These tweets nailed why casting Scarlett Johansson in a trans role is not so great.

Did you hear about the latest Scarlett Johansson casting debacle?

Here's how a good portion of the internet reacted to the news:

In case you missed it, here's a brief recap:

ScarJo was recently cast as Dante "Tex" Gill, a real-life transgender man who oversaw a massage parlor and sex work business in Pittsburgh in the '70s and '80s. A new film about his life, currently titled "Rub & Tug," is being co-produced by Johansson — and, conveniently enough, stars her as well.

But as the previous tweet not-so subtly suggested, many people aren't thrilled about Johansson, who is cisgender, portraying Gill, who was transgender. And rightfully so.


Photo by Angela Weiss/AFP/Getty Images.

But wait! Before you argue, "Well, isn't that what acting is all about — pretending to be somebody you're not?" hear what a few trans actors had to say about the news. Because if anyone should be heard on this issue, it's them.

Jamie Clayton, who starred in "Sense8," wasn't thrilled.

Trans actors don't get nearly the same opportunity as cis artists, she argued, which gets at the heart of the issue.

Trace Lysette, known for her role in "Transparent," also made a similar argument.

If she were getting a seat at the table, things would be different. But those seats are reserved for cis women.

It makes matters worse when those same cis actors are celebrated for playing trans characters when actual trans actors never even had a shot, Lysette continued in a follow-up tweet.

They make a great point.

Very few transgender characters make it onto the big screen, period. But even when they do, those characters are often defined solely by their gender identities, fall into harmful stereotypes, or serve no purpose to the plot other than to be the butt of transphobic jokes.

In recent years, more fully realized trans characters made it into Hollywood narratives. But when they do, too often they're still portrayed by cisgender actors, like Matt Bomer, Jeffrey Tambor — and now Scarlett Johansson.

As Lysette and Clayton noted, it's still rare (read: basically impossible) for trans actors to be cast in cisgender roles. So it's understandably infuriating when the few opportunities that do arise for them are snatched away by cis Hollywood heavyweights who no doubt have a plethora of scripts to choose from.

Beyond affecting the opportunities for trans actors, though, these casting decisions have real-world ramifications as well.

When cisgender actors are cast in transgender roles, it perpetuates the harmful myth that transgender people are simply "in drag" — that they're really just pretending or performing, GLAAD's Nick Adams argued in The Hollywood Reporter:

"Hollywood is having a very difficult time letting go of the idea that putting a male actor in a dress, wig and makeup is an accurate portrayal of a transgender woman. ... It's yet another painful reminder that, in the eyes of so many people, transgender women are really just men. That message is toxic and dangerous."

It's a notion, he argued, that attempts to justify bigoted bathroom laws and fuels violence against the transgender community.

Casting decisions on Hollywood sets do make a difference in real life, whether we believe it or not.

But maybe there's a way out of this latest casting mess.

First, Johansson can apologize for her incredibly insensitive response to the criticism, as well as her defensive alignment with cis actor Jeffrey Tambor's role as a trans woman in "Transparent" (remember, he allegedly sexually harassed then-assistant Trace Lysette).

Then she can take YouTuber Grace Randolph's idea and run with it:

"I hope the Scarlett Johansson controversy doesn't keep the amazing story of Jean Marie Gill aka Dante 'Tex' Gill from being told. If Johansson was smart, she'd find a new director, take the role of Tex's girlfriend Cynthia, and give a trans actor a big break."

That's not a bad idea, really. Hopefully someone in Hollywood is listening.

Courtesy of Tiffany Obi
True

With the COVID-19 pandemic upending her community, Brooklyn-based singer Tiffany Obi turned to healing those who had lost loved ones the way she knew best — through music.

Obi quickly ran into one glaring issue as she began performing solo at memorials. Many of the venues where she performed didn't have the proper equipment for her to play a recorded song to accompany her singing. Often called on to perform the day before a service, Obi couldn't find any pianists to play with her on such short notice.

As she looked at the empty piano at a recent performance, Obi's had a revelation.

"Music just makes everything better," Obi said. "If there was an app to bring musicians together on short notice, we could bring so much joy to the people at those memorials."

Using the coding skills she gained at Pursuit — a rigorous, four-year intensive program that trains adults from underserved backgrounds and no prior experience in programming — Obi turned this market gap into the very first app she created.

She worked alongside four other Pursuit Fellows to build In Tune, an app that connects musicians in close proximity to foster opportunities for collaboration.

