After Scarlett Johansson’s whitewashing of Ghost in the Shell, you’d think she would stay away from roles that would come across as “complex” or “risky” (read: f*cked up). However, when the director of the aforementioned film approached the actress, she decided to give it another go.
The movie isn’t even in production yet, but critics are already pushing back — for good reason.
Johansson will be the lead in Sanders’ Rub & Tug, a drama based on a true story surrounding “a male-dominated business of massage parlors and prostitution.”
Deadline describes Johansson’s character, Jean Marie Gill as a “larger-than-life character who took on the mob and became the crime kingpin of 1970s Pittsburgh throughout her empire of illicit massage parlors and an anabolic steroids ring that helped fuel the Pittsburgh Steelers’ NFL dynasty, all while cross-dressing and leaning on her allies in the gay community to help her grow her empire.”
Gill’s notoriety allegedly prompted The Pittsburgh Press to award Gill the “Dubious Man of the Year” and “Dubious Woman of the Year” titles, explaining: “She embodies business savvy, sexual confusion and an eye for fashion like no one since Michael Jackson.”
The main issue with the film? Scarlett Johannson is a cisgender straight woman who will be playing a transmasculine person. Another issue with the film? That Gill identified as Mr. Gill and insisted on identifying as a man, and was known by all as Dante “Tex” Gill, but this narrative was erased from the script by writer Gary Spinelli.
…it is important that LGBTQ+ histories are told from a point of view that is as sensitive as it is accurate.
As E. Oliver Whitney wrote in their piece for Screen Crush, “this opens up a much bigger discussion about how we interpret history through a modern lens, especially the history of a much-maligned and oppressed community.” They go on to talk about how problematic it is that Gill will be limited to a lesbian narrative instead of a trans one, particularly since trans stories are already so marginalized in society and media.
In times like this when trans folks are under attack, whether it be in terms of their rights or their actual deaths at the hands of systems and societies, it is important that LGBTQ+ histories are told from a point of view that is as sensitive as it is accurate. Shows like Pose get it right by having trans writers, actresses, and producers working on projects to add legitimacy and integrity to their own history.
In short, save Gill’s story for someone who can do it justice — because it’s clear that this movie is set up to be dangerous and disrespectful on so many levels.