Scarlett Johansson defends playing a transgender man in a new movie after angry backlash

Scarlett Johansson defends playing a transgender man in a new movie after angry backlash

When she's not fighting comic book villains on the big screen, Scarlett Johansson has been an advocate for social justice. She campaigned for Barack Obama, gave a speech at the Women's March and criticized Ivanka Trum, for being complicit in her father's policies. "If you take a job as a public advocate, then you must advocate publicly," said Scarlett.

However, she's also been the target of criticism. When the 'Avenger' commented on alleged sexual harasser James Franco, people called her a hypocrite, since she worked with alleged child abuser Woody Allen. Then, in 2017, she was accused of 'whitewashing' for her role as Motoko Kusanagi the film adaptation of Ghost in the Shell. In the manga, Motoko Kusanagi was a cyborg with a Japanese woman's memories. However, ScarJo defended the part, explaining the movie version of her character wasn't supposed to be Japanese.

"I 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. Also, having a franchise with a female protagonist driving it is such a rare opportunity."

Now Scarlett is stirring controversy once again. She announced she's reuniting with Ghost in the Shell director Rupert Sanders to play a transgender man in the movie Nip & Tug. The project is about the true story of larger-than-life character Dante 'Tex' Grill, who was born a woman, Jean Marie Gill. Here's the synopsis, as provided by The Hollywood Reporter.

"Joel Silver and New Regency will produce the pic about Jean Marie Gill (Johansson), a person assigned female at birth who succeeded in Pittsburgh's 1970s and 1980s massage parlor and prostitution business by assuming the identity of a man, Dante "Tex" Gill."

It sounds like a compelling story, but there's been some confusion about pronouns. According to Gil's 2003 obituary, Gill  "insisted she was a man," "wanted to be called "Mr. Gill," and "may even have undergone the initial stages of [medical transitioning] that made her appear more masculine." However, Hollywood trades like Deadline and Variety referred to the character as a woman dressed as a man. Meanwhile, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette called Gill a "lesbian dressed as a man."

So, it's not clear how Gill will be portrayed in Rub & Tug. But Twitter is mad at the idea of Scarlett playing a transgender man. In their view, the studio should have cast a transgender man for the role, not a cisgender white woman.

Bustle contacted Scarlett for a response, and received this statement from her representative: "Tell them that they can be directed to Jeffrey Tambor, Jared Leto, and Felicity Huffman's reps for comment."

Burn! In case you're lost, Jeffrey Tambor, Jared Leto, and Felicity Huffman are all cisgender white actors who played transgender roles (in Transparent, Dallas Buyer's Club and Transamerica, respectively). Their performances were praised by critics, and won prestigious awards, while getting minimal controversy.

But times are changing, aren't they? What was appropriate years ago is considered inappropriate now and even the Black Widow gets caught in controversy.