Transgender actors are protesting Rupert Sanders’ newest movie, Rub & Tug for its poor choice in casting. Scarlett Johansson, a white, cisgender female actress has been casted to portray a transgender man in the upcoming film about Dante “Tex” Gill, a prostitution ring-leader, who was born female but later transitioned to male.
This controversy comes approximately two years after another Sanders and Johansson collaboration in the movie, Ghost in the Shell, which received backlash from the Asian community for whitewashing by portraying Johansson as a Japanese character. Now, Sanders and Johansson are yet again facing the same type of criticism from a different community: the trans and LGBTQ+ activists.
The arguments made by trans actors include the fact that trans actors have only been hired to play trans characters, whereas cisgender actors have played roles from all across the spectrum. Among these trans actors is Jamie Clayton, who plays transgender character Nomi Marks in the Netflix series Sense8. She tweeted about the controversy, saying “Actors who are trans never even get to audition for anything other than roles of trans characters.” Another tweet by Trace Lysette, a trans woman who plays the trans character, Shea, on the Amazon Video web television series, Transparent, highlights the injustice transgender actors have felt from this decision: “Not only do you play us and steal our narrative and our opportunity but you pat yourselves on the back with trophies and accolades for mimicking what we have lived… so twisted.”
Furthermore, trans actors are not well represented in the media, as there are only a handful of famous trans actors, many of whom only appear on the big screen as trans characters. A study done by GLAAD (Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) found that the majority of the roles that trans actors play are often that of victims or villains, which not only shows that trans people are not well represented, but also that those portrayed are done so in a negative light. Since this movie is about a trans man, it seems only fair that trans actors should get the chance to shine.
Louisiana State University senior Hannah Kleinpeter, a writer for The Daily Reveille, shared her opinion on the lack of trans representation in the media. “Hollywood must stop hindering talented and willing trans actors from portraying a narrative they know better than anyone. It’s 2018 – it’s imperative we remove the giant roadblock of trans-erasure from film and television. How are trans actors going to gain any recognition if they are never even given the opportunity to audition for their own roles? It’s a vicious cycle of neglecting proper representation.”
Grace Kim, Grade 12
Campbell Hall High School