Scarlett Johansson faces firestorm amid news she will play a transgender man


Scarlett Johansson is once again at the center of a casting controversy.

Johansson, who raised ire last year for playing a character originally written as Japanese, faced a new round of criticism this week amid reports that she would portray a real-life transgender man in an upcoming film.

The movie, “Rub & Tug,” is a crime drama based on the life of Dante “Tex” Gill, a trans man who police said operated a string of Pittsburgh massage parlors in the 1970s and 1980s that served as fronts for brothels.

The casting news provoked outrage on social media. LGBTQ activists and transgender performers were among the most vocal, expressing frustration that they seemed to be locked out of consideration for such roles.

“I wouldn’t be as upset if I was getting in the same rooms as Jennifer Lawrence and Scarlett for cis[gender] roles, but we know that’s not the case,” transgender actress Trace Lysette tweeted. The term “cisgender” refers to people whose gender identity matches the sex they were assigned at birth.

“And 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,” Lysette, who has a recurring role on the Amazon series “Transparent,” said in a subsequent tweet.

“I’m so done,” she wrote, adding the state of affairs is “so twisted.”

First the Japanese, and now Scarlett Johansson is taking on the trans community with her new film Rub and Tug. I can’t wait until her Rosa Parks film comes out.

— Valerie Vza Complex (@ValerieComplex) July 3, 2018


Johansson’s representatives did not immediately respond to a request for comment from NBC News. But in a statement to the website Bustle, an unnamed spokesperson for the actress said: “Tell them that they can be directed to Jeffrey Tambor, Jared Leto, and Felicity Huffman’s reps for comment.”

That statement — itself the subject of controversy on social media, where it was widely seen as dismissive of concerns about “Rub & Tug” — referred to cisgender Hollywood stars who have earned critical acclaim for playing transgender characters.

Tambor won two Emmys for playing a trans woman on “Transparent.” Leto took home an Academy Award for playing a trans woman in the 2013 movie “Dallas Buyers Club.” Huffman got an Oscar nomination for playing a transgender woman in the 2005 movie “Transamerica.”

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