Why Scarlett Johansson is 'thankful' for the debate that led her to drop out of a movie.

Just 10 days after announcing that she'd be starring in the upcoming Dante "Tex" Gill biopic, Scarlett Johansson has dropped out.

The controversial role would have seen Johansson as Gill, a transgender man and massage parlor operator who gained notoriety in the '70s and '80s.

There was immediate backlash to her casting, with a number of red flags apparent even in the film's announcement itself: The story, broken by Deadline, described Gill by his birth name and strongly hinted that the movie would center around the "fiery romance with her [sic] girlfriend."


In other words, it sounded a lot like this man's story was about to be turned into a lesbian love drama — which, according to one of Gill's relatives, he probably wouldn't have been super thrilled by.

Yikes.

Photo by Jason Merritt/Getty Images.

Johansson's withdrawal from the film illustrates a respectful look at the importance of ethics in entertainment.

Her statement, provided to Out.com, expressed regret for her original defense of the casting and added that she realized she wasn't approaching the topic with the sensitivity it deserves.

"I have great admiration and love for the trans community and am grateful that the conversation regarding inclusivity in Hollywood continues," she said, highlighting stats provided by GLAAD showing a drop in trans representation between 2016 and 2017. "While I would have loved the opportunity to bring Dante's story and transition to life, I understand why many feel he should be portrayed by a transgender person, and I am thankful that this casting debate, albeit controversial, has sparked a larger conversation about diversity and representation in film."

Certainly, there will be people who view this move as an example of an internet mob, political correctness run amok, or something else of the sort. It's not.

People have strong opinions about casting decisions all the time. Sometimes the people upset with the casting decisions get it right (sorry, Jake Gyllenhaal, but the "Prince of Persia" role just wasn't a good fit), and sometimes they get it laughably wrong (in 2006, a lot of people were apoplectic over Heath Ledger as the Joker).

The point is that these things happen, they get talked about a lot, and then they fade.

For some reason, however, not all criticisms seem to be treated equally. At times, particularly when the issue involves roles crossing transgender or racial lines, there's a backlash to the backlash. It's almost as though everybody has emotions and opinions about certain things, but certain groups have those emotions and opinions policed more than others.

The simple truth is that sometimes a role just isn't a good fit for someone. Sacha Baron Cohen dropped out of the Freddie Mercury biopic. Ed Skrein ducked out of the "Hellboy" reboot. Terry Crews dropped out of "Expendables 4." They all have very different reasons for doing so. It's fine.

While not a household name like Johansson, actor and comedian Ian Harvie, a trans man, certainly looks more like Gill than the "Avengers" star. Photo by Mike Coppola/Getty Images.

Nobody made Johansson drop out. She did it anyway — and that's a big credit to her.

As a transgender person, I honestly dread the handwringing we're about to see from people and how it'll be weaponized against my community.

Nobody forced Johansson to drop out of the movie. In the coming days and weeks, I feel like that's important to remember.

Much to the chagrin of trans people everywhere, Jared Leto won an Oscar for his heavily criticized portrayal of a trans woman in "Dallas Buyers Club." Photo by Jason Merritt/Getty Images.

Johansson could have, as many actors have before, put out the film anyway. It probably would have made many people cringe, it probably would have been pretty ahistorical, and it probably wouldn't have done much to advance the cause of trans acceptance — but she could have done it. Maybe she'd have even won an award for it.

What she did instead shows that she listened to people expressing valid concerns and she was thoughtful in considering the issues they were raising. I hope that people give her credit for listening to feedback and responding like a person who wants to learn, grow, and be empathetic.

Most Shared
Courtesy of Houseplant.

In America, one dumb mistake can hang over your head forever.

Nearly 30% of the American adult population — about 70 million people — have at least one criminal conviction that can prevent them from being treated equally when it comes to everything from job and housing opportunities to child custody.

Twenty million of these Americans have felony convictions that can destroy their chances of making a comfortable living and prevents them from voting out the lawmakers who imprisoned them.

Many of these convictions are drug-related and stem from the War on Drugs that began in the U.S. '80s. This war has unfairly targeted the minority community, especially African-Americans.

Keep Reading Show less
Culture

Climate change is happening because the earth is warming at an accelerated rate, a significant portion of that acceleration is due to human activity, and not taking measures to mitigate it will have disastrous consequences for life as we know it.

In other words: Earth is heating up, it's kinda our fault, and if we don't fix it, we're screwed.

This is the consensus of the vast majority of the world's scientists who study such things for a living. Case closed. End of story.

How do we know this to be true? Because pretty much every reputable scientific organization on the planet has examined and endorsed these conclusions. Thousands of climate studies have been done, and multiple peer-reviewed studies have been done on those studies, showing that somewhere between 84 and 97 percent of active climate science experts support these conclusions. In fact, the majority of those studies put the consensus well above 90%.

Keep Reading Show less
Nature
via James Anderson

Two years ago, a tweet featuring the invoice for a fixed boiler went viral because the customer, a 91-year-old woman with leukemia, received the services for free.

"No charge for this lady under any circumstances," the invoice read. "We will be available 24 hours to help her and keep her as comfortable as possible."

The repair was done by James Anderson, 52, a father-of-five from Burnley, England. "James is an absolute star, it was overwhelming to see that it cost nothing," the woman's daughter told CNN.

Keep Reading Show less
Heroes

I live in a family with various food intolerances. Thankfully, none of them are super serious, but we are familiar with the challenges of finding alternatives to certain foods, constantly checking labels, and asking restaurants about their ingredients.

In our family, if someone accidentally eats something they shouldn't, it's mainly a bit of inconvenient discomfort. For those with truly life-threatening food allergies, the stakes are much higher.

I can't imagine the ongoing stress of deadly allergy, especially for parents trying to keep their little ones safe.

Keep Reading Show less
popular