Monday, July 16, 2018

Sisters Act

In light of the brouhaha over actress Scarlett Johansson portraying/not portraying a transman in a new film, I am repeating what I wrote (with edits) in March 2015.

That is actor Eddie Redmayne in the photo above femulating in the film The Danish Girl in which he plays Einar Wegener/Lili Elbe, a Danish artist who was an early sex reassignment surgery patient.

As in the past, whenever a non-transgender person gets the role of a transgender person, there is a hue and cry from the transgender community complaining that a transgender actor/actress should have gotten the role. And so it goes with the non-trans Redmayne portraying Einar Wegener/Lili Elbe.

I have no complaint about hiring a non-trans person to play a trans role. If I was casting a film, I would want the best actors/actresses to be in my film whether or not their personal life experience matched that of the film’s characters. If there was a match that would be icing on the cake, but if not, that’s where the ability of an actor to play a role takes over.

And as a member of the audience, I want my money’s worth; I want to see the best performances that money can buy up on the big screen, not an amateurish production featuring authentic transpeople or cowboys or cops or snipers. Have you ever sat through a film featuring any of Warhol’s trans trio, Candy, Holly, and Jackie? I rest my case.

My complaint about the casting of transgender roles is using females to play transwomen and vice versa, using males to play transmen. For the sake of authenticity, male actors should play transwomen and female actresses should play transmen.

Who is a more authentic transwoman: the pretty and petite Felicity Huffman in Transamerica or the large of frame, six-foot-one Jeffrey Tambor in Transparent? The audience has to suspend disbelief, i.e., that Huffman is a cisgender woman in order to accept her as a pre-op transsexual, whereas it is easy for the audience to buy into Tambor’s masculine roots.

And in this day and age, during Trump's War on Transgenders, I think we have bigger fish to fry than something as trivial as who portrays who in movie roles.

Source: Intermix
Wearing Intermix (Source: Intermix)

Taylor Hawkins
Taylor Hawkins femulates a flight attendant in The Foo Fighters' "Learn to Fly" video.


  1. and the glorious twentysomething Raquel Welch as Myra Breckenridge? If she was a transsexual, I know who I would put up for the Nobel Prize in medicine.

  2. I'm with you on this. As I said to my wife last night when the news story about Johannson's decision was aired: "Either the movie will never get filmed now, because without a big name star in the lead there's little interest; or, if it does, it will flop for the same reason."

  3. I would have agreed with you up until a couple of days ago when I saw a smart, young transwoman on YouTube. She was basically making the same complaint and then extending it out to when the cismale actor portraying the transwoman comes out to accept his acting award in male mode with full beard, the viewing public can too easily conflate being trans with drag, that essentially it's all just a performance for us...and for most of us it's not, it is expressing who we are.

    So the next time a transwoman role comes along, find a qualified transwoman actress. And vice versa for transmen. Just give it a little try.

    1. Why can't the male actor who portrayed a transwoman come out in male mode? It was a role! If he won for playing a cowboy does he have to be dressed for the 1800s and come out on a horse?

      If you find a qualified transwoman, hire her. Otherwise, better a cismale than a ciswoman for most transwoman roles.