leto have more than the controversy over this role in common!
posted by Borborygmus at 2:54 PM on July 8


Hey, she takes the role she deals with the blowback. That's how choice WORKS.
posted by taterpie at 2:57 PM on July 8 [13 favorites]


I blame the director/producers who cast her more than her for taking the role, but yea, it was definitely her choice, and dealing with the flack for that choice is part of her decision. She has more than enough money to never work again, she's not hard up for acting roles, and she can't have been unaware of the controversy this role would stir up.
posted by ethical_caligula at 3:12 PM on July 8 [4 favorites]


If it was that simple I'd expect to see a lot more cis characters played by opposite gender actors then. Funny how it only seems to be a "thing" when the character is trans.
posted by primalux at 3:12 PM on July 8 [58 favorites]


the actors bear some responsibility for this situation, but it's the rest of the system that is choosing and enabling them for these roles - the decisions are ultimately up to the people making the movies, not the actors - and that needs to be looked at, too
posted by pyramid termite at 3:13 PM on July 8 [1 favorite]


The Verge: That execs not only cast Johansson in this role...

Johansson is one of the producers on this film.
posted by Iris Gambol at 3:14 PM on July 8 [14 favorites]


@Party_Harderson I do not think Scarlett Johansson is an evil person or has ill-intent, but I do feel that if she doesn’t start hiring some career consultants moving forward we are 100% going to see her play Nelson Mandela in a biopic.
posted by figurant at 3:14 PM on July 8 [81 favorites]


We've usually limited casting of women as men and vice versa to comedy and very specific theater roles (ex: Peter Pan), though. It's kind of disingenuous to pretend like this is a thing that cisgendered actors do all of the time, unless it's playing trans for Oscar bait films.
posted by Selena777 at 3:15 PM on July 8 [3 favorites]


And we want them to stop pretending to be transgender. I think it's a very reasonable request.
posted by Brocktoon at 3:15 PM on July 8 [10 favorites]


I blame the director/producers who cast her more than her for taking the role

Johansson is one of the producers.
posted by urbanwhaleshark at 3:16 PM on July 8 [6 favorites]


+1000 to primalux. A cis girl played King Arthur in an elementary school production I was in, because she put herself up for the role and did the best in the audition, and it really set my expectations for the rest of my life unrealistically.
posted by potrzebie at 3:20 PM on July 8 [10 favorites]


I'm just amazed she's citing Jeffrey Tambor, of all people, as a behavioral example. After everything that's gone down with him this year. Even more tone-deaf than, well, the rest of this tone-deaf behavior.
posted by Rush-That-Speaks at 3:23 PM on July 8 [29 favorites]


Yes, ScarJo is a producer.

Was she before she was cast? Is it any less disappointing if she awards herself a role than if Toys R Us execs give themselves bonuses?

I think for me the biggest thing is, she's learned nothing from her last experience. She just doubles down. She lacks empathy, which seems like a real problem for this role.
posted by taterpie at 3:23 PM on July 8 [6 favorites]


[Deleted a bunch of comments. The bullying thing is a gross derail at best, and there's no point in litigating it even a little.]
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 3:38 PM on July 8 [14 favorites]


Oh, geeze. It’s true Motoko Kusanagi was a brain in a cybernetic body, but the film didn’t do anything with that. Not a hint of dismorphicidentity, even though that was a super-easy theme to present. I really like Kasper Juul, but Ghost in the Shell was a terrible movie.
posted by GenjiandProust at 3:42 PM on July 8 [2 favorites]


ScarJo has the worst PR people in Hollywood. She compares herself to Jeffrey Tambor like gurl is that who you want people to think of when they think of your problematic ass?
posted by supercrayon at 3:46 PM on July 8 [34 favorites]


I’m a trans person and I am pissed off about this.
posted by nikaspark at 3:49 PM on July 8 [47 favorites]




I posted a comment that got deleted and it seems we must protect the feelings of people being called out for being tone deaf and arrogant about their shitty choices. Is anyone surprised that she's taking on another role that she has no business taking? We tolerate it as a society, even here.
posted by driedmango at 3:52 PM on July 8 [5 favorites]


"bankable actors draw attention to the experiences of marginalized people" seemed to be the justification that let this kind of thing slide for decades, but I guess we're done with that now that there's a female actor doing it
posted by prize bull octorok at 3:52 PM on July 8 [3 favorites]


It's also just a strange response, when people explain that something is problematic partly because it happens all the time, to respond with "I refer you to a bunch of other times this has happened." Surely the answer to "See Jeffrey Tambor et al" is "yes, exactly!"
posted by trig at 3:52 PM on July 8 [14 favorites]


We haven’t been letting it slide. People have been shouting about it since the beginning of Hollywood. Distributed publishing means that the marginalized voices have a big enough platform to be heard. And if you think it’s because it’s a woman, look at the pushback mentioned in this very post against men doing this. That’s disingenuous.
posted by stoneweaver at 3:58 PM on July 8 [32 favorites]


Ghost in the shell was a terrible, terrible motion picture. I’m surprised they’re putting up money for this director again.
posted by valkane at 4:01 PM on July 8 [4 favorites]


Sure, the pushback against women is always worse. But that is because (straight white cis) men are allowed to get away with stuff that is wrong, not because this casting is ok.
posted by jeather at 4:02 PM on July 8 [18 favorites]


I had a comment deleted that was responding to a shitty comment, and the comment I have left up there was responding to that person's follow up shitty comment, so it's kind of without context, but I do want to make it clear: This sucks and Scarlett Johansson’s response sucks, and she's just not someone I ever want to support in anything she does after this (not that I was very inclined to after the Ghost in the Shell stuff).
posted by primalux at 4:04 PM on July 8 [2 favorites]


serious, non-loaded question: are movies like Philadelphia and Boys Don't Cry considered retroactively problematic now?
posted by prize bull octorok at 4:04 PM on July 8 [9 favorites]


but I guess we're done with that now that there's a female actor doing it

Or maybe you didn't notice the similar outrage with Tambor and Leto, and all the cases before that where it was a man playing a trans woman? Because this is not a new reaction.
posted by Dysk at 4:05 PM on July 8 [21 favorites]


Sure, the pushback against women is always worse.

I don't think we should just shrug that off.

Or maybe you didn't notice the similar outrage with Tambor and Leto

that is correct, I did not. the ScarJo pushback seems to be a lot more visible.
posted by prize bull octorok at 4:13 PM on July 8 [2 favorites]


serious, non-loaded question: are movies like Philadelphia and Boys Don't Cry considered retroactively problematic now?

I try very hard not to judge history by modern standards. We can’t even get this stuff right now, so blaming people 30 years ago for not doing it better seems unhelpful.

I have never read one thing ScarJo has ever said that I thought seemed like a down-to-earth, I have base levels of humanity kind of comment. And she either can’t learn or doesn’t care to. I’m unsurprised by this news.
posted by greermahoney at 4:18 PM on July 8 [3 favorites]


I have burning curiosity as to whether or not they put ScarJo in a fat suit.
posted by muddgirl at 4:20 PM on July 8 [4 favorites]


that is correct, I did not. the ScarJo pushback seems to be a lot more visible.

Her choosing another project that is this fraught/controversial right after Ghost in the Shell is part of why the criticism is so visible/apparent.
posted by Fizz at 4:23 PM on July 8 [23 favorites]


I'm just amazed she's citing Jeffrey Tambor, of all people, as a behavioral example. After everything that's gone down with him this year. Even more tone-deaf than, well, the rest of this tone-deaf behavior.

