Actress Scarlett Johansson is once again at the center of a casting controversy after she accepted a role as a transgender man in the upcoming film Rug & Tug.
In the film, Johansson will recount the true story of Jean Marie Gil, who was born a woman before identifying herself as a man. Under the name Dante “Tex” Gill, she operated a massage parlor and prostitution ring in Pittsburgh in the 1970s.
However, the decision to give Johansson the role has caused anger among gender activists who claim the role should have been given to a real transgender man. Many took to Twitter to express their outrage.
Scarlett Johansson is playing a trans man in her next movie because her ultimate career goal is to take an acting job from a member of each and every marginalized group.
— Kai Choyce (@faithchoyce) July 3, 2018
Literally the LEAST you could do when making a movie about trans people is to cast a trans person in the role that was written for them. Scarlett Johansson needs to stop naievely choosing roles, and studios need to do better.
— Derek Sherry 🌹 (@RealDerekSherry) July 4, 2018
Scarlett Johansson is canceled.
— 💖✨Mel✨💖 (@grungeugly) July 4, 2018
I cannot get over how selfish Scarlett Johansson is
— Pass the Cranberry Sauce…. (@jademoonfire) July 4, 2018
What’s next? Is Scarlett Johansson going to play Barack Obama?
— Eugene Gu, MD (@eugenegu) July 4, 2018
In a statement provided to Bustle, Johansson downplayed the controversy and referenced other actors who have played the roles of transgender characters. “Tell them they can be directed to Jeffrey Tambor, Jared Leto, and Felicity Huffman’s reps for comment,” she said.
Yet Johansson’s detractors have also pointed to the fact that she received similar criticism last year for her role in Ghost in the Shell, where she played a Japanese character that led to accusations of “whitewashing.”
scarlett johansson is gonna work with the ghost in the shell director AGAIN but this time she’s gonna play a trans man pic.twitter.com/G9BrZLbedF
— mari (@witchesroad) July 3, 2018
Johansson responded to the Ghost criticism in an interview with Marie Clare, where she claimed she “certainly would never presume to play another race of a person.”
“Diversity is important in Hollywood, and I would never want to feel like I was playing a character that was offensive,” she explained. “Also, having a franchise with a female protagonist driving it is such a rare opportunity. Certainly, I feel the enormous pressure of that — the weight of such a big property on my shoulders.”
The 33-year-old actress is also known for her political activism. She was a prominent participant in this year’s anti-Trump Women’s March and remains a vociferous advocate for the abortion industry. Last year, the Avengers star even teased a possible run for political office once her acting career has progressed.