Scarlett Johansson vilified for playing role of trans man in a movie, columnist fired for defending her

As reported in multiple venues, actor Scarlett Johansson, set to play a transgender man in an upcoming movie, has been vilified for what I guess can be called “gender appropriation”. How dare she, ask the critics, take a role that could be played more “authentically” by a genuine transgender man? As the New York Times reports:

Scarlett Johansson faced a storm of criticism this week after it was reported that she would play a transgender man in a movie, a year after she drew scrutiny for taking on a role that was originally Japanese.

The newly announced film, “Rub & Tug,” is based on the real-life story of Dante “Tex” Gill, who ran a string of massage parlors that were fronts for prostitution dens in the 1970s and ’80s.

The online backlash was led by transgender actors, who argued that such casting decisions take opportunities away from members of marginalized communities.

“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,” the actress Trace Lysette wrote on Twitter, referring to cisgender people, or those who identify with the sex they were assigned at birth.

“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,” added Ms. Lysette, who is a transgender woman and plays one on the TV series “Transparent,” about a character who comes out as transgender.

. . . The actress faced further anger online after the website Bustle published a statement from an unidentified representative for Ms. Johansson that said, “Tell them that they can be directed to Jeffrey Tambor, Jared Leto, and Felicity Huffman’s reps for comment.”

Those actors are cisgender but have played transgender characters: Mr. Tambor as a transgender woman on “Transparent”; Mr. Leto as a transgender woman in the 2013 movie “Dallas Buyers Club”; and Ms. Huffman as a transgender woman in the 2005 film “Transamerica.” Mr. Leto won an Oscar for his performance, and Ms. Huffman was nominated for one.

It went further than that. Columnist Daniella Greenbaum of Business Insider (BI) wrote a column arguing that female actors like Scarlett Johansson should be allowed to portray trans people. That column was pulled, but you can see it here. It’s fairly polite but firm and a wee bit sarcastic; here’s an excerpt:

“Stealing” narratives — or, more charitably, playing parts — is precisely what actors are hired to do. But that reality seems to have been forgotten. CNN wrote a story about the issue entitled, “These trans actors could have been cast instead of Scarlett Johansson in her new movie.”

It’s hard to imagine people having the same reaction in other scenarios — a rich actor being hired to play a poor person; an actor whose real-life parents were still living being hired to play an orphan; a perfectly nice, upstanding member of society being cast as a rapist; or an actor with no scientific experience being cast as a paleontologist.

Yet all of these examples (and dozens more) could also be strangely characterized as “stealing” narratives. I’m sure there’s a class on how to do just that at the Yale school of Drama.

A New York Times story on the fallout described the online backlash as being “led by transgender actors, who argued that such casting decisions take opportunities away from members of marginalized communities.”

What they fail to acknowledge is that the job of an actor is to represent someone else. Johansson’s identity off the screen is irrelevant to the identities she plays on the screen. That’s what she’s paid for. And if she does her job, she’ll make everyone forget about the controversy in the first place.

As The Wrap notes, “Within hours, Business Insider removed the piece  and replaced it with a curt message that informed readers that the column was taken down because ‘upon further review, we decided it did not meet our editorial standards.’” That’s bogus; the column certainly met any reasonable editorial standards, and expressed a debatable opinion that’s certainly worth discussing. It was pulled because it was offensive to some members of a marginalized community.

In response, Greenbaum resigned from BE, tweeting a letter to her editor-in-chief, adding a lot of her own opinions that make her the equivalent of the New York Times’s Bari Weiss: (i.e., toxic to the Control Left):

And of course BI is now cleaning house to ensure that nobody ever again dares to hurt the feelings of those who see themselves as oppressed:

In an email to employees after the article’s removal, Carlson said the company would institute new standards governing opinions pieces at the site which cover “culturally sensitive topics, such as marginalized communities, race, or LGTBQ+ issues.”

“Ultimately, it is the first editor’s responsibility to flag culturally sensitive stories,” said Carlson in the email which was first obtained by CNN.

“It may be hard to tell which are and which are not. The policy is to err on the safe side, even if it slows us down. We should be as careful about culturally sensitive pieces as we are legally sensitive pieces, and this policy reflects that.”

