Column Defending Johansson's Casting as Trans Man Taken Down

Column Defending Johansson's Casting as Trans Man Taken Down

A column criticizing the backlash against Scarlett Johansson’s casting as a trans man was removed from Business Insider after staff complaints about its content.

Daniella Greenbaum posted the column, which said Johansson was being unfairly criticized for her decision to portray a transgender man in Rub & Tug.

The post was taken down Friday, and the text was replaced with "Business Insider removed the column because, upon further review, we decided it did not meet our editorial standards." Staff at Business Insider told The Daily Beast that some employees were offended by Greenbaum’s column.

Nicholas Carlson, global editor in chief of Insider and Business Insider, said in an email obtained by the Beast that BI would draft a list of writers who write about "culture and identity issues," which would be made available to other employees, and BI’s executive editors would review "sensitive" columns prior to publication.

"Editors should make sure we are not publishing shallow, 'hot takes,' but instead, fully thought-out arguments that reflect and respect the opposing view," Carlson said. "There should be no partisan name-calling, e.g. 'social justice warriors,' 'libtards,' or 'rednecks.' Opinion and arguments should feel reported and researched, and not like quick reactions."

Greenbaum’s column had started by claiming that "Scarlett Johansson is the latest target of the social-justice warrior mob."

When transgender actress Trace Lysette criticized Johansson on Twitter for "stealing the narratives" of transgender people, Greenbaum responded that she found Lysette’s framing of the issue "off base."

"It's hard to imagine people having the same reaction in other scenarios — a rich actor being hired to play a poor person; an actor whose real-life parents were still living being hired to play an orphan; a perfectly nice, upstanding member of society being cast as a rapist; or an actor with no scientific experience being cast as a paleontologist," Greenbaum wrote. "Yet all of these examples (and dozens more) could also be strangely characterized as ‘stealing’ narratives. I'm sure there's a class on how to do just that at the Yale School of Drama."

Greenbaum had concluded her post with this assertion: "What they fail to acknowledge is that the job of an actor is to represent someone else. Johansson's identity off the screen is irrelevant to the identities she plays on the screen. That's what she's paid for. And if she does her job, she'll make everyone forget about the controversy in the first place."

Transgender actress Indya Moore, who portrays Angel on Pose, had criticized the casting on Twitter, saying that cisgender actors “don’t have the range” to accurately portray transgender characters, and that casting cis women as trans men reduces “the existential experience of a trans man as playing dress up.”

"This is no different than able bodied people playing folk with disabilities and winning awards for it. How do you tell a story of a gender variant human without involving trans people? Our xp is far too large & complex to be limited within the confines of the cis imagination.#how," Moore tweeted.

Transgender actress Jamie Clayton’s criticism went beyond the potential for inaccuracies that might arise from cisgender actors portraying trans characters. Clayton, who played Nomi on Sense8, said that while cisgender actors are cast in trans roles, transgender actors "can’t even get in the room" to audition for cisgender roles.

A BI spokesperson told the Beast that Greenbaum stands by her assertions in her column and disagrees with BI’s decision to take it down.

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