Scarlett Johansson would still play transgender role

Black Widow/Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) in Marvel Studios' AVENGERS: ENDGAME. (Film Frame/Marvel Studios)

Actress Scarlett Johansson is back in the news after her comments about politically correct casting in As If magazine made the rounds on the internet.

Suffice it to say, her words were certainly problematic.  It’s especially problematic given the actress’s history.  Like how she whitewashed a role and decided to portray a transgender man in Rub & Tug.  These choices have led to the actress–more or less–becoming a meme over the years.

‘You know, as an actor I should be allowed to play any person, or any tree, or any animal because that is my job and the requirements of my job,’ she said point blank.

She continued: ‘I feel like it’s a trend in my business and it needs to happen for various social reasons, yet there are times it does get uncomfortable when it affects the art because I feel art should be free of restrictions.’

‘I think society would be more connected if we just allowed others to have their own feelings and not expect everyone to feel the way we do.’

Here we go again.  The second paragraph here shows that she understands why it has to happen.  Yet at the same time, she’s still not getting it.  I really hoped that the actress had a learning moment last year.  Honestly.  I’ll get to that in just a moment.

To get to what the actress is saying, I have my feelings and you have yours.  I also have to still fight for my rights as a transgender woman in 2019.  We still have bathroom bills being filed in 2019.  Every time that a cisgender male plays a transgender woman on screen, it reinforces negative stereotypes.  Stereotypes that need to die already!  Please do not get me started on last year’s controversial film.

In a perfect world, there would be no whitewashing of roles.  Anyone remember Ghost in Her Shell?  I made the decision against seeing the film because of the controversy.  Similarly, there should be no cis-washing of trans roles.  It should not be happening when we have the transgender talent to portray the roles.

This is the first time that the actress opened up since releasing a statement to Out Magazine last summer.  It does not look as though she really learned a lesson here.  This is unfortunate.  Here is some of what the actress said last summer:

“I have great admiration and love for the trans community and am grateful that the conversation regarding inclusivity in Hollywood continues….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.”

While the actress could have very well produced the film, she made the decision to pull out of Rub & Tug altogether.  So while she had the opportunity to bring his story to the screen, she pulled out because she wouldn’t be the person portraying him on screen.

To quote the words of Captain America, I can do this all day.  Cisgender actors need to learn and understand why it’s not right for them to take on transgender roles.  When a transgender youth see transgender talent on screen, it spreads along a message of hope.  The hope that one day you can appear on the big or small screen. Very few transgender actors have become a household name.  It’s really telling when you take a look at studio films.  These are the films that get seen by the large majority of America.  There is a problem when none of them have transgender talent.  When I don’t see myself feeling represented on screen in a major studio film, it’s a major problem.

UPDATE: Scarlett Johansson clarified her coments in a statement to EW:

“The question I was answering in my conversation with the contemporary artist, David Salle, was about the confrontation between political correctness and art,” she continues. “I personally feel that, in an ideal world, any actor should be able to play anybody and Art, in all forms, should be immune to political correctness. That is the point I was making, albeit didn’t come across that way. I recognize that in reality, there is a wide spread discrepancy amongst my industry that favors Caucasian, cis gendered actors and that not every actor has been given the same opportunities that I have been privileged to. I continue to support, and always have, diversity in every industry and will continue to fight for projects where everyone is included.”

Meanwhile, As If has posted the full interview in full.

Scarlett Johansson can currently be seen in Avengers: Endgame.

Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.