The Endless Frustration of Scarlett Johansson

She’s made so many missteps, yet I still get riled up every time

Katherine Singh
(Photo: Getty Images; Illustration: Joel Louzado)

The Queen of putting her foot in her mouth is at it again.

In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter on September 4, Scarlett Johansson voiced her support for the infamous director Woody Allen, telling the magazine, “I love Woody. I believe him, and I would work with him anytime.” ICYMI, Allen’s adopted daughter, Dylan Farrow, has long claimed that the director sexually abused her as a child. The allegations—which Farrow has maintained for decades and have been supported by her mother, actor Mia Farrow, and her journalist brother Rowan Farrow—have prompted several famous actors to cut ties with the director and apologize for ever working with him. Allen is also controversial for his relationship with his step-daughter-turned-wife, Soon-Yi Previn. All of which to say that ScarJo’s comments are not a good look.

But this is far from the first time that Johansson has found herself in problematic territory. In 2017, she was criticized for playing a canonically Asian character in the film adaptation of a popular Japanese manga, Ghost In The Shell (hello, whitewashing!). Just a year later, Johansson was called out again for being casted as transgender character Dante “Tex” Gill in the film Rub & Tug — which should have originally gone to a trans actor.

In addition to her casting faux-pas, ScarJo has frequently discussed her relationship with Allen (she’s starred in three of his films), calling the allegations against him “guesswork.” Oh, and at the 2018 Oscars, she wore Marchesa—the fashion label founded by Harvey Weinstein‘s ex-wife and associate, months after allegations against the disgraced Hollywood producer were first reported.

Which is all to say that Johansson’s latest comments are pretty par for the course. So why am I so riled up about them? And more specifically, why am I so riled up by her?

She has *all* the privilege—and she knows it

Johansson’s inability to filter herself, and her comfort with espousing her *very* controversial views is pretty telling. Mainly, it exhibits that she knows she has privilege, and she’s relying on it to protect her. No matter what she says or how many roles she takes from marginalized communities, Johansson knows her career won’t be “cancelled.”

And this is supported with cold, hard facts. In August, Forbes listed the Black Widow star as the highest-paid actress in Hollywood, earning $56 million in 2019. Let’s remember, this was after both casting controversies. This is the second year Johansson has topped the list, proving that straight white men aren’t the only ones who consistently fail upwards.

She’s the epitome of white feminism

What’s so frustrating about Johansson and her personal politics is that she is so clearly the poster child of white feminism: namely, she routinely proves that she only wants to adhere to certain feminist values when it benefits her.

Nothing exemplifies this more than Johansson’s recent Hollywood Reporter interview, in which the actress went from defending Allen to talking about her involvement in women’s issues, including her support of the Time’s Up movement. As one of the original signers—alongside Natalie Portman—of the groundbreaking call to action, which targets sexual assault and pay inequality across various industries, Johansson was on the forefront of a movement meant specifically for women who have been preyed upon by people like Allen.

And only last January, she very publicly called out actor James Franco at the 2018 Women’s March on Washington, after he was accused by five women of inappropriate or sexually exploitative behaviour (Franco denies these claims), just weeks after he accepted a Golden Globe wearing a Time’s Up pin. “How could a person publicly stand by an organization that helps to provide support for victims of sexual assault while privately preying on people who have no power?” she said in her impassioned speech. “I want my pin back, by the way.”

Hey Scarlett, quick Q: How could a person publicly stand by an organization that helps provide support for victims of sexual assault while also *publicly* supporting people who have allegedly preyed on the powerless? We want *our* Time’s Up pin back too.

Johansson’s vocal support of Allen makes her comments about Franco *incredibly* hypocritical.  And the fact that she doesn’t seem to even see this, or acknowledge the harmful effects of her support for Allen on all sexual assault survivors, is infuriating. You can’t have it both ways, Scarlett. You can’t simultaneously say that you support sexual assault survivors *and* publicly support and continue to work with an alleged predator while rejecting his accusers.

On some level, we get it. Supporting Allen still benefits ScarJo because she’s standing by her previous work and someone who helped kickstart her career and make her a leading lady. But there’s a way to acknowledge the positive effect Allen has had on her career and acknowledge that, in retrospect, his work and he as a person are extremely problematic. And the thing is, other actors have done that. While Timothée Chalamet and Selena Gomez were already household names when they starred in Allen’s unreleased film, A Rainy Day in New York, it was no doubt a big deal for them to be cast in the film. Still, both actors decided to donate their profits from the film, in light of the Time’s Up movement and greater conversations around sexual abuse.

Despite the allegations, Allen is still regarded highly in cinematic circles, and working with him can and has kickstarted careers. But this was before we started having these in-depth and very necessary conversations around abuse, and before cancel culture came to the forefront. So to stick by him now, with all of this in mind, seems super tone deaf.

But Johansson doesn’t seem to care. The fact remains that despite *saying* she’s liberal, through her actions, she consistently refutes the very morals she says she supports.

And she refuses to learn or grow

Even more infuriating?  Johansson’s inability to learn from her past mistakes. Despite the repeated backlash she’s received over the past two years, Johansson appears to be quite happy to continue doing what she’s doing and saying what she’s saying, despite the damage it may do to others.

While Johansson did withdraw from Rub & Tug, releasing a statement in July 2018 to OUT magazine that she “understand[s] why many feel [the character] should be portrayed by a transgender person,” and was grateful for the conversations surrounding her casting, this came only after she flippantly responded to the criticism. And almost a year later, Johansson has backtracked on any headway she’d made. In July, she spoke candidly to As If (which, seriously, stop doing this) about the controversies around her several castings. While she didn’t name the films directly, Johansson told the magazine that she felt criticism for taking on marginalized roles was a trend she didn’t appreciate, saying: “You know, as an actor I should be allowed to play any person, or any tree, or any animal because that is my job and the requirements of my job.”

Cool ScarJo, cool.

Not only did Johansson’s comments—and comparison of playing a marginalized character to playing a tree—belittle the very valid complaints lobbied against her, but it was also flippant AF, making clear that she didn’t really take the critiques against her seriously.

And maybe that’s where the real issue lies.  Because as someone who presents herself as a liberal and progressive feminist, Johansson *should* care. The unofficial progressive rulebook dictates that she should take these criticisms seriously and probably not even be getting herself into these situations in the first place. It’s upsetting to see someone who claims to share ideals similar to my own completely contradict them. Honestly Scarlett, just STFU and start owning up to your politics.

Related:

Serious Q: WTF Is Up With Scarlett Johansson Lately?
“I Want My Pin Back:” Scarlett Johansson Slams James Franco
Can a Live-Action Barbie Movie Be Feminist?

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