Now if there were an accomplished transgender male actor who was as good as Johansson, or could pull in her box office, then that person should have been considered—and perhaps some were. But to say that a transgender role must always be played by the right actor (i.e., a transgender one), regardless of their skill or reputation, is nonsense.  Remember Hilary Swank, a cisgender woman who won the Academy Award for best leading actress for playing  Brandon Teena in Boys Don’t Cry, a transgender man who was murdered? She was superb, and that role won her tons of other awards. And there’s the list from Johansson’s people of cis actors playing trans roles.

As I said, one should consider trans people for such roles, and I suppose there’s something to be said for striving for authenticity in some (but not all) roles, but I don’t know how far that should go. For example, Morgan Freeman, an American black, played Nelson Mandela, a South African black, in Clint Eastwood’s movie Invictus. Should we protest because they didn’t use a South African actor?  I doubt it. I won’t go on with such “whatabouts,” as in this age when a black Hamlet doesn’t faze people a bit, it’s hard to make a strong case that roles should always be played by the most “authentic” actor possible.

If minority actors are systematically ignored, and qualified ones overlooked simply because of their race, ethnicity, or gender, then that should be addressed. I wouldn’t, for example, want to see a bunch of Caucasians playing the Japanese soldiers in Eastwood’s gripping drama Letters from Iwo Jima. Similarly, a white man playing Tupac Shakur or a Japanese woman playing Albert Einstein would detract from the authenticity of the movie. But a trans man was once a biological woman, so how is authenticity compromised in this case?

In this case, then, I have to stand with Greenbaum. Just as Hilary Swank was convincing and mesmerizing in Boys Don’t Cry, and as the straight Philip Seymour Hoffmann was wonderful as the gay Truman Capote in the eponymous film (another Oscar-winning role), actors are just that—actors.  There can be cultural appropriation in acting, but Scarlett Johansson is not such a case. The transgender community shouldn’t pick this hill to die on.

 

99 Comments

  1. Posted July 13, 2018 at 1:57 pm | Permalink

    There are so many examples of lack of outrage to stolen narratives. For example, I don’t remember anyone complaining when Cate Blanchett played one of the Bob Dylans in I’m Not There.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted July 13, 2018 at 3:04 pm | Permalink

      She was the best Dylan of all, you ask me. Certainly, the most inspired casting choice.

  2. Pablo
    Posted July 13, 2018 at 1:57 pm | Permalink

    It’s odd that the ctrl-left insist on authenticity when it comes to trans characters but then insist that movies set in medieval Europe or the battlefields of World War 2 have plenty of roles for minorities.

    • Posted July 13, 2018 at 6:08 pm | Permalink

      I think Darkest Hour handled it well in the Underground scene. Not sure if that scene really happened or whether it was a contrivance, but the types of people Churchill talked to would have been in London at that time.

      BTW, Shakespeare had North African generals in renaissance Italy. No one thought that was unrealistic.

      • Posted July 13, 2018 at 6:48 pm | Permalink

        The general in question being North African was a key feature to the plot. Nowadays, you just get a black Achilles and a black Zeus with Egyptian attributes, and then some classicist professor explains you that Odysseus was actually black and the historical Ancient Greece was full of black people.

        • Posted July 13, 2018 at 9:44 pm | Permalink

          Well, not quiet. Sarpedon in the Iliad is clearly a Trojan ally from east Africa. And Herodotus himself taught that the gods of the Greeks likely revealed themselves to other nations with other racial characteristics. Thus there are black gods in Upper Egypt and the Horn of Africa, and redheaded gods in Thrace.

          • Posted July 14, 2018 at 3:19 pm | Permalink

            Sarpedon was from Lycia, a kingdom in Asia Minor. He is white on all ancient depictions known to me, as expected. It was another Trojan ally, Memnon (protagonist of the lost epic Aethiopis), who was Ethiopian and hence black. It would be quite appropriate for Memnon and his men to be played by black actors, but the BBC decided to make black Achilles and Zeus instead!
            I do not claim that none of the Egyptian gods were black. I suppose some were, but I know little of the Egyptian pantheon, and I wouldn’t anyway take a chance to ascribe racial affiliations to figures with non-human heads, as many of them are. What annoyed me was that the BBC Zeus was black with Egyptian-style clothing to boot. There is a pseudo-theory (known as “Black Athena”) that (1) all ancient Egyptians were black and (2) ancient Greeks built their culture on theirs.

