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23rd of July 2018

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Trans actors explain why Scarlett Johansson's 'Rub & Tug' role is like a slap in the face

Scarlett Johansson is getting heat from trans actors for her new role.Scarlett Johansson is getting heat from trans actors for her new role.Image: Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic2016%2f09%2f16%2f8f%2fhttpsd2mhye01h4nj2n.cloudfront.netmediazgkymde1lza3.f09f1By Marcus Gilmer2018-07-04 21:13:27 UTC

The controversy over another bad Scarlett Johansson casting decision continues to reverberate as several prominent transgender actors have spoken out about her upcoming role as a trans man. 

When it was announced that Johansson had signed on to star as real-life massage parlor owner Dante "Tex" Gill, a transgender man, in Rub & Tug, the casting was met with backlash, much like Johansson's casting in Ghost in the Shell, where she played a Japanese manga character.

Johansson stirred up a bigger ruckus with her tone-deaf response to the criticism, issued by her rep to Bustle:

Tell them that they can be directed to Jeffrey Tambor, Jared Leto, and Felicity Huffman's reps for comment

Prominent transgender actors took their issues with the casting to Twitter. For them, the problem is multi-layered: Cisgender actors are paid to play trans people, but trans actors aren't cast in cisgender roles, and just because other actors had been applauded for trans roles in the past, doesn't mean the poor decision-making should continue. 

Transparent's Trace Lysette and Ian Harvie were among those who took Johansson to task.

Oh word?? So you can continue to play us but we can’t play y’all? Hollywood is so fucked... I wouldn’t be as upset if I was getting in the same rooms as Jennifer Lawrence and Scarlett for cis roles, but we know that’s not the case. A mess. https://t.co/s8gBlBI1Sw

— Trace Lysette (@tracelysette) July 4, 2018

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... so twisted. I’m so done...

— Trace Lysette (@tracelysette) July 4, 2018

What does CIS WHITE FEMALE PRIVILEGE looks like?#ScarlettJohansson doesnt feel the need to answer for herself-she redirects her public to other industry people who got it wrong but “won awards”. Is she also enough of an ass to assume that she will win an award, is that what she.. pic.twitter.com/6iBwNoTTiS

— Ian Harvie (@ianharvie) July 4, 2018

Indya Moore, of FX's new hit drama POSE, pointed out how invaluable a trans actor's own experiences are to their performance.

Wen cis women play trans men you are reducing the existential experience of a trans man as playing dress up. cis people cannot tell trans stories- don't have the range. If they did, they would empathize with the reality of how problematic, dismissive and fetishizing this is.

— IAM (@IndyaMoore) July 4, 2018

This is no different than able bodied people playing folk with disabilities and winning awards for it. How do you tell a story of a gender variant human without involving trans people? Our xp is far too large & complex to be limited within the confines of the cis imagination.#how

— IAM (@IndyaMoore) July 4, 2018

ya'll fetishizing the trans experience by making this film. u can't create projects about the experience of trans people without using trans people because you are delegitimizing trans peoples respect as men and women.

— IAM (@IndyaMoore) July 4, 2018

And Sense 8's Jamie Clayton tweeted that transgender actors still face a steep uphill climb in getting auditions to play trans roles. Laverne Cox of Orange is the New Black retweeted Clayton's comment.

So far, neither Johansson nor her rep have responded to comments about this latest round of criticism.

It's also noteworthy that Rub & Tug is being directed by Rupert Sanders, who also directed the Ghost in the Shell.

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