It was announced earlier this week that Scarlett Johansson was cast as transgender criminal kingpin Dante “Tex” Gill in Rub & Tug. Since the actress is not a transgender man in real-life, the casting has caused some controversy, which Johansson responded to through a representative, noting that she thought the outrage was hypocritical. Instead of calming the fires, Johansson’s statement basically dumped a gallon of gasoline on the flames, causing even more backlash.
Bustle reached out to Scarlett Johansson for a comment about the Rub & Tug casting controversy and got an interesting response. Speaking through a representative, Johansson’s statement reveals that all of the backlash is unfounded. Her statement reads.
“Tell them that they can be directed to Jeffrey Tambor, Jared Leto, and Felicity Huffman’s reps for comment.”
Johansson is clearly referencing Jeffrey Tambor’s Golden Globe winning performance as a transgender woman on Amazon’s Transparent as well as Jared Leto’s Academy Award winning performance as a transgender woman in Dallas Buyers Club and Felicity Huffman’s Academy Award nominated performance in Transamerica. While Johansson makes a valid argument, many believe that she is missing the point of the backlash to begin with.Scarlett Johansson’s defense of the Rub & Tug casting insinuates that hiring cisgender actors in transgender roles is not a problem because all of the aforementioned actors received acclaim for their roles. But, the real controversy is that many believe that the role is being stolen from a transgender actor. The role of Dante “Tex” Gill in Rub & Tug could give an actor the opportunity to play a character who matches his gender onscreen. Instead of helping the situation, Johansson’s response has made things worse.
To make matters even worse, Rub & Tug director Rupert Sanders also made the recent Ghost in the Shell movie, which came under fire for “whitewashing.” The production was criticized from the beginning when it was announced that Scarlett Johansson was going to be cast in a role that could have gone to a Japanese woman. Fans of the original Japanese manga on which the film was based state that the role should have gone to a Japanese woman, and not the Caucasian Johansson. While the controversy caused a stir, the movie basically came and went at the box office.
Advocates for equal employment opportunity in the entertainment industry are outraged by the choice of casting Scarlett Johansson in Rub & Tug. Plus, the backlash surrounding Ghost in the Shell still lingers. There are plenty of transgender actors that could have taken the role, which is why all of the controversy exists in the first place and why it’s not going to go away any time soon. While it’s cool to think of the Black Widow actress playing a crime boss and leading a prostitution and an anabolic steroid ring, one can’t help but think that the role could have gone to someone else. You can read more about what Scarlett Johansson had to say about the Rub & Tug controversy at Bustle.