Scarlett Johansson Criticized for Accepting Role as Transgender Man

After a previous role led to backlash a few years ago, actress Scarlett Johanssen is stirring the pot again with her latest film.

Look for her portrayal of a transgender man in the upcoming film "Rub & Tug." That is, unless you're one of the growing number of people protesting her decision. Social activists have launched a social media campaign criticizing Scarlett Johanssen for taking the role.

She will be portraying a real life individual named Dante "Tex" Gill. The trans man operated massage parlors dating back to the 1970s. Those Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, businesses were in reality being operated as brothels. 

Scarlett Johansson,

Credit: Wikipedia, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff

Critics think Scarlett Johanssen should have passed up the role for an actual trans man.

Several prominent social media users called Scarlett Johanssen out for her decision to take the role. Some offered lists of transgender male actors who might have been better choices. A number of trans actors have spoken up in the past about the need to see themselves portrayed accurately. Actor Ian Harvie said it is important to see other transgender actors in those roles.

"When we get to see ourselves in the media, we get to feel like we exist," he said. Harvie said the impact is most positive "when there's positive representations of trans people." 

The 'Rub & Tug' role is not her first brush with allegations of cultural appropriation.

Just last year, Scarlett Johansson prompted backlash for her decision to take a role in the film "Ghost in the Shell." Her character in the film was initially written as an Asian woman. Critics almost immediately shot back with claims that the role should have gone to an Asian actress.

At the time, however, Scarlett Johansson claimed that her portrayal was not offensive. She described the character she portrayed as not tied to any particular identity. She said she would "never attempt to play a person of a different race, obviously."

Scarlett Johansson responds to the latest backlash:

The actress reacted this week with a statement to those who said she should not have taken the role. Of course, her response actually created even more criticism by some who felt it was insufficient. In the statement, Scarlett Johansson mentioned fellow actors who have portrayed trans characters.

She said critics "can be directed to Jeffrey Tambor, Jared Leto, and Felicity Huffman's reps for comment." For his part, Tambor said he believes more trans actors should portray transgender characters. He portrayed a trans woman in the series "Transparent" until sexual misconduct allegations derailed his career. In 2016, he addressed the need to employ more trans actors.

"I just hope there are more opportunities for transgender talent," he said. Jeffrey Tambor added that he would "very much like to be the last cisgender male playing a transgender female."

What are your thoughts on the issue? Should Scarlett Johansson have declined the role? Should she back out to allow a transgender actor to accurately portray the part? Let us know what you think in the comments section below.

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