Celebrity | Movies

Scarlett Johansson Stirs Up Controversy with Latest Movie Role


When an actor or actress is cast in a highly anticipated movie role, the public is bound to have an opinion, especially if the character is based on a real person.

Although some picks are met with applause even before the film has premiered, others are promptly met with disdain, regardless of their subjective talent.

One star who's recently been caught in the crossfire is Scarlett Johansson, who is set to play Dante "Tex" Gill in the film, Rub & Tug, which is based on a real story.  

Born a female named Lois Jean, Gill transitioned into a male later in life where he operated a massage parlor and prostitution business in Pittsburgh in the 1970s and 80s.

He would eventually be convicted of tax evasion in 1984 and spend seven years in prison before passing away in 2003.

The controversy

The media immediately pointed out that the Vicky Cristina Barcelona actress is cisgender, which means their gender and personal identity corresponds with the sex they were assigned at birth.

As expected, the casting decision caused an upset with the public, as many believed the role of Tex should have gone to an actor who identifies as transgender off the big-screen.

Even though Johansson is getting flack from the public, this isn't the first time her acting roles have put her in the headlines for all of the wrong reasons.

Johansson will once again be teaming up with Rupert Sanders, who had previously directed her in the manga and anime-inspired movie, The Ghost in the Shell. The film created controversy for "whitewashing" Asian characters as Johansson played the role of Major Motoko Kusanagi.

"I think whenever you cast someone someone's going to be critical about it. To me it was, you know, I stand by my decision "” she's the best actress of her generation and I was flattered and honored that she would be in this film," Sanders said in 2016.

"So many people who were around the original anime have been vehemently in support of her because she's incredible and there are very few like her," the director added.

Johansson's response

When Bustle reached out to Johannson's team for comment, they were met with a short statement that suggested they redirect their questions to the publicists of other notable celebrities who have also played transgender characters in the past.

"Tell them that they can be directed to Jeffrey Tambor, Jared Leto, and Felicity Huffman's reps for comment," the media outlet was told.  

Although Tambor played the role of a transgender woman on Amazon Studios' hit show Transparent, he asked TV studios to give transgender actors a chance when casting new characters.

"To you people out there, you producers and you network owners and you agents and you creative sparks: please give transgender talent a chance," he said. "Give them auditions. Give them their stories. Do that. And also one more thing: I would not be unhappy were I the last cisgender male to play a female transgender on television."

Transparent creator Jill Soloway also echoed Tambor's sentiments, and despite previously stating that she felt he was the right actor to play Maura, she wouldn't do it again.

"I would unequivocally say it is absolutely unacceptable to cast a cis man in the role of a trans woman. Ever. I know that sounds ironic coming out of my mouth, but at this point I would throw that down as absolute."


Of course, when the public caught wind of Johansson's latest role and her court response, they were quick to take to Twitter and voice their disapproval.

However, other social media commenters were quick to come to the actress' defense, arguing that Johansson is simply doing her job by acting in a movie role.

Do you think Johansson should have been casted for the role?

[H/T: Bustle, The Verge]

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Maya has been working at Shared for a year. She just begrudgingly spent $200 on a gym membership. Contact her at maya@shared.com