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