The One Where Scarlett Johansson Wasn’t Allowed To Play A Tree

“You know, as an actor I should be allowed to play any person, or any tree, or any animal because that is my job and the requirements of my job…”
–Scarlett Johansson

Before I parse actress Scarlett Johansson’s recent comments to As If magazine, let me express an opinion that may very well be unpopular

I think they should have made that biopic about Dante “Tex” Gill with Johansson in the starring role, because there’s such precious few mainstream pop-cultural exposure to trans men and at least it would have given this group some extra visibility.

But after the outcry against her starring in the movie, she dropped out and then soon there was no movie…most likely because a major studio was shy about making a film about a trans man unless it featured a huge (most likely cisgender) name.

The paradox is that in order to get that huge mainstream visibility for trans male actors, you need to have huge mainstream visibility for trans males…and no matter how much of a misstep it would have been to cast Johansson as Gill, at least it would have been something.

This being said (are you still with me here, people?), I felt that the actress’s recent comments had that gritty aftertaste of that old insult comparing transgender identification with identifying with an animal or inanimate object. Maybe that wasn’t her intent at all…it was just as cringe as hell.

So maybe I’m stupid and maybe casting Johansson as Gill would have been a colossal mistake on the order of…Ghost In The Shell, anyone?

And so a great deal of the ire directed at her about those comments was in regards to the topic of “whitewashing,” and Ghost In The Shell. And we’ve seen similar arguments that without a big-name Caucasian star, live-action adaptations of stories featuring non-European/non-white characters can’t pull in the requisite box-office (which is where we got WTF projects such as Prince of Persia).

So what I’m trying to say is: yes, maybe casting Johansson as Gill would have ultimately been a big fuck-up. But then what’s the answer here?

I suppose it’s that some big producer or director or actor has to helm a movie about trans men…or Asian characters…and say flat-out: we’re not cis-washing (is that a word?) or white-washing this film and that’s it. And then that producer/director/actor’s “pull” is what gets the film made, and they hire fantastic authentic actors, and you don’t need a Scarlett Johansson or a Jake Gyllenhaal to “sell” the picture to the studio or the public.

At any rate…

What the fuck happened to Thora Birch?