Right? Imagine going through life thinking "Anything that Jeffrey Tambor or Jared Leto did is a fine idea for me to do too."
posted by IAmUnaware at 4:28 PM on July 8 [10 favorites]


Why do these unknown actors think people would pay to see them in a movie rather than Scarlett Johansson?

Or are Johansson and her co-producers expected to risk losing their investment so an unknown can take the lead role? Millions of dollars are at stake. You don't get to tell people what to do with their own money.
posted by Tuco Benedicto Pacifico Juan Maria Ramirez at 4:31 PM on July 8 [2 favorites]


Sometimes people go to the movies to see a story instead of a name. That's way more often the case these days.
posted by Selena777 at 4:33 PM on July 8 [23 favorites]


I made a post about Eddie Redmayne's casting in The Danish Girl back in 2015. This comment by nebulawindphone is worth re-reading. It is very much relevant to this conversation we're still having in 2018.
posted by Fizz at 4:35 PM on July 8 [25 favorites]


Why do these unknown actors think people would pay to see them in a movie rather than Scarlett Johansson?

If Hollywood would cast more disenfranchised voices/people then they wouldn't be so unknown. Visibility, opportunity, and agency. These are things that are not too often given to people who are on the margins of society.
posted by Fizz at 4:38 PM on July 8 [96 favorites]


You don't get to tell people what to do with their own money.

who is gonna stop me
posted by poffin boffin at 4:38 PM on July 8 [84 favorites]


You don't get to tell people what to do with their own money.

Of course we do. They're hoping to sell us something. One possible and proportionate response is 'no, this is bad and we will not show up, here's why,' and a good marketer would be interested in that.

Upon preview, I regret that I only have one favorite to give Fizz for this:

If Hollywood would cast more disenfranchised voices/people then they wouldn't be so unknown.

A-fucking-men.
posted by mordax at 4:39 PM on July 8 [58 favorites]


that is correct, I did not. the ScarJo pushback seems to be a lot more visible.

It was there regardless. That you and others have only just started paying attention does not change facts.
posted by Dysk at 4:42 PM on July 8 [33 favorites]


Why do these unknown actors think people would pay to see them in a movie rather than Scarlett Johansson?
Try listening more.
posted by chococat at 4:43 PM on July 8 [24 favorites]


serious, non-loaded question: are movies like Philadelphia and Boys Don't Cry considered retroactively problematic now?

I mean, it's not even "retroactively" for Boys Don't Cry — some trans people were upset about it even at the time. They just didn't have as big a platform to get their complaints heard.

I haven't watched it since it came out, and as a trans woman I'm not the one whose opinion about it matters, but FWIW I've got mixed feelings about it. I think in some ways it was progress. I also think in some ways it wasn't.
posted by nebulawindphone at 4:47 PM on July 8 [27 favorites]


Why do these unknown actors think people would pay to see them in a movie rather than Scarlett Johansson?

Or are Johansson and her co-producers expected to risk losing their investment so an unknown can take the lead role? Millions of dollars are at stake. You don't get to tell people what to do with their own money.


There are a ton of ways to make this work. And they absolutely have power in how to do this. If it's a story she really wants to tell she could choose who to have involved and doesn't need to be in the main role. It sounds way out there I guess but this is a perfect opportunity for her to make an impact by stepping slightly over to the side. There are so many talented people out there. She'd be reaching more people that way too instead of alienating everyone.
posted by mokeydraws at 4:57 PM on July 8 [9 favorites]


If they need the draw of Scarlett Johannson she could play Tex Gill's wife, Cynthia Bruno.
posted by muddgirl at 5:05 PM on July 8 [20 favorites]


You don't get to tell people what to do with their own money.

I don't actually see anyone doing that. Saying "a bunch of the people most likely to otherwise be interested in this film find your casting choices problematic and we might not spend our money on it" isn't telling anyone what to do with their money.

Likewise, no one is telling Ms. Johansson she can't play the role, but rather, that her doing so troubles them because they'd like to start seeing trans actors on screen more, and so why not at least start with giving trans actors the opportunity to tell their own stories?

That reaponse is compounded by another, similar unfortunate choice by Johansson, and the fact that she's poised to repeat that mistake is troubling for a different set of reasons, but none of them have to do with what anyone believes she can or can't do.

I think Johansson probably did not ask herself, honestly, "am I the best person to tell this story?" which, yes, is not a question we have always wanted our storytellers and artists to ask, but it is increasingly becoming so, and it's a bummer than Johansson's repsonse to that desire is defensiveness, rather than openness and empathy. That she seems to lack empathy for the very community of whom the character she intends to portray was a part makes the decision all the more troubling - she might not handle the storytelling well at all, any good work done by getting the story told might be undermined by the method of its telling.

Perhaps instead of framing it: you can't tell the filmmakers what they can do with their own money, we should frame it: the filmmakers can't tell trans people what can be done with their own story.
posted by eustacescrubb at 5:08 PM on July 8 [12 favorites]


Also, as you can see from his obituary in the Post Gazette (trigger warning for misgendering language), Gill insisted that he was a man.
posted by muddgirl at 5:09 PM on July 8 [8 favorites]


As we've established that she doesn't need the money or the exposure, I'll suggest that she wants to do it because she wants to play a trans man in a movie. You may disagree with her desire to do so, but she's in a place in her career, thanks to Avengers money/fame, etc., where she can call the shots and pick the parts for herself.

It should go without saying that she has every right to claim the role and make the movie if she wants to, and a less-ungenerous view of it is that she finds the challenge of playing this character appealing.

As was pointed out, film-making is a business, and a marquee name helps the film get made. If she doesn't get cast, then the story doesn't get told. It may also be that she wants to parlay her box office strength specifically to tell stories that wouldn't otherwise be told.

Now, you might ask, what about A Fantastic Woman? And I'd reply, great movie--I had the pleasure of attending a screening where Daniela Vega and director Sebastián Lelio had a Q&A afterwards. Its box office totalled $3M. That's a rounding error for an MCU flick.

So, if ScarJo makes this movie, and it grosses, say, $30M (by comparison, for example, Phantom Thread grossed $46M worldwide), that's how many people get exposed to the theme, the story, the character. You may think the story shouldn't be told except as played by a transgender thespian, but the perfect is the enemy of the good, and some might think it better to get people who would never pay to see a trans-themed film into the theater on the basis of the lead's name/fame.

Then, is it better for the film never to be made--or, if made, to be relegated to art house obscurity--than to have it made with her in the lead?
posted by the sobsister at 5:09 PM on July 8 [16 favorites]


that is correct, I did not. the ScarJo pushback seems to be a lot more visible

Misogyny poisons all critical discussions about women, because you're never going to be sure that the criticism isn't rooted in misogyny. It's a really uncomfortable fact. I deal with all of the time. But we can't let that suspicion result in us giving women a pass when they really fuck up like this.

In this case, a lot of the criticism of Johansson is coming from people who are directly affected (trans actors). It's not being co-opted to score points against women, as is the case when alt-right youtubers rant about "white feminism." Surely, trans actors being heard is a good thing? And for the most part, the criticism is coming from people who are usually sensitive to the double standards that women face - trans writers, feminists, and so on.

Johansson is a really big actor right now. What she does makes more news, and on top of it, the fact that this is the second time adds a kind of viral quality to it. I'd expect this to be a bigger story than the criticism of Tambor's role in Transparent even if she was a cis man being hired to play a trans woman.

