Don't Let Scarlett Johansson Play a Transman
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The lifelong journey of a trans individual is one that is measured in years, not days. The process of transitioning physically and emotionally is nuanced and complicated, as well as being very unique to each person. There is also an inherit danger in being trans in today's society, and there was even more danger in being trans in decades past.
Scarlett Johansson is mocking this journey by agreeing to play Dante Gill, a transmale crime boss in the 70's in a movie insultingly titled "Rub & Tug". Having an actress who is famed for her femininity and beauty take on the masculine role of a transman sends a strong message: look at how we transformed her into a him, and now applaud her acting skills. For the public it gives an unrealistic image of the physical changes trans folks go through, and for trans people it gives a harmful image of what they "should" be able to do. It puts an incredible pressure on the need to pass.
When someone of the Hollywood elite who is cis is cast to play someone trans, it is a slap to the face. It sends the message that being trans is a costume and it begs viewers to look in awe at how the actor transformed into the opposite gender. These actors are given professional stylist teams, photoshop, and movie magic to look exactly how they are 'supposed to'.
The choices made in casting movies speak volumes: from whitewashing to the specific roles reserved for minorities (the thug, the gay best friend, etc). When a role that is meant to celebrate a minority group is given to someone of the majority in Hollywood, it perpetuates the very issue facing actors who actually belong to that group who want an opportunity to act as well.
Movies about trans icons could be incredibly powerful tools and help make our society more accepting: but we need those movies to celebrate and elevate trans individuals instead of treating them as the costume of the day. If movie makers really want to be allies, then they need to reach out to the very communities they are trying to portray.
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