            • Posted July 14, 2018 at 11:37 pm | Permalink

              You are right. It was Memnon, not Sarpedon

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted July 13, 2018 at 8:15 pm | Permalink

      … and all the characters in such movies speak in modern English, often with an American accent. Utterly unauthentic, and culturally oppressive.

      Surely they should speak in mediaeval dialects or (for the WW2 movies) French or German as appropriate?

      [/sarcasm]

      (Incidentally, I have to give kudos to the old Patrick McGoohan TV series ‘Danger Man’, where all the ‘foreigners’ spoke their own language without subtitles. But this was only practical because it was generally only a few lines and the context of the scene made it obvious what they were saying. Not practical for a whole movie).

      cr

      • GBJames
        Posted July 14, 2018 at 9:51 am | Permalink

        They should hire real mediaeval people to play those roles.

  3. Posted July 13, 2018 at 1:59 pm | Permalink

    This is insanity. Are we going to shame the sci-fi movie actors for taking jobs away from aliens … and people who aren’t yet born. What about actors portraying historical figures. Is playing Abraham Lincoln in a movie somehow cultural theft. What a bunch of malarkey.

    If you take the argument of the trans people against Ms. Johansson, literally then gay actors should never be interviewed to portray a straight person. This is insane! These trans actors should be ashamed that they aren’t more proficient, that they cannot portray a trans person better than a straight actor can.

    On Fri, Jul 13, 2018 at 1:39 PM, Why Evolution Is True wrote:

    > whyevolutionistrue posted: “As reported in multiple venues, actor Scarlett > Johansson, set to play a transgender man in an upcoming movie, has been > vilified for what I guess can be called “gender appropriation”. How dare > she, ask the critics, take a role that could be played more “au” >

    • ChrisS
      Posted July 13, 2018 at 10:06 pm | Permalink

      That’s right. Johansson played an alien in “Under the Skin”. I don’t recall too much protest from the microbes on Mars over that.

      Let’s be honest: some element of the Old Hollywood ‘star system’ is always going to prevail here, because mass audiences generally want to look at beautiful, star actors, never mind that they may be miscast or completely unsuitable for the role.

      Not to be too snobby about it, but that’s why some of us look to European or other ‘world’ cinema for a little more authenticity.

  4. XCellKen
    Posted July 13, 2018 at 2:00 pm | Permalink

    Perhaps those Trans actors could star in DOCUMENTARIES about Trans people ???

  5. Griff
    Posted July 13, 2018 at 2:04 pm | Permalink

    It’s called ‘acting’.

  6. Toni Jordon
    Posted July 13, 2018 at 2:22 pm | Permalink

    I agree. I’m sure there are trans actors who could have handled the part but their are other considerations that go into casting a movie.

    • mikeyc
      Posted July 13, 2018 at 2:42 pm | Permalink

      Yeah, like ticket sales. Johannson is a very good actor, so I’m sure she’ll do the part well, but another reason to hire her over one of those other actors -besides her very solid chops as an actor- is that people will come to see a movie just because she’s in it.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted July 13, 2018 at 3:34 pm | Permalink

        She can “open” a film, in Variety-speak.

  7. JezGrove
    Posted July 13, 2018 at 2:27 pm | Permalink

    Beautifully put. I wonder how many Danish princes have played Hamlet? Which isn’t to say that inappropriate casting doesn’t exist – thankfully, we’ve come a long way since John Wayne played Genghis Khan in The Conqueror! (On reflection, maybe that was just John Wayne, He was equally unconvincing as a Roman centurion in The Greatest Story Ever Told. “No John, say it with awe…”. “Aw, Truly this man wuz the son of Gard” etc.)

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted July 13, 2018 at 3:40 pm | Permalink

      When was The Duke ever convincing as anything other than “The Duke” (or as a parody of himself — i.e,, as Rooster Cogburn in True Grit)?

      • JezGrove
        Posted July 13, 2018 at 6:00 pm | Permalink

        That was him? The eye patch had me totally fooled!

  8. Ann German
    Posted July 13, 2018 at 2:31 pm | Permalink

    I am most disturbed by the fact that the author resigned. Thoughtful, researched, intelligent reporting is being censored and pulled from publication because, “We should be as careful about culturally sensitive pieces as we are legally sensitive pieces, and this policy reflects that.” What the hell is the standard for “culturally sensitive???” At least “legally sensitive” standards have been set by litigation . . . . This is a nightmare.

