Tripping Over The Low Bar – ScarJo’s Learned Nothing

We all make mistakes.

It’s all part of growing up, living, learning, and just being a human being in general. We make mistakes, we learn from them, and sometimes we don’t make them again.

Which makes it all the more frustrating that Scarlet Johanson, in a recent interview with As If magazine, she made yet another mistake, in which she said that as an actor, she “should be allowed to play any person, or any tree, or any animal because that is my job and the requirements of my job.”

Considering her past mistakes, this line, and others in the interview, is really telling of her ignorance of her own privilege as a straight, white, cisgender woman.

One also can’t help but think about how that line in particular pretty much equates playing trees and animals to playing transgender people and people of other ethnicity. It’s very insulting, to say the least, especially with the demonization of transgender people that transphobes regularly engage in.

For a quick reminder, ScarJo took on the role, then backed out and apologized, of Dante Tex Gill, a transgender male mob boss in 1970s Chicago, as well as taking on the role of Motoko Kusanagi, a Japanese woman, in Ghost in the Shell.

She’s since apologized for what she said in the As If magazine, claiming they had been taken out of context.

They weren’t.

Personally, I prefer this explanation for her apology from one of my favourite people on Twitter, Clarkisha Kent:

At this rate, I feel like the main question to be asked is when does she stop getting chances to screw up, because she’s been doing a darn good job of that, at least once a year for the past 3 years on some very important discussions of representation and diversity in our media. Yes, we’re allowed to make more than one mistake a year, and to expect perfection of people is downright impossible and inconsiderate.

However, we’re not asking for perfection, just some basic empathy and for ScarJo to stop making the same mistakes over and over. Whenever something like this comes out, it feels as though any forward momentum we’re making is slowed, even stalled, to explain, once again, why this is a bad thing.

At times like this, I’m reminiscent of when I first learned about her, in her role as Black Widow in Iron Man 2. By Avengers, I know a lot of MCU fans were eager for a Black Widow movie, something to break up the monotony of straight, white, male-centric movies that continues to be much of what Marvel Studios puts out. When Winter Soldier came out, we were certain that a Black Widow movie was coming out. Under the direction of the Russo Bros and that incredible script, we got a really nuanced, intriguing character in Black Widow.

Now though? She’s pretty much killed off any and all enthusiasm I’ve had for the Black Widow movie that is finally coming out, after Captain Marvel and the end of what’s been basically the Infinity Gauntlet Saga in Endgame.

(On a side note, part of the delay in seeing any kind of female-lead movie from Marvel Studios feels like they were waiting to see if DC’s Wonder Woman would sink or swim instead of simply having faith… but that’s a topic for another day.)

This is in total opposition to what Brie Larson has done in the PR work for Captain Marvel, where she actively worked to include more diverse voices in the discussion of the movie, as well as push for more diversity onscreen. This isn’t an attempt to pit one woman against another, but to highlight how one recognizes her power and privilege and use it to push for diversity, and the other remains ignorant.

And another thing that makes me frustrated?

As I and others have expressed our desire not to see the Black Widow movie, it means that if it under performs (and the goal posts for the success of any movie lead by anyone who’s not a straight, white male are easily moved by people who think only straight white dudes can sell a movie), then some people will take it as evidence that women can’t sell movies.

A lot of those people are still in charge in Hollywood, either as casting directors, heads of studios, etc, and will believe only that despite the success of movies like Wonder Woman, Captain Marvel, the Resident Evil series, and others. It feels a bit like a Catch-22, where people continue to push a self-fulfilling prophecy in spite of reality, and then assume that is the reality. This has resulted in movies like Supergirl, Catwoman, and Elektra, to name a few.

They weren’t bad films because they starred women, they were bad films because they had bad writing and directing, and I sure as heck don’t recall them being advertised as much as their male superhero counterparts.

At the very least, ScarJo only appears to make this kind of mistake once a year, and as it’s happened in July, we won’t get any others for the rest of the year.

I hope.

