Rub & Tug: Scarlett Johansson, Accused of Whitewashing (Again)

Re-teaming with her Ghost in the Shell director Rupert Sanders, Scarlett Johansson will star in Rub & Tug,  the true-life story of Jean Marie Gill, assigned female at birth, but assumed the identity of a man, Dante “Tex” Gill, and operated a massage parlor and prostitution business in Pittsburgh in the 1970s and 1980s.

Online commentators began to criticize Johansson, a cisgender woman, for choosing to play a transgender man, arguing the role should have gone to a transgender actor.

Johansson, in a statement said, “Tell them they can be directed to Jeffrey Tambor, Jared Leto, and Felicity Huffman’s reps for comment.”

Johansson references other cisgender actors who have played transgender characters — and while their performances have all won awards, they have not all been without controversy.

Huffman was Oscar-nominated for playing a transgender woman in 2005’s Transamerica, and Leto won a supporting actor Oscar for playing another transgender woman in 2013’s Dallas Buyers Club.

Tambor was awarded two Emmys for playing a transgender woman in the series Transparent, but has left that show after being accused of sexual harassment.

#OscarsSoWhite creator April Reign called for Johansson to step away from the role, tweeting, “Scarlett Johansson is not hurting for money. She is in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and is about to get her own film: Black Widow. She is also a well-established actress so she doesn’t need the increased profile. So why would she take work away from a trans actor? #OscarsSoWhite.”

Johansson was accused of whitewashing, when she took the lead role in 2017’s Ghost in the Shell, playing a character who was Japanese in the original manga series.

Joel Silver and New Regency are producing as a coproduction between Silver’s Silver Pictures, Tobey Maguire’s Material Pictures and Johansson’s These Pictures banners.