Scarlett Johansson Regrets Her Tone Deaf ‘Rub and Tug’ Statement

Published on November 30, 2019

Scarlett Johannson is never shy of sharing an unpopular opinion. She dismissed the white-washing complaints with Ghost in the Shell. The movie star ignored critical voices from the transgender community after she was cast in Rub & Tug, in which she would’ve starred as a trans man. Johansson also continues to publicly defend her friend Woody Allen, who’s been accused of child molestation by his daughter, Dylan Farrow. Not a great look, but according to Scarlett Johnasson, she doesn’t want to filter herself for the sake of looking good to strangers on the Internet. She’s very unapologetic about questionable opinions and statements, but now, she’s expressed genuine regret over the handling of her casting in Rub & Tug

What’s Rub & Tug?

In July, 2018, Johansson was teaming up again with Ghost in the Shell director, Rupert Sanders, following their critical and box-office failure that pleased few moviegoers. After white-washing a classic anime film, the duo then cast a cisgender actor in a trans role for a project Rub & Tug, in which Johnasson would’ve played Dante “Tex” Gill. Gill was a pimp running massage parlors as a front for prostitution, and the criminal took on the mob in Pittsburgh during the ‘70s and ‘80s. The trans community were not receptive to Johansson’s casting.

One Bad Statement 

Instead of seriously listening and considering the initial complaints, Johansson doubled down and released a glib statement: “Tell them that they can be directed to Jeffrey Tambor, Jared Leto, and Felicity Huffman’s reps for comment.” Of course, she’s referring to acclaimed cisgender actors who won awards for their portrayals of trans characters. However, those actors were cast at a very different time, which Johansson failed to recognize. Jared Leto was cast in Dallas Buyers Club over six years ago, and now, six years ago looks like forever ago. Things change fast. Clearly, Johansson wasn’t with the times. After her statement was poorly received, then she apologized and Rub & Tug was soon canceled, and anyone who saw Ghost in the Shell wasn’t disappointed. 

Johansson’s Regret 

Everyone makes mistakes, except when a movie star does, the whole world gets to see. Again, Johansson acknowledges her initial reaction to the criticisms over her casting wasn’t the most thoughtful or empathetic. In an interview with Vulture, she admitted her regret:

In hindsight, I mishandled that situation. I was not sensitive, my initial reaction to it. I wasn’t totally aware of how the trans community felt about those three actors playing — and how they felt in general about cis actors playing — transgender people. I wasn’t aware of that conversation — I was uneducated. So I learned a lot through that process. I misjudged that…. It was a hard time. It was like a whirlwind. I felt terribly about it. To feel like you’re kind of tone-deaf to something is not a good feeling.

At the very least, she learned from the experience, took more time to consider the criticisms, and grew. 

What’s Next for Johansson? 

The actress is expected to get some attention this awards season. She stars in Noah Baumbach’s Marriage Story, a Netflix movie that critics are loving. Most recently, she starred in Jojo Rabbit and filmed Black Window, which comes out next summer. Off-screen, the actress’ mistakes gain almost as much attention as her movies, but when it comes to her career, she usually knows how to pick’m. From Under the Skin to Her to Lost in Translation, the actress continues to make high-quality art with some of the best filmmakers around.

Jack Giroux is a Staff Writer at Grit Daily. Based in Los Angeles, he is an entertainment journalist who's previously written for Thrillist, Slash Film, Film School Rejects, and The Film Stage.

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