    • Jenny Haniver
      Posted July 13, 2018 at 10:33 pm | Permalink

      The author resigned her position at Business Insider, and as I write, some hours after your comment was posted, Scarlett Johansson has quit the film.

    • Saul Sorrell-Till
      Posted July 14, 2018 at 7:39 am | Permalink

      It looked a little to me, from the tone of her letter, that the resignation had been brewing for a while.

  9. Mark Sturtevant
    Posted July 13, 2018 at 2:41 pm | Permalink

    I will just put out there that I think it would have been better to have given the role to a trans actor. So I understand the negative reaction.
    Let me explain. Society has moved rapidly, over just a few years, in supporting the rights and visibility of gay and trans people. Yes, using cis actors in trans roles a few years ago did not get much notice, but things have rapidly changed. So the argument that it is ok to continue to do so now because it was done some years ago does not work for me, personally.
    Consider: should we be ok for a white actor to play a black person? Or an Asian? I agree that yes, it can be done, but could you at least understand the negative reaction that it would produce?
    Movies are a lot of things. Movies are a form of art and entertainment, and from that perspective anything goes. But movies are also a means of reinforcing and centralizing social movements. They are more than just art and entertainment.

    • Adam M.
      Posted July 13, 2018 at 3:09 pm | Permalink

      I’d be okay with it if there was no double standard and they were intellectually honest and consistent. Their explanation is general but the reality is that only white/cis/het people aren’t allowed to play the roles of others.

      • Richard
        Posted July 14, 2018 at 2:30 am | Permalink

        There have been a number of remakes or adaptations where a character who was white or male in the original has been changed to be black or female, yet the professionally-outraged do not seem to have a problem with the “in-authenticity” of that.

        If it would be totally unacceptable for e.g. Arnold Schwarzenegger to portray MLK (but just think of the emotional depth he would bring to the role!), why does Samuel L Jackson portraying Nick Fury of S.H.I.E.L.D. not raise an eyebrow?

    • GBJames
      Posted July 14, 2018 at 9:54 am | Permalink

      I assume we aren’t going to see any trans actors playing roles of cis-normative characters. It would be an outrage.

  10. davidintoronto
    Posted July 13, 2018 at 2:42 pm | Permalink

    FYI, Johansson has withdrawn from the movie.

    • Mark R.
      Posted July 13, 2018 at 7:44 pm | Permalink

      Surely a smart move at this point. No reason for a successful actor to willingly become the center of controversy. Perhaps she at first thought it a good role for the trend of pleasing the Academy. I doubt she is committed to transgender issues. Maybe I’m wrong, haven’t looked into her activism. I generally don’t pay attention to the political activism of actors, or Hollywood in general. They don’t seem to have much sway. We have Trump after all.

  11. Harrison
    Posted July 13, 2018 at 2:46 pm | Permalink

    Caitlynn Jenner didn’t come out as trans until age 65 but was retroactively always a woman according to the trans lobby. How do they know ScarJo just hasn’t come to terms with who he is yet? Maybe this movie would have been the catalyst for personal growth that they’ve now cruelly denied.

  12. Griff
    Posted July 13, 2018 at 2:50 pm | Permalink

    How the hell are they going to find actors to play Wookies in subsequent Star Wars movies?

    • DrBrydon
      Posted July 13, 2018 at 3:09 pm | Permalink

      Ron Jeremy?

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted July 13, 2018 at 3:19 pm | Permalink

        🙂

      • Griff
        Posted July 13, 2018 at 3:53 pm | Permalink

        I had no idea he identified as a Wookie.

      • Posted July 13, 2018 at 3:57 pm | Permalink

        So that means, holding to the idea of transgenderism that Jeremy has always been from Kashyyk, trans-species porn was extremely popular in the Seventies and Eighties.

        • infiniteimprobabilit
          Posted July 13, 2018 at 8:20 pm | Permalink

          Of course everyone who comments on this thread admits to knowing who Ron Jeremy is…

          😉

          cr

          • Saul Sorrell-Till
            Posted July 14, 2018 at 7:41 am | Permalink

            Jeremy who? Is he a news presenter or something?

  13. Ken Kukec
    Posted July 13, 2018 at 3:01 pm | Permalink

    Remember Hilary Swank, a cisgender woman who won the Academy Award for best leading actress for playing Brandon Teena in Boys Don’t Cry, a transgender man who was murdered? She was superb, and that role won her tons of other awards.

