SuperGirl's Nicole Maines on Scarlett Johansson's Trans Role: 'We Deserve to Exist As We Do'

Illustration for article titled SuperGirl's Nicole Maines on Scarlett Johansson's Trans Role: 'We Deserve to Exist As We Do'
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Actor Nicole Maines made headlines at San Diego Comic-Con over the weekend when it was revealed that she would play TV’s first-ever transgender superhero. Maines will take on the role of Nia Nal, the reimagined Nura Nal (Dream Girl) on the CW’s SuperGirl.

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In an interview with Variety, Maines was asked—and very graciously addressed—the controversy over Scarlett Johansson’s casting (and later, the decision to remove herself from the role) in the film Rub & Tug as a trans man named Dante “Tex” Gill, who was famous for operating a massage parlor and brothel in 1970s/80s Pittsburgh.

Maines said:

“Cisgender actors don’t take trans roles out of malice. I think it’s just failure to realize the context behind having cisgender people play transgender characters because we don’t see the same issue with sexuality.”

Maines further pointed out what Johansson and others keep missing, which is that having cisgender actors portray trans roles perpetuates the idea that trans people are “playing dress up”:

“We have straight people playing gay people all the time and that’s because there isn’t a larger conversation around—there’s not so much harmful rhetoric flying around that they are parading around, dressing up, pretending and so you have to think about context with that. And with trans folks, we have a lot of people accusing us of just playing dress up for whatever reason, and that’s not true. And so having trans people play trans roles shows that we are valid in our identity and we deserve to exist as we do. And so when we have cisgender actors play trans characters, it further that stereotype that we are playing dress up, which is not true.”

Other trans actors like Transparent’s Trace Lysette have publicly taken issue with and addressed the hypocrisy of Johansson’s casting.

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DISCUSSION

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having cisgender actors portray trans roles perpetuates the idea that trans people are “playing dress up”

It’s weird how this larger political context gets ignored in favor of people bleating back the same tired “IT’S CALLED ACTING GAAAAWD!” line. As if anyone’s really saying that it’s physically impossible for a cis person to actually portray a trans person.

But then I guess it makes sense, given that Hollywood has always been 100% about The Craft and has never cynically exploited the lives of “odd people” for the sake of career advancement and Oscar glory...