We can't throw trans people under the bus to protect women, especially when there's very little concrete to go on to indicate that the criticism is actually disproportionate or that it's being used disingenuously.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 5:10 PM on July 8 [41 favorites]


Then, is it better for the film never to be made--or, if made, to be relegated to art house obscurity--than to have it made with her in the lead?

the sobsister, you raise some very good points. I appreciate that you're joining in with this conversation. I don't know that I have an answer for this question outside of the fact that, if you make enough of a marginal thing, at some point it stops being marginal and it starts to be mainstream. I mean, at one point in film history, comic book films were sort of on the outskirts, they were considered childish and not given a lot of seriousness, but now look at that genre.

I get that she has a lot of star power and that this brings something to the table, it makes other producers, writers, the entire industry pay attention. But, as was mentioned above, she could have just as easily brought her star power to this film and used it to champion someone else, to tell their story and to lift them up.
posted by Fizz at 5:15 PM on July 8 [7 favorites]


Maybe at some point trans actors will be hired so often to play cis characters that this won't matter, but right now trans actors are mostly restricted to playing trans characters (please feel free to inform me of examples against it -- my google searches kept coming back to this story). So there are not many roles trans actors have any chance at (which is also a problem), and even those get taken by cis actors.
posted by jeather at 5:24 PM on July 8 [16 favorites]


tbh what bugs me about this kind of casting is that it's not just that they're casting someone cis, they're casting a cis woman

"woman" is NOT the gender of the person being represented. it's a slap in the face to have it be this obvious that the producers etc. see this man not as being a man, but instead, as a woman dressed as a man. so it's most obvious to them to get a woman to play him. I hate that. seems so disrespectful.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 5:26 PM on July 8 [79 favorites]


But, as was mentioned above, she could have just as easily brought her star power to this film and used it to champion someone else, to tell their story and to lift them up.

Fizz, that's true. But having her as a producer on a film is much less likely to get asses in seats. Compare ScarJo producing and trans actor X starring to ScarJo onscreen. Which is going to open bigger? Which is going to get more buzz? Which is going to bring the topic to the mass media outlets from which much of America gets its entertainment news?
posted by the sobsister at 5:27 PM on July 8 [2 favorites]


Then, is it better for the film never to be made--or, if made, to be relegated to art house obscurity--than to have it made with her in the lead?

The thing that always informs my opinion on this is: what if it were my life or story? How would I feel about it?

On that basis, I definitely don't think it's better with Scarlet Johansson in the lead.
posted by Dysk at 5:29 PM on July 8 [19 favorites]


people are aware of trans people. This isn't about awareness. It's about exploiting a trans man in order to get $$$$ and an Oscar. If it were about awareness or doing something good for trans people then it would be supported by trans people. It largely is not.

If all the profits get donated to a real pro-trans cause I might, might, might give a shit. but let's not make this out to be some kind of charity that trans people should be grateful for. It's scraps, frankly, and it's kind of insulting.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 5:29 PM on July 8 [45 favorites]


Fizz, that's true. But being a producer on a film is much less likely to get asses in seats. Compare ScarJo producing and trans actor X starring to ScarJo onscreen. Which is going to open bigger?

Maybe try reading what other people have said.
posted by juv3nal at 5:30 PM on July 8 [5 favorites]


At the barest fucking minimum, cis people playing trans roles reinforces the idea that trans people are just making it up and that shit is harming us so profoundly that I would appreciate cis actors giving up their fascination with playing our roles and instead do something like give umpteen million dollars to Equality Texas instead of making another movie that reinforces these harmful notions.
posted by nikaspark at 5:30 PM on July 8 [56 favorites]


"Maybe at some point trans actors will be hired so often to play cis characters that this won't matter..."
I think it is also important to say that trans men are men and trans women are women, so having them playing cis characters is not problematic. Trans men are not cis women pretending to be men so this casting is incredibly problematic for that reason too. The idea that trans men are just cis women pretending to be men, or that trans women are cis men pretending to be women, is something that gets trans people killed.
posted by primalux at 5:31 PM on July 8 [43 favorites]


Or what nikaspark just said basically.
posted by primalux at 5:31 PM on July 8 [1 favorite]


But being a producer on a film is much less likely to get asses in seats.

I need asses in seats shutting down the Capitol building in the state of Texas in the spring of 2019 when the Texas GOP stands an excellent chance of passing a round of anti-lgbt legislation that will make North Carolina look like a social democracy in comparison. I don’t need asses in the seats of movie theaters watching a cis person portray a trans man.
posted by nikaspark at 5:35 PM on July 8 [60 favorites]


It's about exploiting a trans man in order to get $$$$ and an Oscar.

This is entirely presumptive. Even wildly successful, this film will likely not break $40M worldwide gross. That's nothing for her movies.

And do people take on roles for the likelihood of getting an Oscar, given how tortuous and unpredictable a path that can take?

Bear in mind that she takes on this role with the keen knowledge of the backlash to Ghost in the Shell. So, she's either clueless as to the impact--not something I think is likely for one of Hollywood's biggest stars--or she's decided to take her lumps and stick with whatever reasons she has for making this film.
posted by the sobsister at 5:35 PM on July 8 [4 favorites]


Yeah, the issue for me is less "cis person playing trans role" as it is "cis woman playing trans male role (because trans men are basically women)". Cast a cis woman to play a trans woman, or a cis man to play a trans man, and I have much less of an issue.
posted by Dysk at 5:35 PM on July 8 [35 favorites]


So...I'm supposed to be grateful? Turns out that I'm not

BTW if I die and anyone but Burt Reynolds or his age-appropriate equivalent plays me in a movie I will fucking haunt every last one of you
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 5:37 PM on July 8 [31 favorites]


the sobsister: And do people take on roles for the likelihood of getting an Oscar, given how tortuous and unpredictable a path that can take?

Yes. I mean, I don't know what else to say to this question except yes. I don't know how you can be even marginally aware of Hollywood and not know that the answer to that question is "yes."
posted by tzikeh at 5:42 PM on July 8 [32 favorites]


[the sobsister, now is the time to back off, because you're centering the conversation on yourself here.]
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 5:43 PM on July 8 [13 favorites]


And I’m gonna go off on a wee tangent here and state cis actors have shown that they do not posses the range to acurately portray and capture and reflect back the lives of trans people.

It’s like someone still wearing clothes their mom picked out for them and exclaiming “you’re a fashion icon!”

I have yet to see a cis actor play a trans role that wasn’t embarrassing as fuck to watch. It’s like an own goal on your acting career. Why do it.
posted by nikaspark at 5:49 PM on July 8 [16 favorites]


You may think the story shouldn't be told except as played by a transgender thespian

Hmmm I’m more worried about what kind of story gets told when it’s not being told by a trans man. Somehow I don’t think the aspects of Gill’s story that Gill or a modern trans man would find compelling will be the same aspects of the story that cis people find compelling. Who tells the story determines what story gets told.

If they’re not even interested in what trans men and the queer community of the time have to say about this...it’s gonna be an exploitive story.

She wants an Oscar. She’s not gonna get it now.
posted by schadenfrau at 5:52 PM on July 8 [14 favorites]


...do people take on roles for the likelihood of getting an Oscar, given how tortuous and unpredictable a path that can take?

Yes, campaigning is a career investment, though the initial pay bump post-win is much less for women than it is for men. (Though Johansson's certainly not hurting now, having "Oscar-winner" in front of her name may help her down the line, as she ages and is considered less bankable.)
posted by Iris Gambol at 5:53 PM on July 8 [2 favorites]


Yes, I did, thanks. ScarJo herself in the role is the draw. Not ScarJo as the lead character's wife or boss or neighbor.

