A few weeks ago, word got out that Scarlett Johansson would be cast in the film Rub & Tug portraying Dante Tex Gill, a trans person. Many people condemned Johansson for taking the role, and a week later she stepped out of the picture. I was happy with her decision, and listed five trans actors that could take her spot.
But not everyone agreed with me.
Mike Fleming Jr. from Variety condemned Johannson’s decision, saying:
“I believe those LGBTQ advocates who claimed victory after shaming Johansson into withdrawing from Rub & Tug don’t realize they have made it nearly impossible to get made films like Brokeback Mountain and Dallas Buyers Club – the kind that open hearts and minds. At least not with any kind of decent budget and P&A spend. Not when film companies know they might be shamed on social media by groups who now feel empowered to demand who plays the lead role, even if their candidates have no bankable value. So the chance to see their struggles and triumphs played out in anything but a micro budget indie movie or TV show has been extinguished.”
While it’s a shame that many are saying the film isn’t going to be made without an “A-List Hollywood Star” like Johansson attached, we have to understand that storytelling in films and televisions serves a different purpose in today’s society.
“I’ve never wanted to tell another actor they shouldn’t play a role,” Laverne Cox said on the last day of OzyFest 2018. “But in a kind of world where we are constantly under attack and when a cisgender person plays us, that does not further the liberty of trans people.”
Now, word has gotten out that Chelsea Handler, one of my favorite comedians, is going to be appearing on the next season of Will & Grace as “a high-powered lesbian.” And everybody is cheering. But wait, didn’t we just get mad at Johansson for this last week?
This seems like some sort of weird double standard to me. I think that Johansson was rightfully berated to take that role. But then why a week later, are we excited that Handler is going to be gay for pay? Roles for queer people are still few and far between, even on a show like Will & Grace. And while a straight actor, Eric McCormack, was cast as gay lawyer Will Truman way back in 1998, this is 2018. Shouldn’t that role given to Handler be played by a woman who identifies as a lesbian, or at least queer?
I mean, there are lots of great choices. Ellen Page, Portia de Rossi, Kate McKinnon, Sara Gilbert, or Sarah Paulson would all be fantastic candidates for the part. So would Hannah Gadsby, the Australian comic who’s Netflix comedy special Nanette has become a hit around the world. And I’m sure there are plenty of other up and coming queer actresses who can play the part.
We also need to recognize that the Hollywood star system relies on a few incredibly popular leading men and women who are all mostly straight and cisgender. It does a poor job developing diverse talent and making them stars, too. Hollywood needs to incubate more queer talent. One of the greatest things to come out of Pose will not only be the incredible storytelling that the series exhibited, but a roster of LGBTQ actors with a Ryan Murphy series on their resume. Their careers are only going to get bigger and better from here.
I just feel a weird sort of feeling in my stomach when I see news outlets condemn one cisgender, straight actress for taking an LGBTQ role, and then a week later seemingly applaud another cisgender, straight actress for taking another. Or are sexuality and gender identity different?
Our community needs to get our rage in check. There can’t be exceptions to the rules we’re creating. We need to understand what fuels our decisions and then follow through on them so that everyone else in the world can keep up.
I’m not saying Johannson shouldn’t have stepped down. I’m just asking why is it OK for Handler to step up?
Straight women playing trans women is a low blow because it insinuates that trans women can’t pass as real or that they’re just playing dress up. In this genre, Hollywood should take note. Though I’m not trans, I totally get it.
On the straight playing gay, I think it ok – as long as it’s done with good taste and respect.
I say this with respect to Hollywood as an industry. They have to make money.
Casting an unknown is very risky.. There has to be a market for an idea.
Changing Hollywood is not the solution here.
Changing the American public opinion is.
I get what you’re saying, but I think your point is garbled.
One would think that trans women would be angry about being passed for a “CIS” woman part, seeing as they can certainly “pass as real”.
The anger about a “CIS” woman being cast as a trans woman comes off as a tantrum of opportunity or publicity stunt, considering that there’s really no confusion about actors “dressing up” and “playing” something which they are not. Insisting that an actual trans woman play trans parts is like insisting that actors must play parts which reflect their actual life experiences. Which isn’t acting.
The funny thing going here is that trans women want to be known as women, and they also want non-trans women to be known as “CISwomen”. Hmmm.
