Legendary actor Annette Bening has explained in the best possible way why cis actors should never play trans characters.
Bening told The Telegraph that having a trans son, Stephen Ira, forced her to confront problematic casting choices in Hollywood.
“It has expanded my world view in that way, and certainly in the world of trans actors,” Bening said when asked about her trans son.
“The important thing that I’ve really begun to understand about that issue is that sometimes people see trans people as [putting on] a sort of performance. That’s why it’s OK for cis people to play trans people.
“But in fact that’s a mistake, it’s a misunderstanding,” she added.
Annette Bening says it’s a ‘mistake’ for cis actors to play trans characters – but many have built careers on doing so.
The issue of cis actors playing trans characters comes up time and time again in Hollywood.
Numerous cis actors have made names for themselves by playing trans characters, including Eddie Redmayne (The Danish Girl), Elle Fanning (3 Generations), Jared Leto (Dallas Buyers Club), Matt Bomer (Anything), and Hilary Swank (Boys Don’t Cry).
The issue was thrown into the spotlight two years ago when Scarlett Johansson revealed that she had signed up to play a trans man in Rub and Tug.
Johansson faced significant backlash for the decision, and ultimately opted to drop out of the project, which was ultimately cancelled despite calls to recast it with a transgender star.
The important thing that I’ve really begun to understand about that issue is that sometimes people see trans people as [putting on] a sort of performance. That’s why it’s OK for cis people to play trans people.
In the wake of the Rub and Tug debacle, a number of major Hollywood production companies backed a 2018 letter that called on the industry to “use its power to improve the lives of trans people” by telling trans stories “authentically” with trans actors and creatives.
The accompanying TRANSform Hollywood guidebook for creatives cautions against casting major cisgender stars as trans people in projects.
It says: “The world is evolving, and today it is a mistake, especially if you are cross-sex casting (a cis man to play a trans woman, or a cis woman to play a trans man.)
“It simply isn’t cost effective to take this risk; recent projects which cast cis actors to play trans roles have felt the tide of public opinion turn against them and have taken a hit at the box office.”
Halle Berry was forced to apologise for signing on to play a trans man.
Halle Berry was the latest cis actor to face backlash when she signed on to play a trans man.
Following a storm of controversy, the actor pulled out of the project and apologised last month.
“As a cisgender woman, I now understand that I should not have considered this role, and that the transgender community should undeniably have the opportunity to tell their own stories.
“I am grateful for the guidance and critical conversation over the past few days and will continue to listen, educate and learn from this mistake,” she added.
The problematic history of trans representation in Hollywood was recently chronicled in the Netflix documentary Disclosure.
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