I don't understand this response at all. Famous actors are cast in supporting roles to less famous actors all the damn time. The alchemy of what draws people to films and what is going to turn them off is far more complex than "famous person is/is not in lead role".
posted by oneirodynia at 5:54 PM on July 8 [3 favorites]


Yeah, the issue for me is less "cis person playing trans role" as it is "cis woman playing trans male role (because trans men are basically women)". Cast a cis woman to play a trans woman, or a cis man to play a trans man, and I have much less of an issue.

Thanks for this clarification, I was actually just wondering about this.
posted by corb at 6:12 PM on July 8 [5 favorites]


[There is absolutely nothing to be gained by bringing in the question of blackface here - it's a complete derail. Please pick another argument. ]
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 6:36 PM on July 8 [8 favorites]


For reference, here's the Mefi thread about Transparent. There's definitely a lengthly debate about a cis man playing the role, but it feels less hostile to Tambor.

IMHO, I think Johansson is getting more push back than the cis men mentioned above and I think the reason is misogyny. Nothing is more natural in our society than telling a woman she's wrong (regardless if she is or not.)
posted by gwint at 6:55 PM on July 8 [5 favorites]


That thread was 4 years ago. Many MANY metas have happened since then clarifying trans issues on this site. It's apples and oranges to compare these two threads.
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 7:06 PM on July 8 [29 favorites]


I think you’re cherry picking to make a point that’s reading a little weird to me, the Danish girl and Dallas buyers club was met with massive hostilities in the queer communities I run with, and transparent has met a large amount of rightfully deserved heated criticism over the years. I feel you’re dragging something into the conversation as a way of trying to quell criticism, I’m having a hard time with that.

That said, sure we need to remain intersectional as fuck and keep misogyny in our frame, I just think using transparent and the representation of trans women as your source citation is kind making it feel like trans women aren’t actual women and your comment is defaulting to cis women only.
posted by nikaspark at 7:06 PM on July 8 [28 favorites]


Speaking only for myself - I am far more aware now than I was then about why the issue is important, that it isn't just about "acting", how dangerous perpetuating the "trans people are just pretending" myth is, how important trans representation is, and how important it is for trans people to have the same professional opportunities as cis people, as well as the same opportunities to tell their own stories.

I also think she responded like an entitled jerk.
posted by primalux at 7:06 PM on July 8 [22 favorites]


Regarding Boys Don't Cry, the journalist who broke the story wrote recently and very interestingly about how her own ignorance, biases, and bigotry led her to reporting Brandon Teena's story in a way that she now regrets:
Boys Don’t Cry director Kimberly Peirce told me in a recent interview that my article had been the major inspiration for her film about Brandon’s life and murder: “Your article was on fire. I read it and I fell in love with Brandon. It made me love his vulnerability, his daring, his innocence, the way that he gave pleasure sexually. I was in love with this person who had shaped himself.”

It also proved to be the most insensitive and inaccurate piece of journalism I have ever written.

For years, I have wanted to apologize for what I now understand, with some shame, was the article’s implicit anti-trans framing.
It's a really fascinating reassessment of her piece, what she got right and wrong, and how her own biases, preconceptions, misunderstandings, personal experiences, and bigotry got in the way of her reporting; I urge you all to spend 20 minutes reading it.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:09 PM on July 8 [58 favorites]


Also seconding nikaspark- just because 4 years ago on metafilter there wasn’t a ton of pushback against Tambor doesn’t mean there wasn’t a ton of pushback in queer circles. Cause there was. A ton.
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 7:14 PM on July 8 [23 favorites]


IMHO, I think Johansson is getting more push back than the cis men mentioned above and I think the reason is misogyny. Nothing is more natural in our society than telling a woman she's wrong (regardless if she is or not.)

I think it's because of misogyny - why would the world take the complaints of trans women seriously? Nothing is more natural than pretending things aren't as big a problem when it's trans women on the line.
posted by Dysk at 8:29 PM on July 8 [22 favorites]


Nthing the notion that the pushback here is not new. I am a cis-male, so take that as you will, but I saw plenty of pushback towards Leto and Tambor’s choices in taking the roles that they did from people I know and love who have a personal stake in being represented in media by actors who share their gender identity rather than being “portrayed” by cis-gender people.
posted by invitapriore at 8:30 PM on July 8 [4 favorites]


(i.e. as far as any mismatch in treatment does exist, it's hardly Scarlet Johansson who is being shat on excessively. Rather, it is people like Tambor and Leto being shat on insufficiently, because trans women's concerns are still often not taken seriously)
posted by Dysk at 8:34 PM on July 8 [17 favorites]


It's also visibility. Leto's known for My So-Called Life, and Requiem for a Dream, plus a long career of forgettable roles. His Joker came after Dallas Buyer's Club.

Tambor is known (these days) for Arrested Development, primarily.

Johansson is at least an order of magnitude more famous than either of these guys. That alone would lead her to draw more criticism. That she just fucked up in the same manner with Ghost in the Shell last year is really what's driving this, though.
posted by explosion at 8:42 PM on July 8 [5 favorites]


I'm sympathetic to concerns about Johansson being subject to more outrage than cis male actors in similar roles because yeah, society does tend to judge women more harshly. On the other hand, that doesn't negate the fact that her actions and words are still causing harm, ridiculously problematic, and shows that she hasn't learned a single darned thing since Ghost in the Shell.

It's funny though that some are more concerned about the feelings of a wealthy white conventionally beautiful abled cis-woman (aka extremely privileged) rather than the concerns of the people who are actually directly affected and offended by her actions and portrayal.
posted by devrim at 8:43 PM on July 8 [13 favorites]


I'm just frustrated as a nb POC since she takes stories and narratives about minorities, people with struggles that she as a privileged white cis-woman can't really understand (especially since she shows no interest in actually working to gain that understanding!), and she inserts herself into those without a second's thought about the ramifications. I get that it's kind of what actors and actresses do, but when there are so few stories that are being told by Hollywood (aka mainstream and accessible to more people), why do they have to be dominated by white cis-folks who don't care at all about the impact of what they're doing? They're only aware of the meaning behind their roles to the extent that they can milk the role for all the accolades and praise they can get for being so "daring" and "bold." It fetishizes and minimizes the actual people whose stories are being told.
Ugh.
posted by devrim at 8:54 PM on July 8 [25 favorites]


I just want to say I don't feel qualified to offer an opinion, but I am listening.
posted by SecretAgentSockpuppet at 8:56 PM on July 8 [5 favorites]


"the ScarJo pushback seems to be a lot more visible."

That's true, but that's mostly because progressives don't give a shit when transfeminine people complain that we're being treated like garbage. Trans women were furious about Tambor, and the fact that he continued to get work despite his terrible behaviour. Most cis people didn't listen to us. In contrast, every trans man I know was super supportive. It's spectacularly disingenuous to use the fact that you all didn't listen to trans women then as an excuse to not listen to trans men now.

To me, Johansson's comments just read like the "white cis lady tears" thing, and I'm pretty tired of it. She's the one who has done wrong here, and she's trying to deflect the blame onto other people. Fuck that: the vast majority of cis women are perfectly capable of not being gross to transgender people, so this trans lady is going to reserve her sympathy for them.
posted by saltbush and olive at 9:20 PM on July 8 [37 favorites]


Her response was super tone deaf and erased all sympathy I had for her position.
posted by Dip Flash at 9:27 PM on July 8 [4 favorites]


@mbirdwether: In Antarctica there are some 80 plus holes such as the one pictured below, used by scientists to study neutrinos. Created using heated pipes, they are some 1.5 miles deep, a depth exceeded in man-made drilling only by the hole Scarlett Johansson is digging at this moment.