    It also led to her role in The Black Dahlia, as co-femme fatale, opposite … Scarlett Johannson.

    Hey, wait, there must be a Kevin Bacon connection here somewhere.

    • BJ
      Posted July 13, 2018 at 5:02 pm | Permalink

      Damn that Brian De Palma. How many times can one man disappoint me?

      His latest film sounds promising, but so did so many others. Like The Black Dahlia.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted July 13, 2018 at 6:27 pm | Permalink

        How many times? I dunno, but Bonfire of the Vanities should count triple (although it had a great opening tracking shot, as did Snake Eyes). Though on the chance that his next might be another Dressed to Kill or Scarface or Body Double or Untouchables, I’ll be queuing up to buy a ticket.

        • BJ
          Posted July 13, 2018 at 9:16 pm | Permalink

          Dressed to Kill is one of the best damn films ever made, but imagine the reviews and articles that would be written about it today! A subject appropriate to this very post of Jerry’s, I would say. Hell, it might not even get made. It was reviled when it was originally released, but in a different way.

          By the way, you forgot to mention Blow Out.

          • Ken Kukec
            Posted July 13, 2018 at 10:04 pm | Permalink

            Yeah, Blowout, for sure; maybe a couple others, too.

            Body Double‘s a personal favorite of mine. The ultimate Hitchcock hommage: Rear Window meets Vertigo, with a side order of Dial M for Murder 🙂

            • Saul Sorrell-Till
              Posted July 14, 2018 at 7:47 am | Permalink

              I just watched Blowout for the first time the other day…I’m not quite sure why(think I got it mixed up with some French new wave film). The only thing I really took away from it, other than my wondering where De Palma’s reputation as an auteur came from in the first place, is how deeply sexy John Travolta used to be.

              I liked the first Mission Impossible though…so I give him credit for birthing a surprisingly entertaining action franchise.

              • BJ
                Posted July 14, 2018 at 10:48 am | Permalink

                You probably got it mixed up with Antonioni’s Blow-Up. Have you seen the other films we mentioned? His auteur reputation comes from Hitchcockian films like Dressed to Kill, Body Double, Obsession, and Blowout. I guess you can add Carrie and Sisters to that list as well.

              • Ken Kukec
                Posted July 14, 2018 at 1:18 pm | Permalink

                To paraphrase Godard’s line about Nicholas Ray, the cinema is Brian De Palma. 🙂

            • BJ
              Posted July 14, 2018 at 10:39 am | Permalink

              Body Double is second on my list. I would rank his worthwhile films thusly:

              1. Dressed to Kill
              2. Body Double
              3. Carlito’s Way (another you forgot to mention)
              4. The Untouchables
              5. Blow Out
              6. Phantom of the Paradise
              7. Scarface
              8. Obsession
              9. Mission Impossible
              10. Carrie
              11. Sisters

              • Ken Kukec
                Posted July 14, 2018 at 1:12 pm | Permalink

                Yeah, I dig Carlito’s Way, too — mainly for the performance of an all-but-unrecognizable Sean Penn as Kleinfeld, the Jewish lawyer, and John Leguizamo’s turn as “Benny Blanco from the Bronx.” 🙂

              • BJ
                Posted July 14, 2018 at 4:27 pm | Permalink

                Its biggest issue is the constant narration, which is sometimes not particularly well-written. Other than that, the film is almost perfect.

            • BJ
              Posted July 14, 2018 at 10:42 am | Permalink

              I’m not positive of those rankings past 4. I’d have to give it some serious thought, like whether Sisters belongs at the end of the list, and where Phantom of the Paradise and Obsession should really be. I love Scarface, but Pacino’s performance can become grating after the first half of the film if you’re not in the right mood.

            • BJ
              Posted July 14, 2018 at 10:44 am | Permalink

              Also, Raising Cain is good fun and still has the De Palma flair in its direction, and Snake Eyes is a cheesy blast, but not particularly worthwhile.

  14. Dave
    Posted July 13, 2018 at 3:06 pm | Permalink

    “But a trans man was once a biological woman..”

    Well, call me a reactionary old stick-in-the-mud if you must, but in my opinion a “trans man” is still (and always will be) a biological woman, surgery, hormone treatment and Twitter mobs notwithstanding. Same in reverse for Caitlyn Jenner and other “trans women”.

