Actress Jen Richards explains the problem with casting cis actors in trans roles


#1

Originally published at: http://boingboing.net/2016/09/06/actress-jen-richards-explains.html


#2

I agree that filmmakers should, by all means, cast trans people in trans roles whenever they can. And I see what she’s saying about the disconnect between the reality of a trans woman being female versus a man playing a woman.

But accusing actors cast in those roles of actively causing the death of trans people is unfortunate hyperbole that shuts down the necessary conversation. The benefit of giving trans stories widespread visibility and a human face surely outweighs any confusion about whether actors can bring these people to life or not.

There’s something to be said for the fact that actors are actors with the ability to be things they are not. It’s their job.


#3

And what if Bomer’s just a much better actor? I guess these kinds of considerations don’t go for much any more.


#4

I know she has a much deeper understanding of this topic than me so I don’t want to dismiss the “Cis men playing trans women leads to death” comment outright, but it does sound like hyperbole to me. I don’t remember anyone accusing Tom Hanks of causing violence against gay people when he played the lead character in Philadelphia. (Though it’s possible they did and I was just unaware of it at the time).


#5

What if he’s not?

I can make a lazy zero-information statement too.


#6

I get her point. It probably is even true for some people. I think it has waaaay more to do with cultural norms, though. Not who is playing who in Hollywood.

But IMHO getting the exposure and getting people to see trans people as people is what is going to win the fight in the long run.

BTW - again - twitter fucking huge PITA to get any MEANINGFUL point across. Jesus Christ. Please die in a fire already.


#7

And what if Al Jolson’s the better actor?

And what if someone who isn’t black, or isn’t trans, and isn’t even a womon, has to be twice as good to avoid misrepresenting those who are?

And what if someone who is black, or is trans, or is a womon, has to be twice as good to get any part?

Where does that get us?


#8

I think I see where she’s coming from when she says this:

When @MattBomer plays a trans sex worker, he is telling the world that underneath it all, trans women like me are still really just men.

At least I think I understand. Being a cis guy myself I know I’ll never fully understand what trans people go through, but when a straight actor plays a gay character it doesn’t normally raise questions about whether homosexuality is “real”. To take a more recent example even though Sean Penn is a straight guy I don’t think his portrayal of Harvey Milk made anyone question whether Milk was really attracted to other men.

When a man plays a trans person who presents as female, though, I think things are still at a point that it allows some people to cling to the notion that trans people are just “pretending”. Then again those people may be hopelessly trapped in their own prejudices.


#9

I guess that makes sense, but wouldn’t it also apply to the Tom Hanks example? Back in the 90s plenty of people (that is, more than today) talked about homosexuality as a “choice of lifestyle” rather than an inherent human trait.


:game_die: Would You LIKE to Play a Game? :video_game:
#10

I agree. I think that while her point is valid, Jen Richards is speaking from inside the strange crucible that is Hollywood, and isn’t giving moviegoers enough credit. I think that people can acknowledge that Jared Leto is a cis actor playing a trans woman while also accepting that their hypothetical co-worker Sue is authentically a woman who they used to know as a man.


#11

Jolson was a Jewish actor portraying a Jewish singer. Casting him wasn’t a stretch.


#12

And we’ll end up with only actual truck drivers being fit to portray truck drivers, because ‘authenticity’. But who will play Hitler?

(Cmon, this thread needed Godwin)


#13

Well… because the whole “straight men being irreconcilably both attracted and repulsed by the object of their desire and taking their angry confused frustration out on already extremely vulnerable sex workers” doesn’t apply to that instance? Like at all?


#14

What’s next? Only bi-polar actors can portray bi-polar characters? For the sure-to-be Forrest Gump remake we need to cast a real double amputee? I agree, moving beyond the point where it was socially acceptable for Mickey Rooney to portray an Asian was a good thing. But at a certain point we have to be able to draw a line since we are talking about pretending.


#15

sometimes I’m told by gender non-essentialists that everyone is performing and pretending. that everything is ‘drag’.

It seems there a 2 competing ideologies. Why do i have to pick one?


#16

but she wants the whole culture to change, and she needs Hollywood to comply, so that an even smaller percentage of men who want to have sex with a small percentage trans women but feel so guilty/squicky about it afterwards that they want to kill their partner will realize the errors of their ways and reduce the trans murder rate by .0002 percent.


#17

I am going to have to insist on a source for that claim.


#18

I have some issues with the idea with this.

Most of the trans women I have known do not want to be seen as trans, they want to be seen as women. The few trans women actors I knew wanted to play women, not trans people. Some would rather never play a trans woman ever.

If we end up typecasting all trans actors in trans roles (which I feel that will be the end result if we do this) we will end up with fewer trans people acting. This is not the result that we want.

This is a problem with no easy solution.


#19

you should probably get a source for the idea that men playing trans roles increases violence as well.


#20

I think all of these seem to miss the point. Hollywood already has a general rule that it applies over top of other considerations, that men play men and women play women. Just about always – to the point where awards have separate categories for them. When there are exceptions, it’s for things like Eddy Murphy comedies, not to get better people in serious roles.

And then there is an exception in this kind of case, where a woman is played by a man all of a sudden, because the character is trans. Well, men play men and women play women, so that only makes sense if you think a trans woman is a man. That’s the message Richards is calling out as dangerous; I think her main objections would not apply if it were a trans woman played by a cis woman. It’s not about segregating trans and cis, it’s about not misgendering.