(Tweet includes pic of the neutrino hole, which is pretty cool).
posted by ActionPopulated at 9:53 PM on July 8 [10 favorites]




I saw press about Tambor and Leto’s projects, and the focus was squarely on how great it was that they wanted to challenge themselves by stepping outside of the typical roles that were coming their way, challenge others whose worldviews may not yet include trans people living their lives, and gain greater empathy by walking a mile in someone else’s shoes. All consciousness-expanding stuff. Like, doing this will help open the door for more similar projects in future, which could then be acted in by people who are a more natural fit.

But the coverage here and last time around is zero-sum. Like, by her taking on this role, she’s taking something away from others.

There is truth to both sides of the coin. It’s interesting what gets focused on. I wonder what it is that makes the difference. Maybe the side that’s weighted more heavily is shifting as time goes on? (we now have Caitlyn Jenner, Chelsea Manning, etc in mainstream consciousness) Maybe we just don’t believe she’ll be able to do a good job of it?
posted by mantecol at 10:06 PM on July 8 [1 favorite]


In addition to all of the other reasons mentioned above, I think the push-back against Johannson is a little stronger than that against Leto or Tambor because of the recent "Ghost in the Shell" situation. Her acceptance of this role suggests that she learned nothing.
posted by Joey Michaels at 10:10 PM on July 8 [1 favorite]


mantecol: "I saw press about Tambor and Leto’s projects, and the focus was squarely on how great it was that they wanted to challenge themselves by stepping outside of the typical roles that were coming their way, challenge others whose worldviews may not yet include trans people living their lives, and gain greater empathy by walking a mile in someone else’s shoes. All consciousness-expanding stuff. Like, doing this will help open the door for more similar projects in future, which could then be acted in by people who are a more natural fit. But the coverage here and last time around is zero-sum. Like, by her taking on this role, she’s taking something away from others. There is truth to both sides of the coin. "

I'm going to step away from this thread because I'm starting to get angry, but ... please, please don't do this. If the coverage you read of Tambor and Leto appeared that way to you, I can pretty much guarantee it's because you weren't reading anything written by trans women. We didn't want cis men in those roles. We argued strongly at that time that they were taking roles from trans women. We yelled it at the top of our lungs. Nobody listened. It was wrong then, and it's still wrong now. There really aren't two sides to this.
posted by saltbush and olive at 10:17 PM on July 8 [82 favorites]


serious, non-loaded question: are movies like Philadelphia and Boys Don't Cry considered retroactively problematic now?

I mean... yes, of course it was also a problem that, in the early 1990s, an HIV-positive gay man would never have been cast to play an HIV-positive gay man in a movie about being an HIV-positive gay man in the early 1990s, at exactly the point when it was such a huge deal for the people who were living that, and those of us who were adjacent to that. (It came out at roughly the same point in my childhood where I was being told I had to lie about or not talk about an HIV-related death in the family because anything else would be Shameful. Yes, my family would have been helped by seeing that representation.)

Are movies containing racism or racist casting "retroactively problematic" just because we notice this stuff more now? If there wasn't a general pervasive awareness of the problem such that I personally think that the actor involved knew there was an issue, I'm not as inclined to see it as much of an issue of personal responsibility--not "not at all", but less so. Now, especially for this particular actor? She knows, and she's doing it anyway. If twenty years from now people actually consider this to be a culturally influential movie on the scale of Philadelphia, I'll see it then, but I'm not really expecting that to happen.
posted by Sequence at 10:27 PM on July 8 [3 favorites]


Are movies containing racism or racist casting "retroactively problematic" just because we notice this stuff more now?

Yes, yes they are. I give as evidence Mickey Rooney as I.Y. Yunioshi.
posted by kalessin at 10:31 PM on July 8 [18 favorites]


If you want yet another reason why the reaction to Rub & Tug might seem stronger than the one to, say, Transparent - in addition to "you missed it" and "Johannson just came off of playing a japanese woman in Ghost in the Shell with the same director" and "she isn't just cast in it, she's a producer on the movie" and "her response to criticism was to cite three cis actors who won awards for playing trans parts, two of whom have disavowed their casting and one of whom is a sexual predator" - perhaps consider the framing of the work itself? Transparent was very explicitly both fiction, and about Tambor's character being a trans woman. However, Rub & Tug is a biopic about an actual person, and - according to the trades and the messaging from the studio - is:

an American Hustle-like true story in which Rupert Sanders will direct Scarlett Johansson in the fact-based story of a woman who flourished in a male-dominated business of massage parlors and prostitution by essentially taking on the physical identity of a man. ... Jean Marie Gill was a larger-than-life character who took on the mob and became the crime kingpin of 1970s Pittsburgh through her empire of illicit massage parlors and an anabolic steroids ring that helped fuel the Pittsburgh Steelers’ NFL dynasty, all the while cross-dressing and leaning on her allies in the gay community to help grow her empire. However, it is Jean’s fiery romance with her girlfriend Cynthia that truly defines her and forms the emotional core of the story.

Which is slightly different. It's not just erasure in casting, it's violent erasure in writing too. Almost as though the cis woman who cast herself to play a trans man is doing an especially disrespectful portrayal!
posted by kafziel at 10:53 PM on July 8 [41 favorites]


I didn't mean they aren't a problem, I meant that it's not some kind of retroactive "only in the light of the current culture this is bad" thing, they were ALWAYS racist, they didn't suddenly become racist because we started thinking about it.
posted by Sequence at 10:55 PM on July 8 [5 favorites]


Which is slightly different. It's not just erasure in casting, it's violent erasure in writing too. Almost as though the cis woman who cast herself to play a trans man is doing an especially disrespectful portrayal!

holy crap, they're deadnaming the subject of their biopic in their press package?
posted by murphy slaw at 11:39 PM on July 8 [23 favorites]


Deadnaming is something you do to someone trans. According to them, Gill wasn't trans. Dante was a pseudonym.
posted by kafziel at 11:54 PM on July 8


AFAICT, Gill was a trans man who was aggressively misgendered by the press, who treated his trans status as a laugh line. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette misgendered him in their 2003 obituary, all the while noting
In all the old newspaper stories about Dante "Tex" Gill, she was always "the woman who prefers to be known as a man," or some variation of that description, and she sure looked and acted the part.

Short and dumpy, she wore men's suits and short hair, she talked tough and she may even have undergone the initial stages of a sex change that made her appear masculine.

For years, according to police, Ms. Gill ran a string of parlors as fronts for prostitution, all the while insisting that she was a man and telling everyone she wanted to be known as "Mr. Gill."
(emphasis mine)
posted by murphy slaw at 12:08 AM on July 9 [25 favorites]


Yeah, sarcasm might not have come through in text. Dante Gill was inarguably a trans man. But to the people making the movie, and thus presumably in the movie, he wasn't and won't be.
posted by kafziel at 12:27 AM on July 9 [7 favorites]


I don't understand this casting at all. Do all these people who would only go see a movie if scarlet johanson is the lead (seriously argued here) actually want to see her play a man? How does it make sense to have her play someone 'short and dumpy' and masculine? It's just crazy to me on several levels, including 'why does hollywood hire incredibly attractive people to play someone who was unremarkable looking'. It's bad, insensitive, illogical, and ultimately hugely selfish casting that contributes to erasure. I think 'you should be grateful for what you get' is a terrible way to look at this.
posted by stillnocturnal at 2:01 AM on July 9 [13 favorites]


I think about how cis journalists such as Jesse Singal and cis doctors who treat trans people are giving a tell here for us. In their views us trans people aren’t capable or trustworthy of telling our own stories ourselves, that the only way we are legitimate is if who we are passes through a cis person to judge and determine who we are as fact. We can’t be a fact unto ourselves.