  15. Posted July 13, 2018 at 3:15 pm | Permalink

    If I was a Business Insider subscriber I would cancel my subscription in protest! I must admit that, to my recollection, I have never read BI.

  16. mikeyc
    Posted July 13, 2018 at 3:15 pm | Permalink

    A couple of years ago I went on business to Southern CA and the car I rented had a GPS navigator that used a voice that was just like Johannson’s. ROWR. I intentionally missed many turns just to hear her voice telling me I screwed up. I even felt a bit chagrined when she said, in her sultry “Lost in Translation” voice with what I imagined was a hint of reproach; “recalculating”.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted July 13, 2018 at 3:25 pm | Permalink

      Sounds like a pitch for the movie Her.

  17. DrBrydon
    Posted July 13, 2018 at 3:19 pm | Permalink

    This is from the same director who did Snow White and the Huntsman without real dwarves! The description of Rub & Tug on IMDB indicates the main character is transitioning from female to male. I am not feeling very PC today: Doesn’t that mean she’s a woman acting like man?

    • JezGrove
      Posted July 13, 2018 at 3:27 pm | Permalink

      Obviously they should have cast someone (not an actor, no such skills required) going through that exact stage of the transition process…

  18. Griff
    Posted July 13, 2018 at 3:55 pm | Permalink

    Surely, all she has to do is IDENTIFY as a trans man.

    They can’t possibly complain then.

  19. BJ
    Posted July 13, 2018 at 5:05 pm | Permalink

    It’s frightening that there is a trend now of censoring legitimate news and editorial pieces when they push back against certain blue tribe positions/opinions. The idea that certain ideas that are not even close to settled in society cannot be challenged in the media (unless it is explicitly right-wing media and, thus, easily missed, dismissed, and considered untrustworthy by anyone but their audience) is pretty scary.

  20. Posted July 13, 2018 at 6:15 pm | Permalink

    I should point out that we have little evidence that Tex Gill would have understood herself to be what is considered a trans man today.

    I have poked around in official press about the movie and can not even find that the screenwriters or producer are intending to depict Gill as a trans man in the way many would understand it today.

  21. Dan Graur
    Posted July 13, 2018 at 6:33 pm | Permalink

    Jerry Coyne’s tirades against what he calls “political correctness” are annoying, to say the least. According to him, I suppose, it would be OK to hire men to address the gender imbalance in math departments, or billionaire descendants of slave owners as substitutes for underrepresented minorities.
    Give it a rest, Dr. Coyne. Using examples from the past of men playing women, and straights playing gays is a dangerous precedent. Maybe we should also revert to precedents of laws discriminating against women and gays.

    • Posted July 13, 2018 at 6:57 pm | Permalink

      If they are annoying to you, maybe you could find another, less annoying site.

      As for hiring, I’d always prefer a competent billionaire descendant of slave owners (provided that the billionaire would want to work, which is unlikely) to a good-for-nothing member of an underrepresented minority.

      I find reprehensible the idea that a job applicant should be discriminated against because his great-grandparents owned slaves.

    • Ken Phelps
      Posted July 13, 2018 at 8:40 pm | Permalink

      He’ll be more likely to pay attention to your complaint if you call him “Dude”. He really likes that.

      • Posted July 13, 2018 at 9:05 pm | Permalink

        And be sure to mention you like his “blog.”

        • GBJames
          Posted July 14, 2018 at 9:57 am | Permalink

          LOL!

  22. infiniteimprobabilit
    Posted July 13, 2018 at 8:08 pm | Permalink

    “I wouldn’t, for example, want to see a bunch of Caucasians playing the Japanese soldiers in Eastwood’s gripping drama Letters from Iwo Jima.”

    Letters from Iwo Jima is possibly a special case in that Eastwood was trying for authenticity.

    But my answer to ethnicities in general would be, why not, if they made up to look convincingly authentic and there weren’t good actors of that exact ethnicity available?

    Your other example – Morgan Freeman playing Nelson Mandela. Not only is he an African-American, but Wikipedia suggests some of his ancestors were from Niger, not South Africa at all. Could it possibly be more culturally insensitive and offensive?

    IMO it should be the best actor for the job, regardless of their origin.

    And howcome all ethnicities in almost every Hollywood movie speak in English?** How culturally insensitive and offensive is that?

