Scarlett Johansson has stepped away from the movie in which she was going to portray a trans man. She’s also apologized for her initial reply that was, at the very least, snarky, rude and uncalled for. The reactions have been varied, but overall supportive. I feel like we have all been ponies in an episode of My Little Pony in this mess.
Her new statement from the first article I linked to is as follows:
“Our cultural understanding of transgender people continues to advance, and I’ve learned a lot from the community since making my first statement about my casting and realize it was insensitive,” she said. “I have great admiration and love for the trans community and am grateful that the conversation regarding inclusivity in Hollywood continues.”
Some people feel this is a carefully crafted statement that she does not mean so she can save her career. Others feel that this is sincere. Still others have speculated that she was scared of social justice warriors. We do not have crystal balls, all we have are the words and actions of people. Her words are apologetic and her actions currently reflect the sentiment that she will not do the movie.
Her future actions will be interesting. Will Johansson become an active ally? Will she speak to other cis actors who attempt to play transgender roles? Could Johansson one day be a vehicle to advocacy for transgender actors to become more employable. It is hard for trans people to get work as a barista, let alone a role on stage. The scales of justice and equality are out of balance and allies like her would be helpful.
The other possibility is that this was all about PR and she will move on with her life doing nothing to affect change. Wait for our collective short attention spans to move on to the next news item to be outraged about, and move on with her life as it was before all of this erupted.
In some ways I know how she feels. At least in regards to saying insensitive things about the LGBTQIA+ community and then retracting it all. I used to be a minister. The first half of my career as a minister I thought that being LGBTQIA was a sin. I not only thought that, I taught it. I taught it as a youth minister which means I taught children this horrible lesson.
In 2006 I realized I was wrong. I thought that saying LGBTQIA people were not sinful abominations and welcoming them into my church and my life was enough. Then in 2009 a young man who went to my church was beaten by two students in his school for being gay. In the same week a young lady in my church had a glass soda bottle thrown at her from a moving vehicle. She was injured then the bottle struck her in the head.
It was not enough for me to say I evolved. It was not enough to say that I respected LGBTQIA+ people. In the community I was in, I had influence. I had a responsibility to be an advocate. I stood in courtrooms, spoke in town hall meetings, filed discrimination charges to the school district, and worked with another church to help create a GSA for the young people.
The Pony Connection
When my son was younger, there were some things he was in fandom of. Sonic the Hedgehog and My Little Pony were two things he enjoyed. In My Little Pony you have, ultimately, the journey of Twilight Sparkle coming to Ponyville. In the journey there will be new friends made. Rarity, Fluttershy, Applejack ,Rainbow Dash and Pinkie Pie. Together they will learn lessons that will require them to look deeper into themselves, each other, and the world around them.
This is not a kid’s show about eating healthy and staying in school, this is a show with moral lessons about character, acceptance, and accepting our limitations and having to rely on community to overcome antagonists.
In most of the lessons of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic there were layers. There was the moment of realization, but then there was what you were going to do about it. And the most brilliant aspects of a show intended for children? In the future episodes you would see the change in the characters and the community. Evolution. Next steps. Lessons not only learned, but applied.
May we all learn and apply what we have learned in this saga.