S.anderson, you have correctly identified one of the many irrationalities of gender ideology.
Just to clarify:
Johansson was to play a trans-MAN in the movie.
What was pointed out about that was, unlike a gay/straight situation, it falls into the trap similar to having men play trans-women. It comes off as a man-in-a-dress or a woman-in-a-suit schtick. The psychology of the argument against it is it reaffirms the mindset that they’re playing ‘dress-up’ just like so many bigots claim ACTUAL trans people are really doing.
a straight person playing a gay character doesn’t carry that same baggage automatically.
in this case, I think there would be far less blowback if a male actor was cast to play the trans-man character Johansson was going to play – similar to how Felicity Huffman played a trans-woman in the film “Transamerica.”
(but, of course trans people should, at least, be auditioned for trans-characters every time – which, it seems, it usually NOT the case)
But female actors should not be playing trans-men at this point – male actors (either trans or cis) should be. Same (but reversed) for trans-women characters.
Unfortunately the character is a butch cross-dressing LESBIAN. Not a trans woman or a trans man.
These type of conversations are extremely frustrating. Should gay men be allowed to play straight roles? I am a gay actor and I believe I should be considered for all roles. Acting is putting yourself in someone else’s shoes. That’s what it’s always been. No one is playing themselves.
You can’t have it both ways. If you’re going to say that a straight woman can’t play a lesbian then going forward, lesbian actors should only be permitted to play lesbian roles.
This type of conversation is needless and only trying to cause controversy where there is none. Our time could be better spent talking about and focusing on real problems.
I TOTALLY AGREE WITH YOU!!! Those of us who choose acting as a profession did so because we get to play someone else other than ourselves. Pigeonholing us to only play ourselves defeats the purpose of acting. I have done a lot of stage acting and had to research the people the parts I played which gave me a better understanding of the human condition!!!
Yup. Mike Fleming is absolutely right. This kinda of faux-outrage over big name cis actors playing gay or trans roles is only going to cause those roles, and stories, to disappear — exactly the opposite of what the community wants and needs.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again — visibility is far more important than representation. The latter will come when you’ve established the former. And it won’t work the other way around.
It is called acting. Inventing a reality and playing someone or something you are not. We were all up in arms (and still are, rightfully so) whenever a gay actor gets criticizes for playing straight. THIS is the exact reason why actors in Hollywood do not come out, because we demand they come out for visibility and then we criticize straight actors who “take roles away”; effectively type casting actors into roles.
Scarlett Johansson should have never backed down. She should have reminded you and the LGBT community that she is an actor and actors portray characters that have no relation to their personal lives all the time. She should have dropped the mic and allow you and everyone else to have your fainting spell and when your fit was over, get up by yourselves and walk it off.
This argument cuts both ways, if we expect LGBT roles to go to LGBT actors, then we should not criticize when an LGBT actor refuses to come out for fear of being typecast. And we should not get offended when an LGBT actor received criticism for playing a role that should have gone to a straight actor.
So what are we going to do? typecast actors and lose the visibility or allow actors to do their thing and get out of the way?
Your argument only works if Trans actors have ever been given a chance and are there to audition. The fact is, they aren’t in the mix currently because they have been purposely screened out.
Before complaining that LGBT actors are taking roles away from straight people, lets wait until Hollywood actually starts casting a few.
Oh, and as for playing other races, I point you to Mickey Rooney playing Asian in Breakfast at Tiffanys
Congratulation dude, you should go see the alt-right and make a party with them, you’re absolutely the same.
So what about Neil Patrick Harris playing Barney in HIMYM, a gay actor playing the most straight guy of the show ? What about Tarjei Sandvik Moe, a straight actor who wonderfully portrayed a gay teen is Skam ?
LGBT community complains everyday about discrimination but what you do is absolutely the same. I don’t care if a gay character is played by a gay actor or not, i care if he is played by a good actor.
You’re stupid. Keep wartching the awful Ryan Murphy shows (when was the last time he created something worth a watch ? AHS season 1, it’s been a while) but please, stop embarassing us with communitarism.
Gee, what a shock, the account that hates the shows where LGBT actors are regularly cast complains about Neil Patrick harris playing straight.
You trolls aren’t even trying to hide are you?
My (limited) understanding is that the issue is much bigger than simply the fact it takes the role away from trans actors. Trans actors are never considered for non trans roles and of those roles are already very few and often very limited to transition centred storylines or (often offensively constructed) stereotypical roles such as prostitutes or criminals.
