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Scarlett Johansson fires back after fierce backlash over new transgender role

The 'Avengers' star's statement hasn't exactly helped matters.

By Will Stroude

Scarlett Johansson has hit back after her decision to play a transgender man in an upcoming film sparked a furious online backlash.

Accroding to Deadline, the Avengers star will take the lead role in Rub & Tug, which tells the true story of Dante ‘Tex’ Gill, a trans man in 1970s Pittsburg who became on of the city’s most infamous crime bosses after running brothels disguised as massage parlours.

While the understanding of gender identity was less widely understood in the 1970s than it is today, it is generally agreed that Gill, who preferreed to use male pronouns, was a transgender man – and the casting of a cisgender actress in the role ahead of a trans actor has attracted fierce criticism. 

Dante ‘Tex’ Gill died in 2003 at the age of 72

Rug & Tug also reunites Johansson, 33, with director Rupert Sanders, who she worked with on 2017’s controversial sci-fi action flick Ghost in the Shell.

That film, based on a popular Japanese mange series, faced widespread accusations of whitewashing after casting Johansson in what had originally been an Asian role.

Johansson was widely criticised for taking a role that had been canonically Asian in 2017’s ‘Ghosts in the the Shell’

Meanwhile, official materials for Rug & Tug have also referred to Gill as a woman and use her birth name, Jean Marie Gill – and it’s fair to say critics aren’t impressed.

Steven Canals, the executive producer and co-creator of Ryan Murhpy’s ’80s drag ball series Pose, tweeted: “We have to stop hiring non-trans actors to play trans characters. In my opinion, it’s equally as traumatic & offensive as black-face.

“It also shows how lazy, unwoke, and complicit in transphobia you are. #CASTAUTHENTICALLY!”

Reviewer @ValerieComplex added: “First the Japanese, and now Scarlett Johansson is taking on the trans community with her new film Rub and Tug. I can’t wait until her Rosa Parks film comes out.”

Johasson has since responded to the controversy, though the dismissive statement issued via her represenative doesn’t imply she has much understanding for the issues of representation raised.

Bustle reports that the actress issued the following statement via her representative, name-checking other cisgender Hollywood stars who have taken on transgender roles over the years.

Asked to respond to the a spokesperson said: “Tell them that they can be directed to Jeffrey Tambor, Jared Leto, and Felicity Huffman’s reps for comment.”

Jeffrey Tambor won an Emmy for playing trans woman Maura Pfefferman in ‘Transparent’ before his sacking earlier this year

Tambor played the lead role in Amazon Prime series Transparent before being dismissed last year after a series of sexual harassment allegations.

Huffman and Leto meanwhile played transgender women in 2005’s Transamerica and 2013’s Dallas Buyers Club respectively – roles for which both received Oscar nominations, and, in the case of Jared Leto, an eventual win.

Rug & Tug is yet to go into production, but expect this controversy to rumble on for some time to come…