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Should Cisgender People be Cast as Transgender?


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Jul 16, 2018

Should Cisgender People be Cast as Transgender?

The actress, Scarlett Johansson, has recently been in the midst of a controversy over her new role.  Johansson auditioned for and was given a role in which she played a transgender man for an upcoming movie, “Rub and Tug”.  In this film, Dante “Tex” Grill is the story about a transgender man who owned massage passage parlors, that were “fronts for prostitution”, in Pittsburgh.  This is not the first time Johansson received backlash over a casting.  Back in 2016, she was given a role in a film entitled “Ghost in the Shell” as a Japanese character.  Outrage ensued as critics labeled this “white-washing”, or the notion of white actors/actresses playing non-white characters. 

This predominantly occurs in historical films. ( After Johansson was cast in this film, some individuals from the LGBT communities and others were highly critical of her new role.  This is primarily due to the lack of roles given to transgender actors and actresses, spanning from characters that are transgender in addition to those who are not.  Between 2017 and 2018, GLADD Media Institute reported that were only "17 regular and recurring transgender characters…on broadcast, cable, and streaming television series.”   A CNN article by Nicole Chavez listed out actors who would be better suited to play the role of Dante “Tex” Grill.  This list included Ellie Desautels, Chaz Bono, Emmett Jack Lundberg, and Ian Harvie.  With high rates of unemployment in the transgender community, many are outraged by the casting of Johansson, a cisgender woman, for this role.  Some individuals claim that when individuals with certain identities are not cast for roles with that identity, it is a form of discrimination or prejudice.  This was seen in social media posts, particular on Twitter: “Scarlett Johansson is playing a trans man in her next movie because her ultimate career goal is to take an acting job from a member of each and every marginalized group.” (Faith Choyce) In the midst of the backlash, Johansson rejected the role in “Rub and Tug.”  She stated, "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." Some argue that the purpose of acting and theater is to play a character that does not necessarily represent the actor. 

Individuals have been playing identities that are not representative of them for many years.  However, the outrage from the LGBT community makes sense when placed in a context of social and economic activities.  Other marginalized communities have had similar feelings towards castings similar to this. What’s your view on this?  Should Johansson have kept the role as the transgender man, Dante “Tex” Grill?  Is the outrage from the LGBT community a justified response?   Link (for article): AND Link (for picture):


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