They say the definition of insanity is making the same mistake over and over again and expecting a different result. If that's true, then the definition of being an insensitive ass is doing the same offensive thing over and over again and expecting the offended party to finally be OK with it.
I'm talking to you, Hollywood. You've gone out and made plans for another transgender cliche movie with the trans character played by a cisgender actor. What makes this time so much worse, so very much worse, is that it's Scarlett Johansson who's starring in it, after she already got dragged for playing Asian in Ghost in the Shell -- and the transgender cliche movie is directed by the Ghost in the Shell director (smacks forehead).
Yet it gets even worse. When the immediate backlash hit hard, her statement, via a "representative," was: "Tell them that they can be directed to Jeffrey Tambor, Jared Leto, and Felicity Huffman's reps for comment."
Oh, hell no.
You notice who she listed, right? All actors who were given an Oscar or Emmy nod for playing trans. Oh, yeah, don't think we haven't noticed that Hollywood has decided that taking a sob story about transgender people, throwing a trophy-seeking actor into the role, and then cramming it down folks' throats at awards season is their preferred way of putting our lives on the silver screen. Hell, if you know the story of the movie Rub & Tug she's playing in, it's about ... a sex worker! Nothing beats making the trans character a sex worker. Bonus points for being an emotionally unstable junkie. Throw in a plot about teaching a straight man to love them as a person, and baby, you've got an Oscar speech to write!
And let me just say this, if your defense of casting cisgender actors into these roles is "movies are expensive and no one wants to risk it on an unknown trans actor," just stop; plenty of big movies feature unknowns. Tell us it's about acting being an art and the actor shouldn't matter for the role; otherwise you're being too honest about it being exploitation. Also, if that's your attitude about casting, then I fully expect you to be OK with James Woods playing Malcolm X or Martin Luther King in a Dinesh D'Souza-directed and Steve Bannon-funded production, right? Quit blowing smoke up our asses and just be blunt that you want to give actors with limited range but a strong name recognition the opportunity to make you bigger bank by tossing them a trophy. Just be honest that you want screw us just like the sex worker trans characters you always seem to cast cisgender actors to play.
We've complained about this exploitative practice the last dozen times you've done it, and now we're done. If your refusal to cast trans actors in trans roles is about you being afraid to lose money, then that's the game we'll play. We'll make the buzz about your little attempts at an A-lister "indie film" so toxic, if people want to see it they'll have to sneak into the theater like they were going to an old-school porn theater to rub one out. With the way Little Miss Bodysuit wants to treat us, don't expect us to play nice anymore.
Our lives are more than just tragic tales of emotionally damaged outcasts, and we are not a chance for your overpaid actors to break out of the typecasting they have found themselves in. If Scarlett Johansson wants to break out of the typecast of "girl in tight clothes," she can go play a nun, a Russian peasant, or maybe a compassionless, spoiled Hollywood brat. We are not your opportunity to "challenge yourself as an actor." If you want to truly challenge yourself by playing trans, then commit to the role. Take hormones for a year, have your career go to crap, live paycheck to paycheck, lose your friends and family, and get the surgery. Seriously, commit. Though, having said that, I know that Daniel Day-Lewis would probably do all that.
At this point, all the evidence is clear: Hollywood types want our pain, our suffering, and our tragedies for their bank accounts and trophy shelves and nothing else. There are plenty of trans actors, writers, producers, and directors making a wide range of trans media that isn't a cliche, and they are not interested in them. I have heard more than one tale told by these trans creators where they have informed these cisgender Hollywood folks that these characters are shallow, two-dimensional, or just plain exploitative, and they didn't care. I have heard plenty of stories from trans talent about how they have walked away from roles and opportunities because they were gross stereotypes they refused to play and those roles were eventually filled by a cisgender actor. All of this reminds me of a film from the 1980s called Hollywood Shuffle, written by and starring Robert Townsend about a black actor facing the typecasting and tropes of being a black actor in Hollywood. We should do like what a lot of these cisgender Hollywood types say and make our own content and tell our own stories.
Scarlett Johansson's arrogant and cruel dismissal of our outrage and concerns is the line in the sand. We can no longer let Hollywood stars exploit trangender people's stories for their own careers. It's time to make these movies so unpopular that no one will see them, that we drop the pretense of it being art and not caricature, and that we show we are done being exploited. Your red-carpet walks will most certainly be attended by the trans community -- but it will be as a protest. You won't receive any more awards from the LGBTQ community for your "bravery" if you tell us to sit down and shut up. We're done; you're canceled.
AMANDA KERRI is a writer and comedian based in Oklahoma City. Follow her on Twitter@Amanda_Kerri.