After receiving immense backlash, actress Scarlett Johansson decided to step down from her role in the upcoming film, “Rub & Tug.” The 33-year-old actress, best known for her role as Black Widow in Marvel’s Avengers film franchise, received backlash, mainly from the transgender community after she accepted a role based on the transgendered man, Dante Gill. Transgendered people are a sect of the LGBT+ community. They are individuals who do not identify with the gender they were assigned at birth. Whereas, Johansson is a cisgender female, meaning she does identify with the gender she was assigned to at birth. Johansson was cast to play the role of Gill, who owned massage parlors in the 70s and 80s that became the hub for many prostitution rings.
After being casted, Johansson was reprimanded by the trans community and other allies who believe that marginalized groups should play the roles that represent them. However, some believed that the role should be given to an actor or actress regardless of gender identity, and that a role should be given based on talent. Although this argument brings up the notion that talented people should be casted, which, in many ways, is true, it also is quite problematic. In a majority of cases, trans people are not given the roles of trans characters. In a recent film, “The Danish Girl” (2015), Eddie Redmayne played Lili Elbe, a transgender pioneer. This film received a lot of praise, even getting Redmayne an Oscar nomination for best actor. Redmayne enjoyed playing the role, but in retrospect, the role perpetuated the roleplaying of marginalized voices. This is similar in Johansson’s case.
“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,” Johansson said in a statement to “Out Magazine.”
Johansson’s statement brought some peace to the trans community, but the notion that it is okay to accept a marginalized role when you are not marginalized unless there is backlash still lingers.
In reality, the film industry needs to do better in its representation of marginalized people. Actors from the LGBT+ community especially are often not represented in film. To start, the film industry needs to allow marginalized people play more roles. In the playing of Gill for instance, the actor should have been a trans man. This is one of the very few roles for people of the trans community. Unlike the film industry, television is doing a better job in securing roles of marginalized voices for marginalized people. For instance, the FreeForm show, “The Fosters” was home for a multiethnic cast with a trans character played by a trans man. Although this show was monumental and talked about a lot of important marginalized issues, the show still had quite a few gay characters played by straight actors.
In retrospect, the entirety of the Hollywood industry needs to be aware of how their characters are portrayed. For natural and authentic roleplaying, casting an actor that most fits the character is vital; it is especially needed in the case of marginalized people.
Source: The New York Times