Scarlett Johansson has agreed to star in the new film Rub & Tug, based on the life of transgender massage parlor owner Dante “Tex” Gill. Johansson, a cisgender woman, will be playing the lead role in the film as she will once again be working with director Rupert Sanders.
This is not the first time Johansson and Sanders will be working together on a controversial film. Their last collaboration was 2017’s Ghost in the Shell, which created a controversy and accusations of white-washing after the actress was cast as a canonically Japanese character.
Making matter worse was Johansson’s response when she released a statement to Bustle about her controversial casting as a transgender man in the new film:
"Tell them that they can be directed to Jeffrey Tambor, Jared Leto, and Felicity Huffman's reps for comment."
Johansson was referring to other cisgender actors who have recently starred in transgender roles. Tambor had played Maura Pfefferman in the Amazon original series Transparent and was recently dismissed from the role after accusations of sexual harassment. Jared Leto played the character of Rayonin 2013’s Dallas Buyers Club, and Huffman played the character Bree in 2005’s Transamerica.
The news of Johansson’s casting prompted a response from Transgender Actress Jamie Clayton on Twitter, who pointed out how transgender actors are never considered to play transgender roles:
Transparent’s Trace Lysette also commented on Twitter:
What makes the casting of a famous cisgender female to play the role of Dante “Tex” Gill even more controversial is that it not only insults the members of the transgender community as a whole as they have to continue to see themselves represented in ways that diminish them, but it also directly misrepresents Gill who identified as male.
Dante “Tex” Gill was a notorious massage-parlor operator in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s Pittsburgh. It was said that his parlors operated as a front for a prostitution ring and he was later tried and convicted for tax evasion.