The biannual As If Magazine published an interview on July 11 with actress Scarlett Johansson that many people found offensive. In a discussion with painter and photographer David Salle about current trends in acting, Johansson pushed back against critiques of her role choices, which include the lead in manga “Ghost in the Shell” and the (eventually dropped) real life transgender man Dante Tex Gill.
“There’s certainly trends in casting right now,” Johansson said. “Today there’s a lot of emphasis and conversation about what acting is and who we want to see represent ourselves on screen. The question now is, what is acting anyway?” And when it comes to who can play who or what, the fourth-highest-grossing worldwide box-office actor of all time, according to As If, said, “As an actor I should be allowed to play any person, or any tree, or any animal.”
Unfortunately for Johansson, not everyone shares her views. Many of them took to Twitter to call out her privilege:
Why Compare trans people and poc to trees and animals…
— IAM (@IndyaMoore) July 14, 2019
I guess that GLAAD media training was pointless. This is just another example of low-frequency mediocrity, masquerading as “woke” artistry. Scarlett Johansson just rolled back her apology to the trans community and compared us to plants and wildlife. https://t.co/qjqYF62GO3
— Ashlee Marie Preston (@AshleeMPreston) July 14, 2019
ScarJo is the highest paid female actor in 2018, banking $40.5 mil. But she feels entitled to take roles away from Asian, Trans & other underrepresented actors? https://t.co/vB0g2SlatA
— Nancy Wang Yuen (@nancywyuen) July 13, 2019
When trans people are “allowed to play any person,” when prominent roles stop being whitewashed, then Scarlett Johansson can have a moan. Until then, please spare us your “political correctness gone mad” bullshit https://t.co/OZ8QUTuj9j
— Dean Van Nguyen (@deanvannguyen) July 13, 2019
Scarlett Johansson’s been on some bullshit for a long time and she’s never been apologetic about any of it, so why would she start now? She clearly benefits from the system and doesn’t care to change any of it. The white feminist in her is strong.
— Mae Abdulbaki (@MaeAbdu) July 13, 2019
scarlett johanson‘s comment ab how she should be allowed to play anyone, even “an animal or a tree” rlly shows you how white ppl who’ve been represented their whole lives don’t give a shit ab representation of ppl who r marginalised but whatever init bc she’s ScarJo, yall’s fav
— 𝓅˚.࿐♡ (@stfupreet) July 14, 2019
There is a huge difference between Scarlett Johannson playing a trans person, and Halle Bailey playing a fictional cartoon character.
— lil homo (@TheHomoHipster) July 14, 2019
The backlash prompted Johansson to release a statement via Variety that reads, in part:
“An interview that was recently published has been edited for click bait and is widely taken out of context,” the actress said in a statement to Variety, referring to a recent article from the arts and culture publication As If. “The question I was answering in my conversation with the contemporary artist, David Salle, was about the confrontation between political correctness and art.
She clarified her stance, saying, “I personally feel that, in an ideal world, any actor should be able to play anybody and art, in all forms, should be immune to political correctness. That is the point I was making, albeit didn’t come across that way.”