Until casting agents will consider trans actors for non trans roles, the trans roles that are available should not go to cis gendered folk. (I would recommend reading full interviews with Jamie clayton or Trace Lysette who articulate the complexity of the issue a lot better than I do).
It’s this last fact that really shows how a cis actor in a trans tole is very different to a cis, hetero actor in a cis,lgb role. Gay, bisexual and lesbian actors (including the ones you’ve mentioned as alternatives) are often considered for hetero roles and have found success in those roles. We are yet to reach that point of trans folk. I’m not saying that there isn’t a mountain of homophobia in casting in Hollywood but its a very different monster for trans actors trying to work.
I think the key to remember here I’d that whilst under the lgbt umbrella and within the community we empathise and support each other because we all face discrimination, we do have to remember that we don’t all face the same types or extents of it, as a cis gay man, I won’t experience the same discrimination as a trans man or woman, the same way I wouldn’t experience the same discrimination as a queer person of colour.
I’m going to stop now because soon my comment is going to be longer than the article itself but I thought it might be helpful. (I’ve tried not to assume your gender because I couldn’t find out much about you just from your name, but I do apologise if you identify as trans and I’ve just explained down to someone who knows a whole lot more than me about trans experiences)
This is just stupid. Actors play different roles all the time. I’m not trans so I don’t know what that experience is like but to me, a role is a role and that should go to whoever the casting director thinks best fits it.
It’s a business and money, and A-listers pull in audience. Who’s gonna watch a no name no one play some obscure someone that barely anyone knows?
You want to open other people’s minds
Cont— you want to open people minds then you gotta get people to watch something first. They won’t be remotely interested in something that’s got nothing to be excited about. A no-name actor playing an obscure role.
Obscure roles need an A-list actor or director or publisher
If your art or craft can’t break biases or prejudice then maybe you aren’t good enough and you’re art isn’t that good if you can’t make converts of non believers
Could the different reactions be mostly because our “community” is made up of very diverse people with very different opinions and perspectives on things? And most of us don’t spend all day harping or congratulating on social media? My trans female friend has had zero issue with cis women and males playing trans roles. It makes me a bit more uncomfortable now than it did just several years ago. Differing opinions there. Also, gender is seen as something different from orientation. And there are less trans roles and less trans actors. So, the opportunities are scant. Still, the Johansson controversy was extremely uncalled for and overblown and reminded me that we focus way too much on bs that doesn’t really matter instead of trying to tackle real sh*t.
Some of the reaction to Chelsea’s casting probably has to do with a large percentage of her fans being gay. And perhaps some is also fueled by base closet-protecting instincts many have. Most people are aware that there’s plenty of closeted gay/homo-leaning people in Hollywood. And because they’re aware of this they become desensitized to this type of development. It would be nice if actors who had unembarrassed same-sex romantic/sexual preferences got more of the high-profile gay roles in films and more high-profiles roles in general. But most of the out actors don’t even want these roles because they wish to prove that they can “play straight”. And they are obsessed with not being typecast or being reduced to supporting players in most productions or to Ryan Murphy shows. But you have to remember that it is acting, and saying that cis gender straight-identifying or “mostly straight living” actors should never play “queer” people is absurd. Also, despite being so supposedly “progressive” Hollywood is a business first and foremost and is a generally f-ed up place. I hate to look at it so cynically, but there’s no choice.
I agree with one aspect of the article. Hollywood needs to become a safer, more comfortable place for unabashed gay/homo-leaning/queer actors and where they feel they can be themselves without manipulation. Instead it remains a place of glass ceilings and megalomania and deception that often reinforces self-resentment and internalized homophobia.
Sorry but this debate is absurd. Gay activist never complained that straight actors play gay roles, maybe they complained that straight actors played all gay prominent roles wich is very different.
From time to time is nice to watch a gay actor playing a prominent gay role.
And there are gay actors playing straight roles without a problem, i remember that australian actor playing the bad guy in Spartacus and he had a lot of straight sex scenes and he was totally convincing.
The same way gay people never seem to claim cultural apropiation when something gets mainstream.
Trans activists on the other hand are trying an strategy that is bound to fail. They are able to make a lot of noise online but the truth is most people don’t care about trans people or trans stories.
