Scarlett Johansson sparks outrage by playing transgender man in new film

NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 12: Actress Scarlett Johansson attends New York Premiere of Sony's ROUGH NIGHT presented by SVEDKA Vodka at AMC Lincoln Square Theater on June 12, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images for SVEDKA Vodka)

Scarlett Johansson has sparked outrage with an announcement that she is set to play a transgender man in a new film.

The Avengers star will reunite with Rupert Sanders, who directed her performance as a canonically Asian character in Ghost in the Shell – a film which was also accused of queerbaiting and straightwashing – to take on the role of real-life trans man Dante “Tex” Gill in Rub & Tug.

Johansson attracted criticism for her role in Ghost in the Shell (Paramount Pictures)

The news that yet another cisgender actor was set to take on a trans role was greeted with anger and disappointment by many – and Johansson appeared to pour fuel on the fire with her response.

The 33-year-old actress said in a statement to Bustle: “Tell them that they can be directed to Jeffrey Tambor, Jared Leto, and Felicity Huffman’s reps for comment.”

Actress Scarlett Johansson arrives or the World Premiere of the film 'Avengers: Infinity War' in Hollywood, California on April 23, 2018. (Photo by FREDERIC J. BROWN / AFP)        (Photo credit should read FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images)

Johansson appeared in Avengers: Infinity War earlier this year (FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty)

All three of these actors are cis people who have played trans characters – Tambor in TV show Transparent before he was fired over sexual misconduct allegations this year, Leto in 2013 film Dallas Buyers Club and Huffman in Transamerica, a 2005 comedy-drama.

Both Johansson’s acceptance of the role of Gill – a massage parlour and sex work business owner in 1970s and 80s Pittsburgh who self-identified as a man and told people to call him Mr Gill – and her response to the subsequent criticism have been condemned online.

PARIS, FRANCE - MARCH 22:  Scarlett Johansson and Rupert Sanders attend the official press conference for the Paris Premiere of the Paramount Pictures release "Ghost In The Shell" at Hotel Le Bristol on March 22, 2017 in Paris, France.  (Photo by Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images For Paramount Pictures)

Scarlett Johansson is working with Rupert Sanders again (Pascal Le Segretain/Getty)

“Scarlett Johansson is gonna work with Ghost in a Shell director again and this time she’s playing a trans man i cant breathehrkfkg,” wrote one astonished observer.

Another critic said: “scarlett johansson is gonna work with the ghost in the shell director AGAIN but this time she’s gonna play a trans man” above a picture of an appropriately astonished Lisa Simpson.

Leto and Huffman both received Oscar nominations for their portrayals, and some have accused Johansson of taking the role to try to secure an Academy Award.

One person wrote: “The f**king hubris of invoking Tambor with this response when he was literally fired from playing a trans woman for sexually harassing several of us.

“Way to really underline that you openly disdain the community you’re happy to portray for prestige ScarJo.”

Charlotte Clymer, who works for the Human Rights Campaign and was thrown out of a restaurant last month for using the women’s bathroom, said she would be boycotting the actress from now on.

“Yeah, I’m gonna avoid Scarlett Johansson movies moving forward after her response,” wrote Clymer.

“Even if this topic were complex (and it’s not: trans people should play trans people), flippantly dismissing concerns over this new role really says a lot about her views regarding trans people.”

In April, trans activists called for a boycott of Tim McNeil’s film Anything, which stars cis male actor Matt Bomer as a transgender sex worker.

This outrage came after repeated calls from stars like Laverne Cox for Hollywood to ensure that trans actors were hired for trans roles.

Scarlett Johansson arrives for the 2018 Met Gala on May 7, 2018, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. - The Gala raises money for the Metropolitan Museum of Arts Costume Institute. The Gala's 2018 theme is Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination. (Photo by ANGELA WEISS / AFP)        (Photo credit should read ANGELA WEISS/AFP/Getty Images)

Johansson at the 2018 Met Gala (ANGELA WEISS/AFP/Getty)

A group of stars from Shameless, The Fosters, Nashville and Transparent even released a video together last year to tell the industry that trans people were being “erased from our own history.”