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Film and TV

French-Belgian film A Good Man casts cis actor in lead trans role and we’re so unbelievably tired of this

Josh Milton September 14, 2020
Noemie Merlant (R) in A Good Man. (Pyramide Distribution)

Noemie Merlant (R) in A Good Man. (Pyramide Distribution)

In today’s edition of ‘you know LGBT+ actors exist, right?’, a French-Belgian film that charts the life of a trans man who, in the midst of his transition, decided to bear a child, has cast a cisgender woman in the lead role.

A Good Man by filmmaker Marie-Castille Mention-Schaar has cast Noémie Merlant as Benjamin who, upon finding out that his partner Aude wants a baby but is unable to conceive, decides to seek in-vitro fertilisation.

But the move to cast a cis woman in the role – following Hollywood stars Eddie Redmayne and Scarlett Johansson – drew criticism, prompting the film’s producer to call comments “stupid and unfair”.

A Good Man filmmaker says the ‘only trans people playing trans roles’ rule is ‘counter-productive’.

At the Cannes Film Festival, Mention-Schaar stressed the scarcity of trans actors and then said she did cast trans actor Ben Ahmed to play a cis man in the film.

“For me, it would be […] counter-productive to only give trans roles to trans actors and cis roles to cis actors,” she added

But this is not quite what activists have argued, who say that the constant casting of non-LGBT+ people in queer roles often amounts to queer-baiting.

LGBT+ film roles have long been corralled into a slim range of storylines – the coming out, the rejection, the death – but such stale plots have been increasingly eschewed in favour of telling queer stories with care and complexity.

But while such roles are on the rise, queer actors continue to struggle, and LGBT+ viewers have expressed mounting frustration at straight, cisgender people being cast in such roles.

This criticism is less to say that only queer actors can play queer roles, but rather, when so little queer roles go to queer actors – who are so often told not to be open – the news of yet another non-queer person being cast in a queer film can be disappointing, to say the least.

‘The idea that filmmakers can’t find trans-masculine actors is complete BS,’ says trans critic.

Indeed, Mention-Schaar said that cis and straight people can shoulder the narratives of LGBT+ lives, looking to Hilary Swank’s Oscar-winning performance in the 1999 film Boys Don’t Cry.

“Before his gender, his sexual identity, his skin colour, an actor or an actress is above all an actor or actress,” she said.

“And I believe the character that he or she embodies needs his technique and his talent.”

But as trans film critic Danielle Solzman told The Wrap: “I’ll say the same thing now that I said in 2018 when The Danish Girl was getting all the outrage: if you cannot find a transgender actor for the project, maybe you shouldn’t be going ahead!

She added: “The idea that filmmakers can’t find trans-masculine actors is complete BS.

“It just proves to show that they aren’t looking hard enough.”

More: A Good Man, Marie-Castille Mention-Schaar, Noemie Merlant, Trans, trans actors, trans films

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