Scarlett Johansson was hit with an onslaught of backlash after not only accepting the role of a transgender man in the upcoming film, Rub & Tug, but also for defending her casting in a biting, dismissive manner.
But after some introspection, Johansson has decided to drop out of the film altogether. In a statement released Friday, she said she now understands why embodying Dante “Tex” Gill, a transgender man and massage parlor operator connected to Pittsburgh’s underground sex industry the ‘70s, would have been offensive to the LGBTQ community.
“In light of recent ethical questions raised surrounding my casting as Dante Tex Gill, I have decided to respectfully withdraw my participation in the project," said Johansson. "Our cultural understanding of transgender people continues to advance, and I’ve learned a lot from the community since making my first statement about my casting and realize it was insensitive."
She continued, “I have great admiration and love for the trans community and am grateful that the conversation regarding inclusivity in Hollywood. While I would have loved the opportunity to bring Dante’s story and transition to life, I understand why many feel he should be portrayed by a transgender person, and I am thankful that this casting debate, albeit controversial, has sparked a larger conversation about diversity and representation in film.”
When news of her casting initially broke earlier this month, critics took to Twitter to explain that the story of the transition of a transgender man should be portrayed by a transgender person, not a cisgender woman. But it was Johansson's confrontational response that made matters worse.
“Tell [critics] that they can be directed to Jeffrey Tambor, Jared Leto, and Felicity Huffman’s reps for comment,” Johansson's publicist said initially, referring to other cis actors that have portrayed trans characters in Transparent, Dallas Buyer’s Club, and Transamerica, respectively.
On Twitter, trans actors Trace Lysette and Jamie Clayton clapped back at the situation, and explained their point of view.
Johansson isn't alone in changing her tune regarding the casting of cisgender actors in trans roles. Tambor, a cis man, has often said that he now understands why his role of Maura (a trans woman) on the hit Amazon series, Transparent, should have gone to a trans actor.
Though it doesn't always feel like it, perhaps Hollywood really is listening to the conversation.