In the wake of a recent article for Itchy Silk not necessarily defending Scarlett Johansson for her decision to play a trans character in Rub & Tug (2019) but at least asking that people consider it is still her right to do so, especially if she’s helping to finance the project, Johansson has chosen to back down from her original stance. In this pandering to collective verbal abuse, Johansson has set a dangerous precedent in a Hollywood that evermore seems to be more concerned about inclusivity and race/LGBTQ quotas/representation as opposed to the actual content of a project.
Scarlett Johansson has, of late, opted for the former, that is, backing down from her art. Because no, it isn’t likely that she just “suddenly” had the epiphany that she loves accurate trans representation and truly feels that someone from the community should portray the illustrious Dante “Tex” Gill, as per her latest contrary statement to what she said at the outset of this entire scandal,
“In light of recent ethical questions raised surrounding my casting as Dante ‘Tex’ Gill, I have decided to respectfully withdraw my participation in the project.”
While she’s obviously trying to salvage what’s left of the interest in seeing a film that would “whitewash” an important part of trans history with someone cisgender (as is the usual Hollywood way), she is also making a mockery of people’s intelligence by feigning that she actually cares about the trans plight when, in fact, all she’s interested in right now is saving face.
Instead, she’s merely proven that art in the landscape of the twenty-first century will be subject to becoming quite possibly very much shittier if actors, actresses, directors and screenwriters are so afraid of a little venomous vitriol on the internet–increasingly a place realer than the real world.
Had Johansson possessed the presence of mind from the get-go to cast an F-to-M trans in the role, there would be no question of her artistic vision being fulfilled. But since she blatantly saw herself in the part of a trans man, viewing it perhaps as an opportunity to cleanse her resume of all the vacuous pin-up personae she’s had to embody (including her Woody Allen period consisting of Match Point  and Vicky Cristina Barcelona ) in films past, she would have done well to just stick to her guns and take the heat.
It’s also fairly evident that she had help in crafting the added proclamation,
“Our cultural understanding of transgender people continues to advance, and I’ve learned a lot from the community since making my first statement about my casting and realize it was insensitive. I have great admiration and love for the trans community and am grateful that the conversation regarding inclusivity in Hollywood continues.”
Really? You’ve learned a lot in the span of a week, when an attitude of entitlement toward which parts you get to play doesn’t simply melt away because of a backlash (just look at Donald Trump casually waving to protesters in Scotland from the links of Trump Turnberry as though he’s the most revered man in the world–when you’re out of touch with the common man, you’re out of touch with the common man).
And so, someone more plebeian in her circle of friends must have alerted her to the notion that it would be more harmful than helpful to her career to carry through her plan to wow the world with how she could exemplify Tex. In an alternate universe where Hillary Clinton is president and people aren’t quite so afraid that every action made is somehow intended as a stripping away of their rights thanks to the constant fear instilled in them by Trump (accented to its fullest potential in American Horror Story: Election ), maybe Johansson could have gotten away with it. But like a middling villain thwarted by the gang from Scooby-Doo, Johansson has surrendered. In many regards, it proves she is not the tough, hardened spirit that a New York City-born woman is purported to epitomize. Though some would argue that she has done exactly what those born in NYC are expected to: exhibit tolerance for the non-heteronormative and multicultural (not that race was a factor in the outrage this time around). This, however, is not what Johansson has illustrated with her cowering actions. Instead, she’s merely proven that art in the landscape of the twenty-first century will be subject to becoming quite possibly very much shittier if actors, actresses, directors and screenwriters are so afraid of a little venomous vitriol on the internet–increasingly a place realer than the real world.
Some would say that this is a sign of positive change, that before, people in the LGBTQ trans communities wouldn’t have even had the courage or the voice to speak out against such a flagrant affront. But the seedy underbelly of this “positive change” is that everyone is starting to tiptoe around feelings, infecting the creation of art with self-doubt as one wonders who she might be offending.
Featured image from the film Under the Skin (2013)