Scarlett Johansson Insults The Transgender Community Who Object To Her Portraying Trans Character

She doesn’t care if Transgender people find her insensitive.

Here we go again. You must be as sick of reading about it as I am writing about it. Another cisgender Hollywood A-Lister will don drag and pretend they are transgender in hopes of being showered with accolades during Awards season.

This time, it’s Scarlett Johansson, who recently- and controversially- played the lead role of Major Motoko Kusanagi in the American adaptation of the popular Japanese franchise, Ghost In The Shell. The Character of Major is of Japanese decent and Johansson is Caucasian. That film, directed by Rupert Sanders, who is also white, incensed loyal fans of the Ghost In The Shell franchise, which began in 1989 as a Manga and spawned two popular animated films. Johansson and Sanders were accused of deliberately white-washing the the original story, re-writing canonically Japanese characters as white while appropriating Japanese style and storytelling for their own purpose.

Scarlett Johansson as Major and the Original Manga Character

Manga fans were offended, Japanese people were outraged and petitions and boycotts of the film were organized prior to its release with fans pointing out that American studios had no shortage of qualified Japanese Actresses who could have better served the original material.

It’s no secret that actual Asian actors have had a difficult time being cast in Hollywood movies. In 2015, the year Ghost In The Shell was released, they were almost invisible in mainstream films, having only an estimated 3.9% of all speaking roles in motion pictures that year. While social media took the collaboration of Johannson and Sanders to task for their clear discrimination, suggesting dozens of alternative Asian performers, their cries fell on deaf ears.

Now, the dubious duo of Johansson and Sanders are back, reteaming for the film Rub & Tug. The synopsis for that film is simple; Tex Gill, a larger than life character who, while transitioning from female to male, becomes the crime kingpin of 1970s Pittsburgh through his empire of illicit massage parlors.

The Real Tex Gill to be played by Scarlett Johannson

And who will be playing the Transman? Scarlett Johansson. Of course, the last decade has been rife with cishet actors playing transgender characters- most recently, Matt Bomer in “Anything” which LGBT activists denounced as another slap in the fact to the plethora of transgender actors who struggle to find work and are passed over again and again for cisgender actors- typically men, who feign being Transgender. Transmen are not exempt from this celluloid mockery, of course. Hillary Swank played transman Brandon Teena in tragic biopic “Boys Don’t Cry” and won and Oscar. Traditionally, Hollywood decorates the actors that play transgender characters. Eddie Redmayne, Jared Leto, Felicity Huffman and Jeffrey Tambor have all been nominated or won awards from their elite peers, with their performances called “Daring,” “Brave” and “Groundbreaking.” It must be noted, however that in the critically acclaimed film “Tangerine” where actual Transgender actresses played the title roles, they found their performances ignored by the major Awards ceremonies. Ironically, Tangerine which was hailed as one of the best films of the year by multiple reviewers came out the same year as the much more tepidly received film “The Danish Girl” starring Eddie Redmayne. No one was surprised when the Academy and Golden Globes both bestowed nominations upon Redmayne while thumbing their nose at the lead actresses, Mya Taylor and Kiki Rodriguiz for their incredible performances in Tangerine.

So, when Johansson was questioned about about her decision to take on the role of a transman, despite the increase in the community opposing cisgender actors portraying them as caricatures on-screen, she released a statement saying this:

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

This can be translated as this: “Like everyone else, I want my Oscar for getting in drag and playing a transgender person.”

How absolutely tone deaf and arrogant can Johansson be? Yet another pompous actor denying the legitimacy of transgender identity. Despite the menagerie of highly qualified, incredibly talented transgender men who find work scarce- if not virtually non-existent in the film industry, they’ve opted to turn the other cheek and cast some who is unqualified and has only achieved one thing in their collaborations thus far: Removing minorities from their works and assuming authority over their culture and identity, reassuring that the actors in their field who are qualified for the roles stay unemployed, the community further marginalized and remain without adequate representation. They reinforce the idea that audiences will not accept real Asians, or genuinely transgender performers on film, thus for their comfort they must inhabit these roles themselves or otherwise risk alienating the pearl clutching suburbanites who might be shocked to discover we non-whites, non-cisgender actually exist.



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Phaylen Fairchild

Phaylen Fairchild

Actor, Filmmaker, LGBTQ+ & Women’s Rights Activist All work copyright