Columnist unrepentant over problematic article defending Scarlett Johansson playing trans man
A columnist for Business Insider has quit her job after her column defending Scarlett Johansson playing a transgender man was taken down earlier this week.
Daniella Greenbaum publicly resigned from her position as columnist for the website on Thursday, posting a public resignation letter addressed to the site’s editor on her Twitter page.
Trans activists, actors and allies criticised Johansson, a cisgender woman, for agreeing to play Dante ‘Tex’ Gill, a transgender man in the new biopic movie Rub & Tug. In a column for Business Insider, Greenbaum said Johansson was being “unfairly criticised.”
Greenbaum argued that Johansson is the latest victim of what she calls a “social-justice warrior mob.” The piece also stated that Johansson’s identity as a woman shouldn’t keep her from playing a man or a transgender man.
“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,” wrote Greenbaum.
Business Insider took down the column after some of its staff complained about the piece. In place of the opinion piece, the page now reads: ”Upon further review, we decided it did not meet our editorial standards.”
Greenbaum therefore decided to quit in a resignation letter to Business Insider’s editor-in-chief, Nicholas Carson.
The letter reads: “Can an actor act? That is the question I wanted to weight in on when I saw the brouhaha about Scarlett Johansson’s role in the upcoming movie Rub and Tug.
“My judgment: Yes. A woman can play a man or a trans man.”
I believe female actors can play men and trans men. That is the apparently controversial view that inspired BI to take down my piece. I have resigned from @businessinsider and explain why in my letter to EIC @nichcarlson pic.twitter.com/5G2UZggXi9
— Daniella Greenbaum Davis (@DGreenbaum) July 12, 2018
Greenbaum went on to list other “controversial” views, including her thoughts on positive discrimination in university admissions, Hamas and cultural appropriation.
Business Insider published LGBT sensitivity guidelines following concerns about Greenbaum’s column.
Following the news that Johansson would play Gill, trans activists and actors pointed out that as an already successful cisgender actress, she was taking an opportunity from transgender actors who struggle in Hollywood.
Trace Lysette, who appears in Amazon’s Transparent, took to Twitter to say: “Not only do you play us and steal our narrative and our opportunity but you pat yourselves on the back with trophies and accolades for mimicking what we have lived.”
Lysette revealed she had received death threats following her tweet.
Johansson brushed off criticism in a dismissive statement to Bustle that read: “Tell them that they can be directed to Jeffrey Tambor, Jared Leto, and Felicity Huffman’s reps for comment.” All three actors have received praise and backlash for portraying transgender characters. The actress’ reply was deemed “tone-deaf.”
Johansson has a history of taking on controversial roles. Just last year, she was accused of whitewashing after playing the lead character in Ghost in the Shell, a character who, in the manga and anime series that the movie is based on, is Japanese.
Rupert Sanders, who directed Ghost in the Shell, will also direct Rub & Tug.