That could change if they were able to watch trans stories but to get a big budget film you need an A list actor or actress, and there are not A list trans actors (not remotely).
So with this bullying of this type of productions the only thing they get is that these stories are not being told by big studios.
Right now you can make a gay film and get a lot of people interested because people got used to gay stories and gay characters. Trans are not remotely there, and they need that visibility.
Wanting a trans actor playing a trans roles is ok, but you need to get your stories out there first and that’s exactly what they are not going to get shaming actors and studios that want to tell trans stories
Stupid article. Why doesn’t the author bitch and complain that Eric McCormack is a straight guy playing Will? So sick of this crap!
Here’s a thought, we can all cry about LGBT actors taking roles from straight people, when LGBT actors are actually allowed to be out and audition for roles as themselves and not have to stay in the closet until they get famous.
Until then Johanson playing Trans is just like Mickey Rooney playing Asian in Breakfast at Tiffanys.
Also, the article seemed to insinuate that Chealsea Handler was being praised for playing a lesbian, frankly I haven’t seen anything about her written at all.
THE DIFFERENCE Is in the attitude and the ambitions of LGB vs T.
They are allies in the sense that they are all treated as the same by society and suffer the same homophobia. But, they are different in that most T do not identify as LGB.
By and large, most trans folk are straight. Think about it. And there is considerable homophobia and hatred of “CIS” people among them. We have all heard about it. T people seek to establish that deviation from the boundaries described by culture’s sex/gender roles mean that you are some other gender. T identify the tyranny which they fight is in forcing them to accept a particular GENDER.
LGB people have established that traditional sex/gender roles do not describe the whole spectrum of normal sexuality. Instead of worshiping sex/gender roles as immutable, they recognize that the sex/gender roles simply don’t fit people. They recognize that under the right circumstances, we are all capable of positive same-sex experiences. They recognize that the tyranny they fight is in forcing them to conform to restrictive sex/gender ROLES.
It seems like two groups have arrived at different conclusions based on much the same information. Not really much of a difference either. More a matter of different meanings attached to essentially the same vocabulary. It’s confusing. Especially when a respected “LGBTQ leader” steps forward and describes how we tick to an oblivious Press.
As for actors playing T vs actors playing LGB, it comes down to whether or not the current “LGBTQ” leadership gives a shit. Since T folk have absorbed and subsumed the LGB movement from within, they are more empowered by making statements about Trans “appropriation”. The fact that there was no comparable tantrum about a straight “CIS” woman playing a lesbian simply shows that they can’t be arsed to care. The LGB movement is dead, but it’s skin is being worn by impostors.
Queerty has been making a habit of deleting my posts after a couple of days, so please check back later to confirm.
This is transphobic as fuck.
And trying to say that cis LGB people suffer homophobia from trans folk without acknowledging the toxic transphobia within the LGBTQ community is a load of shit.
And the only way the LGBTQ movement is dying is because cis white males have almost achieved what they want and are fine leaving women, trans folk and people of colour behind to fight on their own. These imposters you speak of are the reason the LGBTQ movement exists and we have the rights we do today. Now it’s out turn to use that to lift others up.
Maybe your posts are being removed because they’re harmful?
The way I see it (and I might be completely off-base) is that the issue is not ScarJo getting that specific role, rather it became a lightning rod for the fact that Trans actors can’t even get a foot in the door, with a couple of exceptions (e.g. Sense8, orange is the new black).
I don’t have a problem with a person playing a role as something other than what their own life experience is and I think it is a bad idea to say “only X people can play X roles” because they are actors, their job is to act. Typecasting, whether it be the genre of film, type of roles someone can get or whatever is not good, otherwise we would have missed out on some amazing performances over the years.
The real problem (IMO) is that casting directors need to throw a wider net and actually take a chance on a lesser known actor/actress in the lead role, maybe giving a chunky supporting role to an A lister to still get the “star power”. That way you can build up the Trans actor/actress, still get a wider audience with the supporting actors and make your money (because movies are still a business at the end of the day)
two words: Jared Leto
When Will & Grace was first being cast in 1997, the part of Will came down to two men. Eric McCormack, who is straight, and a gay actor who has never been identified. Cocreater of the show, Max Mutchnick, who is gay, stated that Eric was more believeable as Will and more believable as a gay man.
