In the latest casting controversy to sweep Hollywood, American Horror Story and Magic Mike actor Matt Bomer has been blasted online for accepting the role of a transgender woman in the upcoming movie Anything. The film is based on a play by Timothy McNeil, and will star John Carroll Lynch (a.k.a. Freak Show's Twisty the Clown) as a suicidal widower who begins an intense friendship with a transgender sex worker (Bomer). This is the latest casting announcement to cause outrage on Twitter, and it's sparked an important conversation on why trans actors should be cast in trans roles.
The trans community is also having its say. Actress Jen Richards called out the casting team behind Anything:
While Sense8 star Jamie Clayton tried to start a dialogue with Bomer... until he blocked her (he has since unblocked her):
After much of the criticism was aimed at Bomer, Mark Ruffalo, Anything's executive producer, took to his Twitter page to address the trans community first hand:
Interested in reading more on representation in Hollywood? Take a look at:
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- Moana: Is The Backlash For Disney's New Animated Film Warranted?
- 'The Great Wall': Matt Damon, Constance Wu And Hollywood Whitewashing
Some were calling for Bomer's role to be re-cast, but Ruffalo informed fans that the movie had already been shot:
Transgender People Should Be Cast In Transgender Roles
Here's the problem: while we can all agree that the best actor should be cast in the role, I cannot believe that there wasn't a single trans actress qualified enough to play a trans role as well as, if not better than, Matt Bomer. Some have also argued that Bomer has some kind of monopoly on LGBT* roles because he is gay, but this makes the whole thing even more disappointing. As an actor who has lost out on parts because of his sexuality (Superman & 50 Shades of Grey), Bomer should have been fully aware of the impact of representation, stereotyping and homophobia in the film industry, and therefore been able to make a wiser (or more thoughtful) decision regarding the role.
By casting cisgender, white men in these roles, you are actively banishing trans people from their own narrative — while at the same time showering actors like Eddie Redmayne, Jared Leto and Hillary Swank with praise and accolades for their 'brave' acting achievements. Trans people already face enough rejection, damaging legislation and transphobia in the real world, so by removing them from film and TV, you're effectively silencing them and denying them the right to their own identity and history.
Hollywood needs to understand that putting a man in a wig, make-up and heels doesn't make him transgender. Taking on a 'challenging' role doesn't make you brave. Fortunately, Mark Ruffalo's comments were welcome and appreciated by the trans acting community, but it still doesn't fix the problem. As he said, we're all learning — but how many more men in wigs will it take for Hollywood to start thinking about transgender experiences as more than just the latest challenge of acting's elite?
Do you think Hollywood needs to take more responsibility for its casting?