Here’s the reason why people are upset with Matt Bomer’s new role (and it’s totally valid)
Hollywood is in the midst of a diversity crisis. Earlier this year, the casting of Scarlett Johnson in Rupert Sanders’ adaptation of Ghost In The Shell was met with a barrage of criticism, with many accusing the director of whitewashing what is traditionally a Japanese role.
Similarly, Jared Leto’s Oscar winning turn as a transgender prostitute living with AIDs in 2013’s Dallas Buyer’s Club was also heavily criticized for not giving transgender actors a voice. And now it seems that Matt Bomer is also coming under fire, too.
Earlier this week (August 29), Variety reported that Matt Bomer would be starring in the upcoming adaptation of Timothy McNeil’s stage play, Anything, alongside John Carroll Lynch, Maura Tierney, Micah Hauptman, Margot Bingham, and Melora Hardin.
As Variety reports, the film’s plot follows Lynch’s character as he moves to Los Angeles from Mississippi following a string of suicidal thoughts. There he meets a transgender sex worker, played by Bomer, and the pair strike up an unlikely friendship.
While it’s great to see that films that include transgender characters are being made, many have criticized the decision to cast Bomer, a cisgender actor, in the role when a transgender woman could have played the role.
In an attempt to strike up a conversation with Matt Bomer and Michelle Rodriguez, whose transgender revenge thriller (Re)Assignment has also faced backlash from the transgender community, trans-actress Jamie Clayton tweeted that she hoped that both actors would also help the trans-community, before linking to an article titled “Making movies with transgender protagonists is not, on its own, progress.”
Soon after tweeting that, Clayton shared the following with her followers.
“It’s sad that this happens instead of wanting to have a conversation about how to help,” she wrote underneath a picture that appears to show that Bomer had blocked her on Twitter.
Writing for mic.com, journalist Mathew Rodriguez drew comparisons between Bomer’s role and those of Felicity Hoffman in Transamerica and Jared Leto in Dallas Buyer’s Club, writing that once again a cisgendered person, a man in this case, had been offered the role of a transgender person out of the plethora of transgender actors and actresses out there.
Of course, this feeds into a wider discussion about diversity in Hollywood, and why studios are so frightened to cast minority people in lead roles. In fact, a recent study conducted by the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism concluded that women, ethnic minorities, and LGBT people were excluded at all levels of the industry, thereby creating an “epidemic of invisibility.”
This sentiment was echoed on Twitter, with many claiming that in order to do transgender stories justice, transgender voices need to be included from the beginning of the project.
It seems that now, however, Bomer has unblocked Clayton on Twitter.
There is some debate about whether transgender actors and actresses necessarily want to play all the transgender roles. In an interview with SBS in Australia about the trans-community’s reaction to The Danish Girl, Kristyana Finch, president of Gender Diversity Alliance South Australia, said, “The concept that any transgender actor is going to necessarily want all the transgender parts is totally absurd.”
Anything is being executive produced by Mark Ruffalo, who starred alongside Bomer in HBO’s adaptation of The Normal Heart. Speaking about the film, he said, “I’m very happy to be part of this daring project. Love is at the essence of great storytelling and transcends all discrimination and politicization.”
Matt Bomer has yet to make a statement about the controversial casting choice. The 38-year-old actor has previously appeared in American Horror Story: Hotel, where he played a serial killer, and both Magic Mike films.