I know that throws all of your logic out the window since you specifically brought up casting Eric in this article…but sometimes the best actor for the job is the best actor.
The gay actor considered for the role of Will was John Barrowman.
Except they never were going to cast an out gay actor. The fact that Barrowman couldn’t get a job here in America, but got hired over and over again in England with some of the greatest actors in the world shows that it was never about his talent here.
As for naming Mutchnick, he was part of the issue back then, if things were so open on set why was Sean Hayes rabidly self hating and responded with outrage over any questions about sexuality during the run of the show.
“Or are sexuality and gender identity different?”
OF COURSE THEY ARE !!!!! wtf are you smoking ?
There are differences between the two. LGB people are much further along in our struggle. Gay actors like Rupert Everett used to rightfully complain that they were not offered straight roles. But that is changing, especially on TV but even in the movies. Zachary Quinto plays Spock in the new Star Trek movies. I love Jonathan Groff in Mindhunter and he is completely convincing as a straight man. Jim Parsons, in addition to playing Sheldon Cooper on “The Big Bang Theory” recently played Claire Danes’ husband in the movie, “A Kid Like Jake”, about a gender non-conforming boy. It would be hypocritical to say that gay and lesbian actors should be able to play straight characters but not the other way around. If trans actors were getting cisgender roles and if they were at least in the room when trans roles were being auditioned, I think the reaction might have been different.
I absolutely hate Hate HATE typecasting!!
I wish tweeter would just crawl under a rock and die.
The only question a casting agent should ask themselves is “can this actor do the part” and nothing else.
FO this “you have to be this to play that” BS. One, it’s illegal to do that in California, two, it absolutely kills art.
It’s not illegal to do that in the state of california. Have you any idea how casting calls work?
And as for it killing art, how is an artist being able to authentically tell a story with real and lived experience and emotion going to kill anything? Beyond the fact that casting cis actors in trans roles is harmful to trans actors, artistically, we are missing out on beautifully authentic and moving portrayals of a very real experience.
Umm, yeah, I do know how casting calls work.
And yes, it’s illegal in the state of California to deny employment based on race, religion, sexual orientation etc etc etc.
MEANING, you cannot say, you can’t play this part because you are gay…nor can you say, you can’t be hire for this part because you’re Jewish and so on and so on.
Believe me, I’m VERY aware of labor laws in CA.
And as for art, it would have been an act against humanity to deny Kathy Bates from playing Gertrude Stein cause in real life she’s Methodist.
And on the flip side, it would have been a Hollywood tragedy to deny Eddie Murphy the lead in Beverly Hills Cop because it was originally written for a white East coast Italian.
Again, all a casting agent should ever think is “can this actor do the part”
And when I write actor, I mean the unisex definition.
Fine, then we will cast Amy Adams to play Martin Luthor King in the next movie about his life.
The fact is, LGBT actors who are out were never even allowed in the door so to claim the best actor got it is idiotic when huge groups were never even allowed to audition.
“And everybody is cheering. But wait, didn’t we just get mad at Johansson for this last week? ”
Everybody? We? The only ones who are whining against the whole thing are a few Sensitive Sally Trans Snowflakes. Gay people, in general, do not have any problem with straight people playing gay characters.
And vis versa
There is a big difference between trans people and gay people. Being gay is a sexual orientation and being trans is a gender identity. A trans person’s identity has nothing to do with their sexuality.
The whole ScarJo debacle is ridiculous.
The character she was set to play was a butch crossdressing LESBIAN. NOT a trans man. The whole thing was started by whining trans actresses. Many of which were on “I Am Cait” so lets just say their integrity is not that intact to begin with. But here is the thing according to their logic. Only trans people should play trans people. Thus only gay men should play gay men, straight men play straight men and straight women play straight women.
Hilary Swank played a trans man brilliantly and won an Oscar for it. I get that there should be more opportunities for trans actors but at the same time there are some straight/cis actors who are capable of doing those roles justice as well. Hopefully the trans actors are not being discriminated against roles in Hollywood(I’m sure they are though) but I would rather take things on a case by case scenario and not have blanket rules like no cis person should ever play trans and no straight person can ever play gay.
It’s absolutely OK for anyone to play anyone. Doesn’t matter if you’re straight or gay or trans or whatever. Art is bad nowadays, please don’t make it any worse. These “activists” should really get a life.
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