Scarlett Johansson’s Response to New Casting Concerns is Way Out of Line

Matthew Loffhagen
(Photo: Paramount)

Wow, Scarlett Johansson.

Is this really what you want to be known for?

ScarJo is quickly gaining a reputation for taking on roles that are, perhaps, not entirely suited to her.

First, there was “Ghost in the Shell”. Fans of the original manga and anime cringed at the news that Johansson would be playing Major Motoko Kusanagi. This role, they insisted, was meant for a Japanese actor.

Both Johansson and director Rupert Sanders attempted to defend her casting, claiming that this wasn’t whitewashing.

Turns out it was worse than that. When the movie finally debuted, fans learned that Johansson was playing (spoiler alert) an Asian woman whose brain had been put into a “superior” Caucasian robot body.


Now, Johansson has received a new wave of criticism. Yet again, it’s thanks to some poor casting in a Rupert Sanders movie.

“Rub and Tug”

Not content with making a racially insensitive movie, the pair are now making “Rub and Tug”, a biopic about real-life crime boss Dante “Tex” Gill, who was transgender.

To make matters worse, initial details about the project suggest that the movie will present Gill as a cisgender woman, because of course.

The internet is not thrilled about this. Many have called it erasure of Gill’s identity. They question why Scarlett Johansson is so eager to pick up offensive roles.

So how does Johansson respond to this? With sarcasm.

Said Johansson, in a recent interview about the controversy and many peoples’ legitimate concerns:

“Tell them that they can be directed to Jeffrey Tambor, Jared Leto, and Felicity Huffman’s reps for comment.”


Uh, ScarJo? You’re aware that this line of argument isn’t ideal, right?

You’re basically saying, “Well Jeffrey Tambor got away with playing a trans woman, so I should be allowed to play a trans man”.

Maybe if your strongest line of argument in defense of your casting is that Jeffrey Tambor has done it, you might need to rethink your position.

Jeffrey Tambor Transparent
Source: Amazon

Quite aside from Tambor’s own sordid history of (both alleged and confirmed) abuse, this defense is garbage. It’s like saying that your turn as Major Kusanagi is fine because Mickey Rourke played I Y Yunioshi in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”.

It’s not great to remind people of some of the more inappropriate past portrayals of a minority group when you’re trying to justify a new movie role that makes similar mistakes.

Ideally, in 2018 we really should be beyond the point where any transgender character is played by a cisgender actor. This is an archaic, offensive casting decision. It quite rightly makes many people feel uncomfortable, no matter what the precedent might be.

Fair Representation

Then there’s the issue that “Rub and Tug” may not even fully address the issue of Tex Gill’s gender identity in the first place. This is erasure, and it’s barely better than slander considering that it’s not in any way an accurate portrayal of Gill’s life.

At the same time, it is perhaps worth noting that Johansson is likely frustrated for a reason. She’s annoyed that male colleagues don’t receive quite as much kickback from inappropriate roles as she does.

This is a fair criticism. For some reason, the pressure is being put on Johansson, when the same director has cast her in her two most infamously inappropriate roles.

ScarJo isn’t in this alone. She’s merely a single part of an entirely broken movie industry that needs to be held accountable for letting stuff like this happen.

Jared Leto Dallas Buyers Club
Source: Focus

We haven’t been hard enough on Tambor or Jared Leto for choosing to play transgender characters. We’re certainly not putting enough pressure on Hollywood representatives to get honest, appropriate portrayals of transgender or non-binary characters in modern media.

So, then, in response to ScarJo’s complaints, I say: fair point.

The Times They Are A-Changin’

Everyone involved in this kind of nonsense needs to be made aware that it is not okay. We need to open our mouths and announce to the wider world that transgender people deserve fair representation in modern media.

To that end, we might as well start by raising hell around the most recent egregious example of transgender erasure.

Making Scarlett Johansson and Rupert Sanders feel uncomfortable about their latest movie project isn’t enough.

But it’s as good a place as any to start.