Scarlett Johansson is drawing ire for her latest role in the upcoming movie Rub & Tug. She has been cast to play Dante "Tex" Gill, a transgender man who was known for running massage parlors in Pittsburgh that were actually fronts for prostitution back in the 1970s and 1980s. Many people took to social media after the casting was announced earlier this week to express their disappointment and frustration over the decision.
Minority actors, including trans actors, have complained for years about how hard it is to get roles in Hollywood. One person on Twitter wrote, "Look, I've really liked Scarlett Johansson in some of her films, but I think the actor playing a trans man should BE a trans man if at all possible." Some alternative trans actors who could have been considered for the role include Ellie Desautels, Emmett Jack Lundberg, Chaz Bono, and Ian Harvie. Additionally, while cisgender actors are casted to play transgender roles, the reverse is not true.
Johansson responded to the criticism with "Tell them that they can be directed to Jeffrey Tambor, Jared Leto and Felicity Huffman's reps for comment." They had all taken on transgender roles in Transparent, Dallas Buyers Club, and Transamerica. Johansson's response has been blasted as being unfairly dismissive of the issue at hand.
This is not the first time that Johansson has sparked controversy with her roles. In 2017, she played a Japanese character in Ghost in the Shell, a film based on a popular manga series. Nevertheless, regarding that role, she said "I certainly would never presume to play another race of a person." The film was directed by Rupert Sanders, who will also be directing the forthcoming Rub & Tug.