In that way this is how movie makers and story writers treat us too. And it is patronizing. It is misogyny against trans men and transmisogyny against trans women.
posted by nikaspark at 2:14 AM on July 9 [23 favorites]


(And by perpetrating misogyny against trans men, it becomes a really shit, gaslighting way for cis people to violently misgender trans men)
posted by nikaspark at 2:20 AM on July 9 [8 favorites]


Sigh, I really like Scarlett Johansson, this makes me upset and sad. I didn't see Ghost in the Shell and I won't be seeing this either.

But what I want to do now is obsessively read a bunch of articles about Dante “Tex” Gill's life because I've never heard of him before and it sounds like a fascinating story. Google results are currently overrun with Johansson so if anyone has some links that are pre-Rub&Tug I'd appreciate it. Does Dante Gill go by another name? I can't find an article on Wikipedia which seems strange to me.
posted by like_neon at 2:36 AM on July 9 [3 favorites]


The real tragedy here is that they didn’t cast Lea DeLaria as Gill.
posted by tristeza at 2:41 AM on July 9 [5 favorites]


Just going to leave this here. Such casting, very wow.
posted by Dysk at 2:53 AM on July 9 [1 favorite]


like_neon - to find more relevant results you can do a search using "-Johansson" (without quotes) or restricting dates
sorry if you tried this already

posted by trig at 2:53 AM on July 9




I remember reading the obituary when Gill died and thinking that his story would make a great movie. 1970's Pittsburgh was right in the middle of the steel crash and was really at its nadir; still dirty and ugly from a century of mills but with one of the worst employment rates in the country. Setting an organized crime story in that world with Tex Gill at the center could be awesome so I was excited when I heard about this film but then so disappointed when I found out how they were doing it.
posted by octothorpe at 3:35 AM on July 9 [4 favorites]


I’ll probably go hate watch it and feel burning dysphoria because I’ll never be cis. Just another day in the park being trans.
posted by nikaspark at 4:25 AM on July 9 [3 favorites]


Hillary Swank was hardly a household name when she made Boys Don't Cry. A small biopic or "serious issue" film doesn't need a star of Johansson's magnitude. They could have gone for a director who is a draw or cast a star in a supporting role. A smaller role in a Serious Movie is a thing actors do when they want to boost their acting cred.
posted by Mavri at 5:52 AM on July 9 [2 favorites]


Has everyone watched The T yet? So good! The acting, the writing, the beautiful interior cinematography...
posted by latkes at 6:04 AM on July 9 [1 favorite]


"Gain greater empathy by walking a mile in someone else’s shoes," by using those shoes to stomp all over the people in question, who are saying this is not OK (SO MAYBE WE SHOULD LISTEN TO THEM)? No thank you.
posted by sacchan at 6:26 AM on July 9 [2 favorites]


Then, is it better for the film never to be made--or, if made, to be relegated to art house obscurity--than to have it made with her in the lead?

For many of us, having cis straight people who don't know the first things about us re-interpret and tell our stories to a cis straight audience is essentially promoting misinformation in addition to erasing us. Their insistence on telling our stories without us means they get those stories wrong, reduces them to cis straight people talking to other cis straight people about us without including us. What good does that do us? Why are we supposed to be excited about yet another cis straight interpretation of queer and trans lives for a cis straight audience that refuses our participation and smooths us out to be palatable to cis straight people at every turn? Other people have said it better above, but the ways that this erases queer and trans people is actively harmful, and it becomes yet another piece of media where cis straight people can gawk at us without understanding or empathizing with us, while normalizing having a cis woman play a trans man.

I guess I'm sticking with local theater.
posted by bile and syntax at 6:48 AM on July 9 [41 favorites]


Man, the press for this is just shit, shit, shit. I would be unhappy about Ms. Johansson or any cis woman playing a trans man, but the way the writeups perpetuate the 1970s transphobic denial of Gill's identity is just utterly horrendous. I feel like this would be less likely if Gill had been more conventionally handsome, rather than a short, fat, "dumpy" trans man? Like, if you're a trans person who succeeds in being a particularly fine specimen of your gender, your prize is that people agree to be nice to your face and deadname you less often. Ugh. How is basic respect so fucking difficult.
posted by desuetude at 7:32 AM on July 9 [20 favorites]


Excluding Marvel, I thought about the past movies I remember most clearly from Johannson, and they all share a thread that I haven’t seen considered in the discussions around this Tex role.

“Her”: The character has no body, and eventually transcends humanity.
“Lucy”: The character exists in a body of arbitrary nature, and eventually transcends humanity.
“Under the Skin”: The character has a body, but discovers that it’s alien to themself and others.
“Ghost in the Shell”: The character has a cyborg body, and falls in love with a character with no body.

Whatever else is right or wrong here, there’s a clear trend: Johannson seems to specialize in playing body-queer roles. If Johannson is ‘in the closet’ in one or another respect, given the outrage she absorbs for taking (and, now, producing!) queer roles, I wouldn’t blame her for installing another lock on any closet doors she might have and staying in forever.
posted by crysflame at 7:35 AM on July 9 [3 favorites]


Here is an actor who has serious wealth and significant power in Hollywood. Her box office power is based on her looks and sexiness, and is likely to be time-limited. She's an actor, and actors don't need to be the person they portray; it's acting. Even if she weren't a producer of the film, I would be confident that she lobbied hard for the role. As it is, she is likely to be an investor and one assumes that gave her the casting choice. Would the film be made without her money and box office power? With all this publicity?

At this moment in time, as issues for people who are trans are coming to the forefront, she could use her power to fill the role with an actor who is trans. She has been politically active and could use her power for trans rights, She isn't required to, but what an opportunity. If nothing else, a less facile answer is needed. Step up, Scarlet.
posted by theora55 at 7:58 AM on July 9 [3 favorites]


However "body queer" Johansson might be, it does not give her any right to recast people's gender, lives, or character to serve her exploration of such an identity (and it's pure speculation at this point that that is what is happening). Effectively misgendering Gill is what this film does. Reducing a trans person or trans identity to equivalent to that of an AI in scifi or anime is at best deeply respectful. Trans people are not cool analogies for cis people to play with. Stick with playing robots or whatever is that's what you're into.
posted by Dysk at 7:58 AM on July 9 [29 favorites]


I’m into the sort of pomo broad understanding of queer, but you can’t really meaningfully both (1) expand “queer” to encompass socially-normalized and rewarded performances and (2) use the metaphor of “the closet” in relation to that expanded definition. If it’s queer to act like a robot, it’s not the kind of queer that demands closeting. Nor does performing robot-queerness give one the right to appropriate the more immediate and pressing concerns of a more narrowly-defined queerness.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 8:37 AM on July 9 [14 favorites]


It may be true that Johansson is drawn to characters that have atypical relationships to their bodies, and that may be because she feels some otherness in her relationship to her own body, trapped in a role she did not choose — and I will finally feel like I have something to talk to her about when we never meet, because so do I and I am not trans. But I also wouldn’t feel entitled to telling a trans man’s story as some sort of vehicle for exploring my own life or story. There are people who are living these stories now, today, and this should belong to them.

