Casting Controversy & Why Acting Is No Longer a Form of Art

There is a big problem these days with casting actors for roles. The moment a movie goes in to production casting begins, and sometimes the casting choice may not be the appropriate choice for the character they are chosen to play. 

Now with social media, the public gets instant access to breaking news about who was cast to take a role in an upcoming film. Sometimes the news receives a lot of backlash and sometimes people embrace the choice. 

This is specifically true for a recent controversial statement made by Scarlett Johansson, known for her portrayal as Natasha Romanoff aka Black Widow in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. 

Johansson recently did an interview with “As If” magazine, and made a bold statement that she feels political correctness is antithetical to art. 

“You know, as an actor I should be allowed to play any person, or any tree, or any animal because that’s my job and that’s the requirements of my job. It’s a trend in my business and it needs to happen for various social reasons, yet there are times it does get uncomfortable when it affects the art because I feel art should be free of restrictions”

“I think society would be more connected if we just allowed others to have their own feelings and not expect everyone to feel the way we do”

Of course, the statement swiftly received lots of backlash.

Charlotte Clymer, a transgendered woman stated on twitter “Scarlett Johansson is a cisgender white woman with a powerful platform and no shortage of work opportunities. Trans people should play trans people. Period. It is incredibly disappointing that she has learned nothing and clearly does not care about the experiences of trans people” Clymer continued, “I will not be seeing any films that involve Scarlett Johansson moving forward. I do not want to give my money to someone who trivializes the oppression of trans people and diminishes the importance of our visibility”

As the damage was being done, Johansson told The Washington Post in a statement through her publicist that her comments were “edited for clickbait” and “widely taken out of context”.

Which in turn they were taken way out of context because the interview focused more on her quote about how she should be able to play any character and not maintain the context of what she actually meant when she made the statement. Thus, many sources began spreading the news and the statement became one sided.

Johansson added in her statement “The question I was answering in my conversation with the contemporary artist, David Salle, was about the confrontation between political correctness and art. I personally feel that in an ideal world any actor should be able to play anybody and Art in all forms, should be immune to political correctness. That is the point I was making, albeit didn’t come across that way” 

She’s not wrong, acting is a form of art, a form of expression, we all know this. If you have the ability to take on a different persona and fully be that person then you should be able to do just that. 

The problem we have now is that we live in a world where political correctness is more important than the craft of acting. People will find it incredibly offensive if they see a person pretending to be someone, they know nothing about or someone they are not. This is where the outrage came from. 

Scarlett was already slammed for playing an Asian character in the movie “Ghost in the Shell” which was made for an Asian woman, she should have never been cast for that character. Then not too long ago she was in talks to play a transgendered woman in a movie “Rub & Tug”. After the backlash but before she turned down the job, she gave a dismissive comment to Bustle through her publicist “Tell them that they can be directed to Jeffrey Tambor, Jared Leto, and Felicity Huffman’s reps for comment” she referred to these actors because they had previously portrayed transgendered characters. 

Back in 2018 after the “Rub and Tug” casting controversy, she did make a statement in Out magazine.

“Our cultural understanding of transgendered people continues to advance, and I’ve learned a lot from the community since making my first statement about my casting and realize it was insensitive. I would have loved the opportunity to bring Dante’s story and transition to life. I understood why many felt that this casting debate, albeit controversial has sparked a larger conversation about diversity and representation in film. I believe that all artists should be considered equally and fairly”

Scarlett’s statement continues from the AS IF interview.

“I recognize that in reality, there is a wide spread discrepancy among my industry that favors Caucasian, cis gendered actors and that not every actor has been given the same opportunities that I have been privileged to. I continue to support, and always have, diversity in every industry and will continue to fight for projects where everyone is included.” 

So even though Johansson concluded with this statement, he headlines focused on the more controversial issue. This is what outraged the public because it was made to look like she was against inclusiveness and being politically correct. 

Scarlett Johansson is one of those actresses who could fill seats at the theater, and the unfortunate thing about Hollywood right now is that they use these big names to generate more buzz about new projects. ScarJo fans will go see a movie with ScarJo in it. This is what happened with “Ghost In the Shell” casting Johansson and making her look Asian was a terrable idea, however her name and her track record was enough that people would go see the film. This is the same thing Fox did with the X-Men franchise, with people like Jennifer Lawrence, big name, who they though would create more buzz about the movie because she’s a super star in a super hero movie. 

Sometimes specific actors are offered specific roles because they are big stars, and not because they are perfect for the role.  

The backlash continued, but the fact of the matter is that actors should have the right to do the job they were given. Hollywood is changing, and the people in that business are being called out on their “bull shit” for not being inclusive to people who are more deserving. 

The casting choice for movies and TV shows is mainly the job of the director, so they are the ones who reach out to agents and attempt to recruit actors who they believe will be great portraying the character they need for the story. 

We are in an era where film makers have to be careful when selecting an actor for a role, we have to be sure they can purely and authentically portray the character that the directors envision, as far as gender/ gender non-conforming, race, and sexual orientation. 

However straight actors are still being cast to play gay characters, gay actors are sometimes only getting cast to play gay characters. We are only now beginning to see the roles swap, sometimes when we don’t realize. 

There’s nothing better than the real thing, having a truly authentic person playing a trans character is better than having someone who doesn’t know anything about their struggle probably wouldent be able to deliver the performance nescessary for the character stand out.

The very fabric of the movie and TV business is changing, and we will be seeing more diverse and complex characters moving forward. 

What do you think about the casting controversy going on today?

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