Scarlett Johansson Responds To Backlash After Taking Transgender Role

Scarjo in Ghost in the Shell

Over the past few years, the subject of inclusion and visibility in the media has been a hot topic issue in the entertainment world. The #OscarsSoWhite movement championed diversity, while #TimesUp encouraged the strength of women in the industry. There has also been a call for more transgender stories, specifically played by trans performers. While Ryan Murphy's FX series Pose is groundbreaking for its cast of trans actresses, Scarlett Johansson was recently cast as a transgender man in the upcoming movie Rub & Tug. After the internet was set ablaze yesterday in response, Johansson's rep actually released a statement on her behalf, which reads:

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

This statement, which is reportedly from Scarlett Johansson herself, the actress cites the various critically acclaimed performances of transgender characters by cis actors. Given the precedent set in the past, Johansson seems to take umbrage with being singled out in regards to Rub & Tug.

In Scarlett Johansson's rebuttal to Bustle, she specifically mentions the Amazon series Transparent, as well as award winning movies Dallas Buyer's Club and Transamerica. All of these projects have been critical darlings, while also celebrating the performances of Jeffrey Tambor, Jared Leto, and Felicity Huffman respectively. On paper, it would seem like Johansson's upcoming role in Rub & Tug is no different.

The flip side to that argument comes down to timing, and 2018 is decidedly more "woke" about trans issues. Therefore, Scarlet Johansson's critics take issue with the entire situation, rather than the actress herself.

Scarlett Johansson's controversy around Rub & Tug will remind many of the issue surrounding her 2017 sci-fi blockbuster Ghost in the Shell. Based off the anime of the same name, Johansson taking on the role of a typically Japanese protagonist was seen as a case of whitewashing. Ultimately the conversation helped to sink Ghost in the Shell, and it bombed at the box office, while also receiving poor critical response.

Rub & Tug's issue with casting a cis actress to play a trans man will likely be exacerbated due to Scarlett Johansson's previous issue with Ghost in the Shell. While the Marvel hero is the most bankable star in Hollywood, controversies have been known to have a direct affect on movie and TV production. Roseanne and House of Cards have both seen their stars ousted in highly publicized falls from grace. And while Johansson's statement mentions Jeffrey Tambor for his role in Transparent, the actor has been fired from the show after sexual misconduct accusations, in addition to formerly being celebrated for his portrayal of Maura.

Overall, the subject of inclusion and onscreen representation is showing no signs of slowing, so this may be a conversation that the entertainment world will be having for quite some time. Scarlett Johansson was most recently seen in Isle of Dogs and Avengers: Infinity War. Be sure to check out our 2018 release list to plan your next trip to the movies.

Corey Chichizola
Movies Editor

Corey was born and raised in New Jersey. Graduated with degrees theater and literature from Ramapo College of New Jersey. After working in administrative theater for a year in New York, he started as the Weekend Editor at CinemaBlend. He's since been able to work himself up to reviews, phoners, and press junkets-- and is now able to appear on camera with some of his favorite actors... just not as he would have predicted as a kid. He's particularly proud of covering horror franchises like Scream and Halloween, as well as movie musicals like West Side Story. Favorite interviews include Steven Spielberg, Spike Lee, Jamie Lee Curtis, and more.