So I don’t really care if Johansson is queer. (That’s a lie, I do care, just not in this context.) She’s still being a selfish asshole on this one. She can be both at the same time.
posted by schadenfrau at 8:55 AM on July 9 [25 favorites]


Like, if you're a trans person who succeeds in being a particularly fine specimen of your gender

If I listen only to what people tell me and don't listen to my near life-destroying dysphoria, I am a trans person who has apparently achieved this "goal". Based on my experiences it is a consolation prize that erases my actual gender experience by defaulting me into cis which in turn alienates me from trans communities and cis communities, affords me the privilege of not getting harassed or attacked in broad daylight by strangers, has made my career easier (that's a huge privilege and one I recognize dearly) and at the end of the day effectively renders me into a pretty looking ghost who traded one inauthentic life for another.

So on the whole it's a win, I'll take it and make it awesome as that is how I do things, but it's not exactly the best life either.
posted by nikaspark at 9:12 AM on July 9 [16 favorites]


I will never stop being amazed at the lengths people will go to, here and everywhere else on the internet, to carefully and at great length explain why they are going to continue talking over trans people sharing their personal experiences and feelings about open and unashamedly transphobic media.
posted by poffin boffin at 9:15 AM on July 9 [50 favorites]


If Johannson is ‘in the closet’ in one or another respect, given the outrage she absorbs for taking (and, now, producing!) queer roles, I wouldn’t blame her for installing another lock on any closet doors she might have and staying in forever.

I identify as queer, and I'm really deeply, deeply uncomfortable with you identifying all of those roles as "queer" when all of these are characters that you've also identified as either not-human or becoming not-human. She is not acting in roles that are "queer" in the sense of the real people in the world who really identify as queer. Yes, it's a bit of an umbrella, but it isn't that big an umbrella. And even if it was, that would not actually excuse playing a trans guy, which is not just some ambiguous thing under the queer umbrella but a specific identity that she has not expressed any personal relationship with.
posted by Sequence at 9:56 AM on July 9 [20 favorites]


Yeah I’m way into posthumanism as a thing but in no way at all does that intersect with how I’m trans and no no no posthumanist literature treats trans people like we are intellectual and literary backwaters that are at best pejoratively mentioned in the barest passing as backwards hot messes teeming with body modifying sex workers (see Ramez Naam’s the nexus trilogy) or just completely elided.

So no there is not even a remote thing of “body queer” that actually exists in contemporary posthumanist SF literature that I am aware of, and in my opinion the genre is actively hostile towards queer people and should not be used as any kind of leverage to legitimize some kind of exploratory queerness that Scarlett Johansson is working through.

Actual trans people involved in posthumanist literature write things like sense8 and the matrix.
posted by nikaspark at 10:04 AM on July 9 [13 favorites]


> when all of these are characters that you've also identified as either not-human or becoming not-human

I did not intend to cause any new discomfort, I'm sorry. My personal experience with trans is, as nikaspark describes, total alienation from both cis and trans communities, as well as from my own body. "Alien" and "robot" are frequent self-descriptors. I apologize for derailing and will leave the thread.
posted by crysflame at 10:06 AM on July 9 [6 favorites]


I get that crysflame, in the future my advice is speak of your own experiences with body alienation and identify with literature however you need in order to to find yourself but don’t project queeeness onto other people when you’re really finding it within yourself. You don’t need to leave the thread either.
posted by nikaspark at 10:11 AM on July 9 [8 favorites]


crysflame, your comment implied that if ScarJo was closeted it would be the result, at least in part, of justified criticisms of this particular casting decision. My response is not to the idea that someone might identify w/her roles or w/her as an actress, but instead to the implication that criticism of this casting decision might be responsible for her being closeted. I don’t think that it’s fair or accurate to blame trans people who are asserting their right to be represented accurately for someone who may be on the trans spectrum choosing to remain closeted. I’m sorry that you feel alienated and I hope you know that criticisms of this casting decision are not criticisms of your expression of your lived experience.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 10:22 AM on July 9 [6 favorites]


(Want to clarify because I’m kind of general in the above comment that I’m only speaking for myself)
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 10:23 AM on July 9


Until she comes out of any closets she may be in, it seems irresponsible to give her those benefits of the doubt, especially since what she actually appears to be doing is doubling down on top of doubling down with white feminism and appropriation.
posted by kalessin at 10:45 AM on July 9 [3 favorites]


Then, is it better for the film never to be made--or, if made, to be relegated to art house obscurity--than to have it made with her in the lead?

so, like.

honestly? i'm speaking as a trans woman, formerly identified gay man, and an asian-american person here.

i'm so tired of seeing arguments like this made over and over again whenever, as a minority, frustrated with lack of representation, we're asked to accept poor representation as a sop. instead of paying someone whose lived experiences could inform and beautify the work, we're asked to just accept "exposure" and nothing else while someone else does a... at best, a "studied" portrayal, and at worst, outright erasure.

why is it so hard for people who see themselves in everything to make room for people who don't? why is it so hard for people who are socially, economically, and culturally dominant to realize that maybe other groups' stories are not theirs to tell?

like, i get it. white people get so upset when they find out something is "for black people" or "for asians"--just look at the reactions to bet or black history month. straight people get so upset when they see something is "for queer people"--just look at the reactions to pride.

and then when we ask, even for just a moment in the sunlight after having been starved of it for so long because white, cis, straight people have grown like weeds and taken it all, we're told to stop being so sensitive, to stop being so angry, to be thankful to those who have stripmined our lives, our heritages, our stories only to regurgitate them wrong? i mean, for fuck's sake, they're deadnaming gill and misgendering him, and then rubbing salt and lye into that wound by using a cis woman to play a man, but not like, in a subversive way like fucking Hedwig and the Angry Inch did (which has its own problems).

don't make them. let us make them. we'll stick them in art houses. because i never want to see another mincing joke portrayal of a gay asian man like in entourage again--give me Spa Night. i never want to see some thin straight white cis dude donning the existence of being a trans woman as a costume--give me Tangerine or Her Story.

every time they bleach an asian role and give it to some mediocre white fuck, that's one more opportunity for an asian that isn't "nail salon technician" or "it dweeb" or "i dunno, some chineesey kung fu" or "some heavily accented convenience store clerk" or "some brown-skinned terrorist" that disappears, that's one more asian who never gets the possible chance to break out and become a known actor. i mean, for fuck's sake, steven yeun still had to read for roles even after the walking dead. and there are scads more asian actors and roles than there are for trans folk.

because what roles are there for trans people right now in most mainstream films that aren't "punchline" or "sex worker"?
posted by anem0ne at 10:53 AM on July 9 [66 favorites]


You know what is literally slowly killing me inside, anem0ne is how I as a queer and trans person actually do have really valuable creative gifts to give the entire world that are good and meaningful and important and fucking urgently needed. Yet looking at the trendlines of history, I'm gonna die invisible (hopefully of old age) and most likely the creative body of my life's work will be erased and reduced to queer ephemera that survives in random patches and most likely lost forever.