    (** Duh. So audiences can understand them of course…)

    cr

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted July 13, 2018 at 9:15 pm | Permalink

      “And howcome all ethnicities in almost every Hollywood movie speak in English?”

      As a kid, I always wondered why, in Hollywood war movies, German soldiers would speak, including to each other, in German-accented English. 🙂

      • BJ
        Posted July 13, 2018 at 9:19 pm | Permalink

        I have a very difficult time watching movies where people from a foreign government or military are speaking English. It often completely sucks me out of the story.

        • Ken Kukec
          Posted July 13, 2018 at 9:52 pm | Permalink

          Yeah. Which reminds me, I have some beefs with Tarantino’s self-indulgence in Inglourious Basterds (and in many of his other later movies), but I thought the way he handled the shifting languages there was pretty slick.

          • John Black
            Posted July 14, 2018 at 12:15 am | Permalink

            Hitch reviewed Inglourious Basterds saying watching it was like having a pot of warm piss slowly poured on your head.

            In other words… not a fan.

          • BJ
            Posted July 14, 2018 at 10:30 am | Permalink

            100% agree. Loved how he handled the languages and hated just about everything else, and I am a big fan of Pulp Fiction and Reservoir Dogs. I like Jackie Brown quite a bit, and Kill Bill is fun. Django Unchained is…fine, I guess? But clearly the beginning of his absurd overindulgence that reached its peak with Inglourious Basterds, and then was scaled back only somewhat in The Hateful Eight.

            In IB, the scenes just go on forever. You can tell just how clever Tarantino thinks he is and how much fun he is having in feeling clever. The scene lengths are utterly interminable. Even the first scene, which is brilliant, is overstuffed and the length ultimately proves detrimental to the suspense and the villainy of Waltz’s character. IB is one of the most self-indulgent pieces of crap around, and I’ve never managed to sit through it in a single viewing.

            • Ken Kukec
              Posted July 14, 2018 at 1:30 pm | Permalink

              I have a theory, which is mine, that Tarantino became self-indulgent and undisciplined in his writing after he stopped partnering with Roger Avery — kinda like McCartney without Lennon. 🙂

              True Romance and Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction are great — as is Jackie Brown (mainly, I think, because Tarantino was constrained by his respect for Elmore Leonard’s novel). After that, although his movies all have great scenes and performances making them mandatory viewing, they don’t hold together as a whole and tend to slip way over the top.

              • BJ
                Posted July 14, 2018 at 4:25 pm | Permalink

                You know what? You’re absolutely right (as usual). He gets the best actors and crew for every project. The man still knows how to construct a scene and create tension, though, as seen in the aforementioned opening scene of IB. Like I said, he undercut the tension by stretching the scene out faaaarrrr too long, but the idea and the visual execution of it is still brilliant. It’s a crying shame nobody can rein him in, but why would anyone? The public and critics still love his work.

  23. Posted July 13, 2018 at 9:10 pm | Permalink

    I think the world is going crazy late and soon.

  24. eric
    Posted July 13, 2018 at 10:23 pm | Permalink

    While I agree that Hollywood shouldn’t go as far as limiting the selection of actors/actresses to those who resemble the character to some unspecified criteria,* I wouldn’t mind something similar to the Rooney Rule used in the NFL. That doesn’t force casting agents to limit who they choose, but it does demand that they at least give serious consideration to one or more minority person. And despite it’s “soft” approach (in not in any way limiting the choice), in the NFL’s case it appears to have increased the diversity of head coaches by about 20%. That’s not nothing.

    *Which can always be a moving goalpost. Did you get a trans actor? Ah but were they from the US like the character? Yes? But were they from South Dakota like the character? And did they have black hair and blue eyes like the character? They did? Ahhh…but did you get a left-hander? This sort of outrage-search can go on forever. If someone wants to find a reason to be angry at a casting decision, they will.

  25. yiamcross
    Posted July 13, 2018 at 11:37 pm | Permalink

    I’m sick and tired of actors appropriating the narrative of us non-actors. It must stop now!

  26. John Black
    Posted July 14, 2018 at 12:19 am | Permalink

    I was going to point out examples of gay characters being played by straight actors (remember Bird Cage?) or an abled actor playing a disabled character (Kevin McHale in Glee, for example), but this is too easy.

    How about all of those non-whites cast in Hamilton? There are a lot of poor white actors who were likely passed over… I wonder if Lysette is up-in-arms over that?!

