Earlier this week it was announced that Scarlett Johansson would be taking on the role of a transgender man in a new movie and the Internet went crazy talking about it, as it should. This is a trend that needs to stop, using cisgender actors and actresses to play transgender roles.
This is not the first time Johansson has been in the middle of the controversy over what is called whitewashing or genderwashing. If you remember Johansson starred in the movie Ghost in the Shell, where she played the Japanese lead and received similar criticism. Johansson responded to the criticism trough her representative: “Tell them that they can be directed to Jeffrey Tambor, Jared Leto, and Felicity Huffman's reps for comment." The three actors she mentioned have also played transgender characters
"IN THIS DAY AND AGE THERE ARE A NUMBER OF TRANSGENDER ACTORS AND ACTRESSES AVAILABLE FOR SUCH ROLLS."
In this day and age there are a number of transgender actors and actresses available for such rolls. Because of a bias, whether intentional or not, they are finding it hard to get work. Movie producers need to start looking at transgender actors and actresses as viable candidates. They need to start thinking that a transgender actor or actress can and will bring much more to the role then a cisgender person because of their life experiences.
No way am I taking away from the talent of cisgender people, that’s not my intent here. But you don’t cast a white woman to play a black woman or vice versa, and you should not cast a white woman to play a Japanese character. Though gender and race are two different things, in my view they are linked in this example.
"THE CURRENT CASTING PRACTICES IN HOLLYWOOD IMPLY THAT BEING TRANSGENDER IS A PERFORMANCE, AND THAT YOU CAN CAST ANYONE IN THAT ROLE"
The current casting practices in Hollywood imply that being transgender is a performance, and that you can cast anyone in that role. That is a dangerous way of thinking. Being transgender is not a performance. We are real, we are men, we are women, and we are non-binary. Our journey is just a little different. Not everything in Hollywood is going bad for transgender people. We’ve had an amazing surge in visibility in recent years. It is a great thing for the community. The larger issue here is visibility. I believe the more people see us in positive roles on and off the screen; the thinking that we are a performance will change.
Things in the casting world have begun to change in 2017. The Casting Society of America held a open casting call for transgender people, giving us access to casting directors from around the world and they are planning more events. Still, the casting of non-transgender people in transgender roles goes on. It is something that will eventually change as more people call out those who make casting decisions and question their motives.
One way we can change this as a community is to start producing our own content. In this day and age, we can do this. I call up the web short story “Her Story,” which was written by, produced, and stars transgender women. By producing our own content we not only tell our story, but we can change the way casting is done.