Yesterday, some comments from an interview that Scarlett Johansson gave to As If magazine came out, resurrecting a few controversies that she’s been involved with in the last couple years—specifically her role as the traditionally Asian character Major Motoko Kusanagi in Ghost In The Shell and her backlash-prompted decision to drop out of starring in a movie as real-life trans gangster Dante “Tex” Gill. In the As If interview, Johansson declared that, as an actor, she “should be allowed to play any person, or any tree, or any animal” because that is her job and that is what her job requires, acknowledging that sometimes this makes things “uncomfortable” but that “art should be free of restrictions.”
It was a bad take, coming across as something that only a very self-important and out-of-touch actor could come up with, but now Johansson is trying to take those comments back with a classic “edited for clickbait” defense. In a statement given to Entertainment Weekly, Johansson says that her quote has been taken out of context:
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. I recognize that in reality, there is a wide spread 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.
Basically, she’s saying that all actors should be allowed to play all roles, because capital-A “Art” should not be subjected to the constraints of political correctness. Whether she’s right about that, it is an easy position for someone like Scarlett Johansson to take—though, in her defense, she does at least seem to be aware of her privilege and she has managed to go two whole years without playing an Asian character.