Scarlett Johansson Сriticised for Taking on Trans Role – 7 Other Cisgender Actors Who Have Played Transgender Characters

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Re-teaming with the Ghost in the Shell director Rupert Sanders, Scarlett Johansson is set to star in a feature called Rub & Tug, about the true-life story of Jean Marie Gill, who was assigned female at birth but who assumed the identity of a man, Dante “Tex” Gill, and operated a massage parlor and prostitution business in Pittsburgh in the 1970s and ’80s.

When news of the project broke this week, many began to criticize Johansson, a cisgender woman, for choosing to play a transgender man, arguing that the role should have gone to a transgender actor.

Nexter.org has compiled a list of other cisgender actors who have played transgender characters.

Hilary Swank as Brandon Teena in ‘Boys Don’t Cry’ (1999)

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Source: Fox Searchlight

Real-life trans guy Brandon Teena was still legally Teena Brandon, and part of the drama of his story comes from the ways that he dealt with his breasts, period, and other female markers, not to mention his driver’s license.

Swank is a cisgender woman, and her performance blurs the lines of whether or not Brandon was “really” a man. There is also quite a lot of onscreen punishment. Overall, the film is deeply invested in Brandon’s story and point of view, but is somewhat vague on whether or not viewers are supposed to accept Brandon as a man or think he was actually a confused butch lesbian.

Felicity Huffman in ‘TransAmerica’ (2005)

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Source: Weinstein Company

Huffman is a woman playing a woman, and is not punished (in the long run) with the loss of her son for being trans. The filmmakers took pains to make Huffman look and sound more masculine, and included scenes showing her naked from the waist down both before and after surgery, emphasizing both her assigned-at-birth-gender and her before/after genitals. There is also considerable discussion of Bree’s vaginoplasty.

Huffman earned an Oscar nomination for her portrayal of Bree, but is still a cisgender performer.

Eddie Redmayne as Lili in ‘The Danish Girl’ (2015)

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Source: Focus Features

The Danish Girl is based on the real story of Lili Elbe, one of the first known women to undergo sex-reassignment surgery. The real story of Lili Elbe is a fascinating one; from posing for a painting dressed in women’s clothes, to the realization that she was a woman trapped in a man’s body after, to undergoing surgeries almost two decades later that ultimately led to her death— the tale paints Lili as both brave and desperate for a solution. Given the fact that Elbe was going through this crisis of identity in the 1920/30s, a time where society’s understanding of gender and sex was minimal, it is unsurprising that most doctors she sought help from labeled her as schizophrenic or gay.

With this treatment from medical professionals, as well as her former friends who all made a point of falling out of touch, it is phenomenal that Lili went on with her transitionary journey.

Apparently, Eddie Redmayne was chosen for the role because the director of the film saw “something in him that was drawn to the feminine.” Right, because a trans actress couldn’t have the same qualities? Come on, Hollywood!

Jared Leto in ‘Dallas Buyers Club’ (2014)

Cisgender-Actors-Played-Transgender-Characters-photo

Source: Focus Features

Jared Leto is another cisgender actor who received criticism for being cast in the transgender role of Rayon in Dallas Buyers Club.

Leto has said he spoke with “some transgender kids while on tour” and he said it made him want to make sure Rayon didn’t come off as “campy.”

“I remember sending an e-mail making it very clear that I saw Rayon as someone who wanted to live life as a woman, not someone who was a glam-rocking drag queen,” said Leto, who went on to win an Oscar for the supporting role.

Walton Goggins as Venus van Damme in ‘Sons of Anarchy’ (2012)

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Source: Netflix

One of the bikers tells a younger man that having sex with Venus doesn’t make him gay, because she’s a woman. Walton Goggins, a cisgender man, plays a transsexual character designed to be hyper-sexualized and hyper-feminized, an escort with giant breasts and a latex catsuit. Her role (which may become recurring) is to provide the Sons with a way to blackmail an enemy.

Goggins has spoken in interviews about his wish to take Venus seriously, but he also sometimes refers to trans people as nouns, as in “Let’s make the character a transgender.”

Elle Fanning in ‘3 Generations’ (2015)

Cisgender-Actors-Played-Transgender-Characters-photo

Source: Weinstein Company

In 3 Generations, Elle Fanning plays Ray, a transgender teen transitioning from female to male. Following the backlash from the cisgender casting, writer and director Gaby Dellal spoke about why she went with Fanning.

“I guess I was in a tricky situation because I needed to find an actor who was experienced enough to take on this role, who hadn’t transitioned yet, who was a trans man or trans boy. That’s quite a tall order. Unfortunately, I was unable to fill that role,” said Dellal.

She understands the controversy and said, “When someone is struggling for a voice, they need everyone to support them. And the best thing we can do is do things like cast [trans actors] and give them a voice. Unfortunately, I was unable to do that.”

Matt Bomer in ‘Anything’ (2017)

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Source: Chaotik ONEZERO Films

Matt Bomer plays Freda Von Rhenburg in the yet-to-be-released film Anything, which received criticism for Bomer’s casting.

Executive producer Mark Ruffalo responded to the controversy on social media. “To the Trans community. I hear you. It’s wrenching to you see you in this pain,” he wrote. “I am glad we are having this conversation. It’s time.”


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Scarlett Johansson Сriticised for Taking on Trans Role - 7 Other Cisgender Actors Who Have Played Transgender Characters
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Scarlett Johansson Сriticised for Taking on Trans Role - 7 Other Cisgender Actors Who Have Played Transgender Characters
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Re-teaming with the Ghost in the Shell director Rupert Sanders, Scarlett Johansson is set to star in a feature called Rub & Tug, about the true-life story of Jean Marie Gill, who was assigned female at birth but who assumed the identity of a man, Dante “Tex” Gill, and operated a massage parlor and prostitution business in Pittsburgh in the 1970s and '80s. When news of the project broke this week, many began to criticize Johansson, a cisgender woman, for choosing to play a transgender man, arguing that the role should have gone to a transgender actor. Nexter.org has compiled a list of other cisgender actors who have played transgender characters.
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