    • Posted July 14, 2018 at 2:08 am | Permalink

      A more recent example would be Call Me By Your Name.

    • Posted July 14, 2018 at 9:31 am | Permalink

      “I was going to point out examples of gay characters being played by straight actors.”

      And what about those gay actors playing straight? (Any lying about it to get the job!) Rock Hudson, etc.

  27. Posted July 14, 2018 at 1:39 am | Permalink

    When did we start substituting the ‘best’ person for a job with the ‘right’ person? Scarlett Johansson is a great actress who will bring in the punters (and their cash); a movie studio is not going to spend squillions making a film and then cast the ‘right’ rather than the ‘best’ person just to score political brownie points…….or maybe they will in future with social media having so much power these days.

    • Posted July 14, 2018 at 11:54 am | Permalink

      Define “right”.

      • Posted July 14, 2018 at 11:55 am | Permalink

        I mean not you — them.

      • Posted July 14, 2018 at 12:35 pm | Permalink

        I suppose the only way of putting it is the option that satisfies politically correct diversity targets regardless of whether the individual is the best qualified to fulfill the role

        • Posted July 15, 2018 at 7:06 pm | Permalink

          Exactly. It’s a one-way street for them.

    • Graham
      Posted July 15, 2018 at 2:08 am | Permalink

      No idea, it all sounds like the notion that authors who write books with murders in them should go out and kill someone so that they have a proper understanding of how the killer should feel.

  28. Dale Franzwa
    Posted July 14, 2018 at 2:22 am | Permalink

    In opera, women play (sing) male roles all the time, e. g. R. Strauss, Der Rosencavalier.

    • Eric Grobler
      Posted July 14, 2018 at 2:25 am | Permalink

      Don’t worry, they will come after Opera next

  29. nicky
    Posted July 14, 2018 at 4:08 am | Permalink

    A saw God in a film a few years ago, he is the spitting image of Morgan Freeman! Who would have thought?

    • Posted July 14, 2018 at 11:53 am | Permalink

      Ridiculous! Everyone knows God looks just like George Burns.

  30. Richard Metzler
    Posted July 14, 2018 at 4:54 am | Permalink

    The protests bother me for two reasons: first, lack of respect for artistic freedom. I would be okay with a response of “meh, Hollywood movie, and they didn’t bother to cast a trans actor. It’s probably going to suck, I’m not going to watch it.” Instead, a possible artistic failure is turned into a moral failure, as if producers had a duty to fulfill with respect to minorities. Hint: they don’t. Their job is to make successful movies. Everything else is a bonus.
    Second, lack of gratitude and perspective. So someone is making a big movie about a trans person, with one of the biggest stars in the lead role. So an activist who is concerned about increasing visibility for their cause should be happy, right? Wrong. “They’re stealing our narrative, mimimimi.” “They cast the wrong person, whaaaa!” So what are the long-term consequences? The only movies about trans people will be no-budget indie films watched by 12.5 people in some indie cinema, because no big producer will touch that topic with a ten-foot pole.

  31. Posted July 14, 2018 at 6:17 am | Permalink

    Typo: “Greenbaum resigned from BE” should be “BI”. 🙂

  32. Fat Bastard
    Posted July 14, 2018 at 6:55 am | Permalink

    I’d like to suggest that we replace the term “cisgender woman” (Thankfully my spellchecker doesn’t know yet what the fuck I’m talking about) with the term “woman”, or *gasp* “normal woman”.

    • GBJames
      Posted July 14, 2018 at 10:02 am | Permalink

      I was wondering when someone was going to mention Mike Myers.

  33. Posted July 14, 2018 at 10:41 am | Permalink

    And how about Tom Hanks. He played Forrest Gump and the next year a gay man. Unbelievable. And they gave him Academy Awards for doing so.

  34. Posted July 14, 2018 at 11:51 am | Permalink

    Greenbaum’s resignation letter is as well written as her articles. let’s hope she can do more of the latter without any more of the former.

  35. Posted July 15, 2018 at 5:08 am | Permalink

    Obviously only a one-legged man can play Long John Silver now

  36. Posted July 17, 2018 at 10:47 am | Permalink

    I realize this thread is pretty much closed down, but what I had to think about was the outrage and protests by the Amish when no real Amish folks were cast in “Witness.” 🙂


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