But I’m not gonna hold my breath or anything…

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The Superhero Issue That Taught Me Compassion

So, it started off with a tweet I saw from Tess Fowler, an amazing artist whose work I’ve enjoyed, asking a simple question about the comics medium:

And I replied with the following, speaking purely from the heart:

Marvel_Two-In-One_Vol_1_86

Ben and Flint enjoying a brew instead of throwing fists.

This issue in particular has always stayed with me, even if I forgot some of the details when I first got it. Unlike a lot of my friends who are fellow comic lovers, I never had much of a mind for detail in who drew and wrote what and when, so some research was in order.

Written by Tom Defalco and drawn by Ron Wilson, Issue # 86 of Marvel Two In One was a comic I had picked up as part of a four issue reprint Marvel had done in the 90s, even though the original had first been printed in April of 1982, during the reign of Jim Shooter as Editor in Chief. Back in the 90s, and this is only my hypothesis for I’ve not found any proof about it, Marvel was reprinting a lot of classic Marvel titles, from the origin stories that brought us Spider-Man, Iron Man, the Fantastic Four and others, to wholesale series such as Classic X-Men and Classic Spider-Man, possibly because Marvel was getting close to going bankrupt.

At any rate, I picked up the The Thing mini-series because I liked Ben Grimm and how un-superheroic he looked. Maybe it was something I was picking up on, being a fat kid in high school who didn’t look like any of the six pack, beefed up, superheroes I admired but unable to articulate why.  I was more drawn to the characters who were, for lack of a better word, ugly.

Like Ben Grimm, rendered into a rock like golem by cosmic rays, or Bruce Banner, transformed into the Hulk from absorbing gamma radiation.

I could understand Ben Grimm’s frustration at being mocked for his appearance, as I’d been mocked, bullied, and picked on for being fat. He was someone I wanted to see happy and loved and cherished, because it meant I could be too.

And it was Ben Grimm who taught me kindness and compassion, although it took me a few more years after high school, and a couple courses in Feminism, to better and more thoroughly apply such a profound lesson.

The basic plot is that Ben Grimm is angry and frustrated, and, upon hearing of The Sandman being at large once more,  finds him at a bar, and challenges him to a fight!

And Sand Man surrenders.

This shocks Ben, so much that he buys a round of drinks and simply… listens to Sandman, who tells him his name is Flint Marko, talk about his life and the choices he made and the mistakes befallen him that lead him up to that moment.

Just having a superhero comic where the team up is of two men talking about their problems instead of fighting or joking or brushing it aside really opened up my eyes not just to how much more a superhero comic could be, but in how men could do things differently. It was, in a way, one of the first instances of positive masculinity that didn’t deal in the language of violence.

That’s always stuck with me over the years, that sometimes if we just listen to people who might appear to be bad, we find decent human beings who make mistakes and, finding themselves in a deep hole, are unable to climb out without a helping hand.

And I’m not talking about truly ugly-hearted people whose minds are coloured with bigotry, ignorance, and racism, as the Friends of Humanity and the Red Skull’s are, but people who simply struggle to survive.

The issue ends with Ben giving Flint twenty bucks and wishing him well, hoping that he stays on the straight and narrow, and thus began the start of Flint’s heroic journey, all because someone decided to listen.

Superhero comics have taught me a lot over the years, such as with great power comes great responsibility, how bigotry and racism should have no place in our society, as well as how far a little kindness and compassion can go. I like to think it’s part of what’s shaped me into (I hope) a good person.

Fatphobia & Trauma – An Avengers Endgame Problem

Avengers Endgame is the culmination of 21 films spread out over 10 years and a TV series, and acts as a swan song for some characters, their final bow as Phase 3 of this grand experiment comes to an end.

Endgame did many things right, but also stumbled on others, and it came to mind when I saw the following tweet from pop culture commentator Clarkisha Kent:

Warning, from here on out, there be spoilers, as well as trigger warning for fat shaming jokes, and discussion of depression.

Spoilers Sweetie...

Continue reading “Fatphobia & Trauma – An Avengers Endgame Problem”

Accepting and Declining Trans Roles – Scarlet Johannson and Acting Trans

Well, I had a video set up to finish being edited, focusing on the news that Scarlet Johannson had accepted the lead role in a movie called Rub and Tug, wherein she’d be playing male transgender mob boss, Dante Tex Gill, which would have teamed her up with her director from Ghost in the Shell, Rupert Sanders.