When she learned about and applied to Pursuit, Obi was eager to be a part of Pursuit's vision to empower their Fellows to build successful careers in tech. Pursuit's Fellows are representative of the community they want to build: 50% women, 70% Black or Latinx, 40% immigrant, 60% non-Bachelor's degree holders, and more than 50% are public assistance recipients.

Keep Reading Show less

Yesterday I was perusing comments on an Upworthy article about Joe Biden comforting the son of a Parkland shooting victim and immediately had flashbacks to the lead-up of the 2016 election. In describing former vice President Biden, some commenters were using the words "criminal," "corrupt," and "pedophile—exactly the same words people used to describe Hillary Clinton in 2016.

I remember being baffled that so many people were so convinced of Clinton's evil schemes that they genuinely saw the documented serial liar and cheat that she was running against as the lesser of two evils. I mean, sure, if you believe that a career politician had spent years being paid off by powerful people and was trafficking children to suck their blood in her free time, just about anything looks like a better alternative.

But none of that was true.

It's been four years and Hillary Clinton has been found guilty of exactly none of the criminal activity she was being accused of. Trump spent every campaign rally leading chants of "Lock her up!" under the guise that she was going to go to jail after the election. He's been president for nearly four years now, and where is Clinton? Not in jail—she's comfy at home, occasionally trolling Trump on Twitter and doing podcasts.

Keep Reading Show less
Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash
True

Glenda moved to Houston from Ohio just before the pandemic hit. She didn't know that COVID-19-related delays would make it difficult to get her Texas driver's license and apply for unemployment benefits. She quickly found herself in an impossible situation — stranded in a strange place without money for food, gas, or a job to provide what she needed.

Alone, hungry, and scared, Glenda dialed 2-1-1 for help. The person on the other end of the line directed her to the Houston-based nonprofit Bread of Life, founded by St. John's United Methodist pastors Rudy and Juanita Rasmus.

For nearly 30 years, Bread of Life has been at the forefront of HIV/AIDS prevention, eliminating food insecurity, providing permanent housing to formerly homeless individuals and disaster relief.

Glenda sat in her car for 20 minutes outside of the building, trying to muster up the courage to get out and ask for help. She'd never been in this situation before, and she was terrified.

When she finally got out, she encountered Eva Thibaudeau, who happened to be walking down the street at the exact same time. Thibaudeau is the CEO of Temenos CDC, a nonprofit multi-unit housing development also founded by the Rasmuses, with a mission to serve Midtown Houston's homeless population.

Keep Reading Show less

Racist jokes are one of the more frustrating manifestations of racism. Jokes in general are meant to be a shared experience, a connection over a mutual sense of humor, a rush of feel-good chemicals that bond us to those around us through laughter.

So when you mix jokes with racism, the result is that racism becomes something light and fun, as opposed to the horrendous bane that it really is.

The harm done with racist humor isn't just the emotional hurt they can cause. When a group of white people shares jokes at the expense of a marginalized or oppressed racial group, the power of white supremacy is actually reinforced—not only because of the "punching down" nature of such humor, but because of the group dynamics that work in favor of maintaining the status quo.

British author and motivational speaker Paul Scanlon shared a story about interrupting a racist joke at a table of white people at an event in the U.S, and the lessons he drew from it illustrate this idea beautifully. Watch:

Keep Reading Show less
True

*Upworthy may earn a portion of sales revenue from purchases made through links on our site.

With the election quickly approaching, the importance of voting and sending in your ballot on time is essential. But there is another way you can vote everyday - by being intentional with each dollar you spend. Support companies and products that uphold your values and help create a more sustainable world. An easy move is swapping out everyday items that are often thrown away after one use or improperly disposed of.

Package Free Shop has created products to help fight climate change one cotton swab at a time! Founded by Lauren Singer, otherwise known as, "the girl with the jar" (she initially went viral for fitting 8 years of all of the waste she's created in one mason jar). Package Free is an ecosystem of brands on a mission to make the world less trashy.

Here are eight of our favorite everyday swaps:

1. Friendsheep Dryer Balls - Replace traditional dryer sheets with these dryer balls that are made without chemicals and conserve energy. Not only do these also reduce dry time by 20% but they're so cute and come in an assortment of patterns!

Package Free Shop

2. Last Swab - Replacement for single use plastic cotton swabs. Nearly 25.5 billion single use swabs are produced and discarded every year in the U.S., but not this one. It lasts up to 1,000 uses as it's able to be cleaned with soap and water. It also comes in a biodegradable, corn based case so you can use it on the go!

Keep Reading Show less