"I should be allowed to play any person." Scarlett Johansson keeps making the same mistake.

In 2018, Scarlett Johansson was named as the highest-paid actress in Hollywood.

In the last year alone, the actress has raked in $40.5 million – largely thanks to her role as Black Widow in Marvel’s Avengers films.

But over the course of the last five years, the actress has also stood out as one of Hollywood’s most controversial figures.

Scarlett Johansson speaks to Mamamia about female friendships. Post continues after video.

Through the constant hate, Twitter memes and controversy, however, Johansson has proven herself to be the movie star most adept at seamlessly moving in and out of controversy.

But no matter how smoothly she appears to sail through the criticism, Scarlett Johansson keeps on making the same mistake.

In 2017, the actress was subject to widespread accusations of whitewashing when she took on the lead role of Major in 2017’s live action adaptation of the manga series Ghost in the Shell, which was directed by Rupert Sanders.

Since the character Johansson was playing was Japanese in the source material, she received fierce backlash for taking on a role that could have instead gone to an Asian actor.

But while the criticism behind the film was widespread, it was a topic of conversation that journalists were reportedly told not to raise while the actress was on the press tour for the 2017 Hollywood remake.

Instead, Johansson only addressed the controversy surrounding the film once, simply telling Marie Claire that she would “never presume to play another race of a person”.

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Scarlett Johansson in 2017's Ghost in the Shell. Image: IMDB.

Ghost in the Shell isn't the first time that Scarlett Johansson has been in the firing line.

Last year, the 34-year-old withdrew from playing the lead role in the film Rub & Tug after backlash from the media and fans alike.

In the based-on-a-true-story drama, directed by Rupert Sanders, Johansson was booked to play Dante 'Tex' Gill – a transgender man.

Initially, Johansson pushed back on the criticism stemming from the role, angering the LBGTQ community with a comment that, quite frankly, entirely missed the mark.

"Tell them that they can be directed to Jeffrey Tambor, Jared Leto, and Felicity Huffman's reps for comment," Johansson told Bustle at the time, referring to a number of cisgender actors who have played transgender characters.

But not long after her initial comment, Johansson withdrew from the film completely, citing the "larger conversation about diversity and representation in film" as the catalyst for changing her mind about her involvement in the film.

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Scarlett Johansson attends the Los Angeles World Premiere of Marvel Studios' Avengers: Endgame. Image: Getty.

Although the movie hasn't yet been officially cancelled, production on the film has reportedly been in limbo since Johnasson backed out of the role in July 2018.

This week, however, Scarlett Johansson ignited the controversy surrounding the film once again.


In an interview with contemporary American artist David Salle for As If, the Avengers: Endgame star seemingly addressed the backlash to both Ghost in the Shell and Rub and Tug, telling Salle: "You know, as an actor I should be allowed to play any person, or any tree, or any animal because that is my job and the requirements of the job."

"I feel like 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," she continued.

Shortly after the piece was published, Johansson further clarified her comments, claiming that her comments were taken out of context.

"An interview that was recently published has been edited for click bait and is widely taken out of context," she said in a 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."

But you see, what Johansson has missed entirely in her response is the fact that the recent controversies surrounding her roles haven't stemmed from playing a tree or even playing an animal.

The controversies Johansson so often finds herself embroiled in are ultimately about taking on roles that quite frankly could have – if not, should have – gone to an actor from a minority group.


Recently, GLAAD found that in 2017, only 14 of the 109 major studio film releases included LGBTQ+ characters. There was not a single character who was transgender.

“In this cultural environment, when we see representations of cis people playing us over and over again, that reinforces the idea that trans women are not really women and trans men are not really men and nonbinary people don’t exist," Laverne Cox explained to Variety last year. "That is the basis of the discrimination that trans people experience.”

Likewise, Asian people only represented 4.8 per cent of speaking roles across 1,100 major films between 2007 and 2017.

In her interview with Salle, Johansson characterised the outrage over her roles as a "trend".

But the outrage is much more than just a trend – it's a movement.

And until Scarlett Johnasson can acknowledge that, she's going to keep on making the same mistake.

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