Erasure fucking hurts. I cried on the tube after the Pride in London afterparties because I saw what could have been and went by myself alone to a hotel realizing I'm just another wayward queer who will once again be invisible to world come Sunday morning.
posted by nikaspark at 11:08 AM on July 9 [26 favorites]


nikaspark, oof, yeah.

it's a really fucked up choice of never being seen or only been seen by a few who know.

if it's something that's made by queer people telling queer stories about queer people, it's suddenly "a queer thing" and so the rest of the world doesn't bother--but we're supposed to view the non-queer white experience as universal, for some fucked up reason.

i know i don't want someone like scarjo or rupert sanders mistelling our stories, because that's how outsiders learn stereotypes and misrepresentations of who we are.

and right now i lean more on smaller audience for a story told right than bigger audience to entrench incorrect prejudices. i don't need another dude actor underscoring to the world at large that trans women like me are men in dresses.

even a small ephemeral light is something.
posted by anem0ne at 11:17 AM on July 9 [14 favorites]


Y'all.... Ghost in the Shell flopped. ScarJo is not exactly a superstar here.

The thing that infuriates me the most is that even if she was trying to use what negligible star power she has, she didn't have to play or misgender Tex Gill. They could have made the girlfriend the lead and cast a trans actor as Tex. They could have taken the bare bones concept of the story and not fundamentally disrespected a real life trans man's life and identity. Instead, they chose... this.
posted by storytam at 10:03 PM on July 9 [4 favorites]


How does it make sense to have her play someone 'short and dumpy' and masculine?

Do you remember the discussion around how pretty cis women needed to "go ugly" to get an Oscar? ScarJo and her agents likely see playing such a character as "going ugly." It's all very fucked.
posted by schroedinger at 10:20 PM on July 9 [13 favorites]


Y'all.... Ghost in the Shell flopped. ScarJo is not exactly a superstar here.

I mean, The Assignment with Sigourney Weaver and Michelle Rodriguez was also a flop, doesn't make it any less monstrous and transphobic.

ScarJo's last erasure movie might have bombed but she still keeps trying to make them, so...
posted by anem0ne at 8:26 AM on July 10 [3 favorites]


How does it make sense to have her play someone 'short and dumpy' and masculine?

Do you remember the discussion around how pretty cis women needed to "go ugly" to get an Oscar? ScarJo and her agents likely see playing such a character as "going ugly." It's all very fucked.


Given what happened with Lalaland/Moonlight I hope that how it plays out is that there's "buzz" about her clinching an award and everyone being unhappy about it but possibly resigned and then surprise, the movie is blackballed and doesn't even get a single nomination.

Given that Time's Up was founded by a bunch of Hollywood actresses and they have been critical about this, I have a sliver of hope.
posted by like_neon at 8:44 AM on July 10


trans people: If you are like me and read comments as a form of self harm that is hard to control, please practice extreme self care when reading the comments on the instagram link. I love you all and hugs are available if needed.
posted by nikaspark at 9:06 AM on July 10 [3 favorites]


(the comment section on that link is actually pretty good, but still things can get unpredictable out there...)
posted by nikaspark at 9:08 AM on July 10


If they need the draw of Scarlett Johannson she could play Tex Gill's wife, Cynthia Bruno.

An excellent point - see also Reese Witherspoon winning an Oscar for playing June Cash in Walk the Line.

Actual trans people involved in posthumanist literature write things like sense8...

And now I have a sad, because I miss Sense8 a lot. It was a marvelous thing of beauty and color.
posted by Sparx at 3:14 PM on July 10 [2 favorites]


> If I listen only to what people tell me and don't listen to my near life-destroying dysphoria, I am a trans person who has apparently achieved this "goal". Based on my experiences it is a consolation prize that erases my actual gender experience by defaulting me into cis which in turn alienates me from trans communities and cis communities, affords me the privilege of not getting harassed or attacked in broad daylight by strangers, has made my career easier (that's a huge privilege and one I recognize dearly) and at the end of the day effectively renders me into a pretty looking ghost who traded one inauthentic life for another.

nikaspark, hugs from across the internet. Don't let the bastards,dysphoria, or impostor-syndrome grind you down.
posted by desuetude at 7:27 AM on July 11 [1 favorite]




Turns out that Internet activism really can make a difference.
posted by stoneweaver at 11:34 AM on July 13 [3 favorites]


Yeah, when the backlash starts to threaten her big MCU blockbuster that just landed a director.

Utterly garbage non-apology of a statement, too. "I understand why many feel he should be portrayed by a transgender person ... I believe that all artists should be considered equally and fairly." No, they shouldn't, that's the whole fucking point.
posted by kafziel at 1:15 PM on July 13 [8 favorites]


I am thankful that this casting debate, albeit controversial, has sparked a larger conversation about diversity and representation in film

I don't really give a damn that she's thankful, much like I didn't give a damn how good Eddie Redmayne felt about raising awareness of trans people. I really give zero shits how cis people feel in this regard.

How about this: FUCKING START LISTENING TO TRANS PEOPLE and don't pull this bullshit in the first place.

I am not thankful.
posted by nikaspark at 1:24 PM on July 13 [12 favorites]


I'm a bit meh about her apology. As I said to my partner, I wonder if she wrote it, or if her PR folks wrote it. I'm glad she's getting the hell out of the way and I hope the production continues and stars a trans actor.

Among my many beefs about this kind of situation is that PR folks, handlers, managers, agents, etc., all have a place in this kind of decision-making and I wish celebrities would really review with their people, and that in turn those people would genuinely make an effort to consult with affected populations before the celebrity's useless ass makes these kinds of decisions and announcements. Because the current situation is that they don't (or don't seem to), and they end up making absolutely clueless decisions.

Don't just pay lip service to doing better, but ACTUALLY DO BETTER.
posted by kalessin at 3:22 PM on July 13


Wow. I'm surprised she stepped down. But I'm glad. Here's hoping more people from the LGBTQ community get a chance to put their foot in the door of Hollywood and make their mark. And that people realize representation matters.
posted by Fizz at 5:06 AM on July 14 [2 favorites]


Gavia Baker-Whitelaw at The Daily Dot How Scarlett Johansson alienated Black Widow’s feminist fanbase
posted by oh yeah! at 7:47 AM on July 14


I'm a bit meh about her apology. As I said to my partner, I wonder if she wrote it, or if her PR folks wrote it.

Some people on Tumblr have pointed out that the announcement of Johansson stepping down from Rub & Tug came shortly after the announcement that a director had been chosen for the Black Widow movie, and that the two are almost certainly related. I'm inclined to agree. Not that I think Marvel vetoed it for ethical reasons, just that she's more contractually obligated to them so Marvel would be the winner in any schedule conflict. I'm glad she's backed out of the role, but I don't really believe she would have done it without having another project lined up. The window for action-heroine-blockbuster roles is smaller than the window for leading-actress-Oscar-bait roles.
posted by oh yeah! at 8:21 AM on July 14 [5 favorites]


I wonder if in my lifetime I'll ever be able to celebrate an end to appropriative Oscar-bait casting.
posted by kalessin at 12:10 PM on July 14 [1 favorite]


How long are you planning on living?
posted by Dysk at 2:26 AM on July 15 [3 favorites]




If Rub & Tug counts as a studio film (being by a production company who have a limited partnership with a major studio, not by a major studio or wholly-owned subsidiary themselves), then so does The Danish Girl. It could still theoretically be the first good Hollywood studio film about a trans person, but it's a few years too late to be the first.

I still find the emphasis on "find a TRANS person not a CIS person for the role!" a bit off-putting. The biggest problem with Johansson wasn't that she is cis. It's that she is a woman. Even the above linked piece suggests finding a trans man or gender non-conforming actor. I get that there probably aren't a lot of parts for non-binary people, but it would also be cool to maybe not collapse all trans identities into "gender non-conforming" especially given that Dante's life would strongly suggest an unequivocally male identity.
posted by Dysk at 5:06 AM on July 18 [2 favorites]




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