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Scarlett Johansson rejects criticism over her decision to play a transgender man

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Kayleigh Dray
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Scarlett Johansson’s latest film role – which will see her playing a transgender man – has sparked outrage on social media.

Scarlett Johansson is set to star in the upcoming film Rub & Tug, which tells the true story of a transgender man, Dante “Tex” Gill.

Gill was assigned female at birth, but later embraced his true identity as a man and went on to succeed in Pittsburgh’s massage parlour and prostitution, according to The Hollywood Reporter. And, while the obituary for Gill misgendered him by referring to the crime boss as a “her”, it did state that “she may even have undergone the initial stages of a sex change that made her appear masculine… [and] insisted she was a man.”

It is perhaps unsurprising, then, that so many social media users have since voiced the opinion that it is problematic for Johansson to play the transgender character.

“I cannot get over how selfish Scarlett Johansson is,” one user tweeted.

Another wrote: “No offence to Scarlett Johansson but there are many beautiful trans women in the world, and I MEAN MANY…so ask Hollywood to keep looking!”

And still one more said: “Literally the LEAST you could do when making a movie about trans people is to cast a trans person in the role that was written for them.

“Scarlett Johansson needs to stop naively choosing roles, and studios need to do better.”

Johansson, though, seems unruffled by the criticism she’s received so far on social media.

Indeed, in a statement obtained by Bustle, the actress said (via her representative): “Tell them they can be directed to Jeffrey Tambor, Jared Leto, and Felicity Huffman’s reps for comment.”

Reports have confirmed that Rub & Tug will be directed by Rupert Sanders, who previously worked with Johansson on Ghost in the Shell.

It’s worth mentioning that the 2017 action film, which was based on a popular anime movie, similarly sparked criticism when it was confirmed that the white Johansson had been cast as a character of Japanese descent. Indeed, fans of the original began a petition to recast the actress shortly after her role in the film was made public.

In 2017, Johansson responded to the backlash, telling Marie Claire she “certainly would never presume to play another race of a person.”

“Diversity is important in Hollywood, and I would never want to feel like I was playing a character that was offensive,” she said.

“Also, having a franchise with a female protagonist driving it is such a rare opportunity,” Johansson added. 

“Certainly, I feel the enormous pressure of that — the weight of such a big property on my shoulders.”

Image: Getty

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Kayleigh Dray

Kayleigh Dray is editor of Stylist.co.uk, where she chases after rogue apostrophes and specialises in films, comic books, feminism and television. On a weekend, you can usually find her drinking copious amounts of tea and playing boardgames with her friends. 

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