Scarlett Johansson’s forthcoming film will reunite her with her Ghost in the Shell director, Rupert Sanders. It may also reunite her with a form of the controversy that surrounded her casting in that film.
Ghost in the Shell, the big-budget remake of a classic 1990s anime, was bogged down from the start by fans of the original who keenly observed that ScarJo is not in fact a Japanese woman. It was a peak moment during the flurry of whitewashed projects that kept Asian-American actors on the sidelines in favor of more “bankable” stars. Now Johansson’s next film looks set to incite a different kind of outcry.
Her role in the project that is actually 100% titled Rub and Tug finds her playing a “transmasculine” crime boss who’s based on a real person who may have begun preliminary gender reassignment surgery before his death. As the trans community has become more visible in recent years, activists have agitated for better representation in films and TV. Casting Johansson in this role is not necessarily a step back, but it’s at least a step in place.
Today’s announcement would have likely been reduced to some earnest chiding from advocacy groups if Johansson hadn’t responded to early online chatter the way she did. When Bustle reached out to the star’s representation about the slowly brewing controversy, the site received this response:
“Tell them that they can be directed to Jeffrey Tambor, Jared Leto, and Felicity Huffman’s reps for comment.”
Yikes. A publicist referring media to Jeffrey Tambor’s publicist in 2018 is playing with fire. We’ll have to wait to find out if Johansson gets burned as a result.