(I’ll just point out briefly that her whitewashing in that movie’s role was, I’d argue the main reason why it was such a box office failure, as was Gods of Egypt and The Wall. Whitewashing means loss of profit, a lesson Hollywood has yet to learn, and the subject  for another time.)

So, for a while there, it appeared ScarJo was intent on playing a role that would have denied work for a marginalized community as well as enforced a transphobic trope, that transgender people are merely playing dress up instead of trying to live the gender that they really are.

However, thanks to the outrage raised by the transgender community over what would have been a performance of what I call transgender pain porn for an acting award, Scarlet Johannson has dropped out of the role.

This is, without a doubt, a victory for the transgender community, because it means that their voices were heard and that change is possible. It’s a bright spark of hope in some rather dark times, to be sure, because lets face it, the representation of transgender people, to say nothing of non-binary and non-gender conforming people, is absolutely atrocious.

I mentioned transgender pain porn earlier, and for that I feel a definition is in order.

Transgender Pain Porn: A movie, TV, online show that features a cisgender actor or actress in a transgender role whereby said transgender role is shown to be one of misery and suffering, usually ending tragically.

One such example? Hillary Swank as Brandon in Boys Don’t Cry, a transgender man who runs away from home, finds a brief moment of happiness, and is murdered by transphobic people.

Dallas Buyer’s Club, starring accused sexual molestor and abuser Jared Leto, is about a man who contracts HIV and, while setting up a buyer’s club to get medication, befriends Rayon, a transgender woman. This is based on the real life story of Ron Woodroof.

Handled by the powers that be in Hollywood, such films are more an attempt at an Oscar grab, as was Jared Leto’s role in The Dallas Buyer’s Club that earned him an Oscar, than any chance to showcase transgender people living and loving and and exploring all aspects of their lives. What’s more, such roles aren’t even offered to transgender actors and actresses, as Trace Lysette, actress on the Amazon series Transparent, pointed out when news of ScarJo’s casting first dropped.

This was followed by up actress Jamie Clayton, best known for her role in the popular Netflix series Sense8, expressing frustration and not even being able to get into the casting room.

It’s especially frustrating when there are examples such as the Roland Emmerich flop, Stonewall, a movie based on a real, historical event and a majour turning point in the fight for rights for the LGBTQ+ community when Marsha P Johnson, a black, bisexual transgender woman, threw the brick heard round the world that instigated a riot, was replaced by a Indiana white gay man. It cost 13 million to make and brought in only $133 thousand dollars, with Roland Emmerich, himself a gay white man, defending his decision to erase Marsha’s role, saying “”It’s a good thing the film is out there now, but I never quite understood the fuss.”

So hopefully, with ScarJo opting out, things might be turning around, but there is still some things we can do.

For started, do not do as actress and director Justine Batemann do, and berate the critics and a marginalized community for getting a movie cancelled.

As anyone with access to Google can tell you, simply having an actor or actress with marquee value does not guarantee a successful movie. Any number of well established actors and actresses have starred in abysmal box office failures, such as Bruce Willis in Hudson Hawk, or even ScarJo herself in Ghost in the Shell.

You also shouldn’t then delete your initial tweet and a bunch of other, finger waving, lecturing tweets after being educated on how wrong you are. It makes you look like a coward.

 

As for actual constructive actions we can take that aren’t paternalistic-ally condescending, the first is that when such moves are made by Hollywood, we, cisgender people, can align our voices with those of Transgender people and call Hollywood out on this bogus casting. They can’t do all the heavy lifting, no single marginalized group should.

We can listen to them when they tell us why this is wrong and transphobic, as was written in this excellent article by Danielle Soizman for Slashfilm.com where she talked with other transgender actors and actresses and the ugly history of such casting in Hollywood.

We can boycott the films when they come out.

We can support shows and movies that actually strive for inclusion instead of exploitation, as as Janet Mock’s The Pose on FX and Sense8 on Netflix.

And in this case, we can read up more on Dante Tex Gill, in this fine article by Samantha Riedel, and learn more about this interesting person.