Scarlett Johansson was caught up in an argument over political correctness and authentic casting this week, but she says her words were taken out of context. The actress gave a wide-ranging interview about the nature of art and representation in media with As If Magazine, and one quote in particular was isolated.
Johansson has long been the butt of the joke when it comes to issues of white-washing and representation in media. She played he lead in 2017's Ghost in the Shell -- a role that many felt should have gone to a Japanese or Asian actor -- and she recently dropped out of Rub & Tug, where she was cast as a transgender man, following outcry. For Johansson, this raised questions about her very creative craft itself.
Still, in her conversation with artist David Salle, Johansson mused that, in theory, she should be "allowed to play any person," or any other role based on the merits of her acting skills alone. As the story spread on social media, this was taken to mean that Johansson was arguing against authentic casting and representation. However, in an exclusive statement via her publicist, she says that is not the case.
"An interview that was recently published has been edited for click bait and is widely taken out of context," Johansson tells PopCulture.com. "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."
"That is the point I was making, albeit didn't come across that way," she went on. "I recognize that in reality, there is a widespread discrepancy amongst my industry that favors Caucasian, cis gendered actors and that not every actor has been given the same opportunities that I have been privileged to."
"I continue to support, and always have, diversity in every industry and will continue to fight for projects where everyone is included," Johansson finished.
Johansson's conversation with Salle came at issues of casting from a far different angle than many critics online did in analyzing her words. For Johansson, the question of authentic casting and representation opened up a whole new arena of interesting discussions to be had on the very nature of performance itself.
"We live in such a weird time that is sort of identity-less in a lot of ways. I don’t know if there’s a trend in performance, but there’s certainly trends in casting right now," she said. "Today there’s a lot of emphasis and conversation about what acting is and who we want to see represent ourselves on screen. The question now is, what is acting anyway?"
OMG I can’t believe I just met Scarlett Johansson!! what an honor!!! pic.twitter.com/81Ryb2t9XF— franzi (@niceonefransi) July 14, 2019
Johansson's statements led to an angry uproar among many readers, who felt that she was minimizing the importance of representation, as well as the issue of taking potential job opportunities away from people in the demographics she is portraying, such as Asian women or transgender men. This outrage was only compounded by Johansson's remark elsewhere in the interview about how well-paid she is.
"It’s definitely a wonderful job to have and being satisfied with my job puts my lifestyle second on my priority list," she said. "But, the actual reality is that acting is very lucrative, and most of the time I can go to a restaurant without a reservation. That is the biggest perk."
On social media, Johansson's quotes were considered on their own merit, outside of the context of her chat with Salle. Many users had strong but opposing views on the issue, while others simply joked about cinematic trees Johansson could play.
y’all i’m shocked... i didn’t know scarlett johansson was in prisoner of azkaban pic.twitter.com/1qvpqSreVq— emily (@pctterdiaries) July 14, 2019