The film tells the story of Dante "Tex" Gill (born Jean Marie Gill), a trans man who became a 1970s crime lord in Pittsburgh by operating a chain of massage parlours.
Johansson will play the lead character, and the decision has plenty of people criticizing Sanders' casting choice once again.
As they argued that Asian actors should be cast to portray Asian characters, critics are now arguing that trans actors should be given the opportunity to portray trans characters onscreen.
Making matters worse, Johansson shirked responsibility for her involvement in the project and responded to the backlash by telling Bustle, "Tell them that they can be directed to Jeffrey Tambor, Jared Leto and Felicity Huffman's reps for comment."
Cisgender actors Tambor, Leto and Huffman previously portrayed trans characters to great critical acclaim in Transparent, Dallas Buyers Club and Transamerica, respectively.
See some of the online reaction to Johansson's casting and response below.
I'm awaiting a statement from @TIMESUPNOW on this. Because clearly they understand the importance of having a trans actor play this role. Actions like those of Johannson have "kept underrepresented groups from reaching their full potential." From the front page of their website: pic.twitter.com/1piPDMu6Xd— April (@ReignOfApril) July 3, 2018
Just so you don't think I'm bandwagon-hopping, this is me in 2016 talking about Eddie Redmayne, a cis gender actor, playing a trans character. #OscarsSoWhite has always been about all marginalized communities, and allowing those communities to tell their own stories. pic.twitter.com/6LLExoO4yU— April (@ReignOfApril) July 3, 2018
We've seen male & female actors in the past few years walk away from roles so that a person who could bring a more nuanced experience to the character was allowed to shine. That is what should happen here. Rub & Tug isn't your movie, ScarJo. No need to monopolize. #OscarsSoWhite pic.twitter.com/auwZEeVTtH— April (@ReignOfApril) July 3, 2018
I am a trans man who has been acting his whole life, I am an aspiring film producer, and a Latino person. People like Scarlett reinforce the concept of not needing us to do our part. That a white cis woman can pretend to be us instead, leaving us on the street. And that is WRONG.— hereforleon (@noctokaz) July 3, 2018
Scarlett Johansson is playing a trans man in her next movie because her ultimate career goal is to take an acting job from a member of each and every marginalized group.— Faith Choyce (@faithchoyce) July 3, 2018
On playing a trans man in her new film, Scarlett Johansson sounds dumb as hell pic.twitter.com/5ycags4iR8— Ira (@ira) July 4, 2018
scarlett johansson is gonna work with the ghost in the shell director AGAIN but this time she's gonna play a trans man pic.twitter.com/G9BrZLbedF— maría (@brujasescarlata) July 3, 2018
The fucking hubris of invoking Tambor with this response when he was literally fired from playing a trans woman for sexually harassing several of us. Way to really underline that you openly disdain the community you're happy to portray for prestige ScarJo. https://t.co/tj3GqIVh3B— Riley Silverman 🏳️🌈 (@rileyjsilverman) July 3, 2018
What's next? Is Scarlett Johansson going to play Barack Obama?— Eugene Gu, MD (@eugenegu) July 4, 2018
Remember when Scarlett Johansson stepped down as an Oxfam ambassador because they criticised her involvement with SodaStream (whose plant was illegally located in the West Bank)?— Hanna Ines Flint (@HannaFlint) July 3, 2018
Remember when Scarlett Johansson played an Asian character in Ghost in the Shell and then used white feminism as an excuse to keep the role?— Hanna Ines Flint (@HannaFlint) July 3, 2018
Hey, remember when Scarlett Johansson told James Franco she wanted his Time's Up pin back then went to dinner with her best pal Woody Allen?— Hanna Ines Flint (@HannaFlint) July 3, 2018
Scarlett Johansson has proven time again that she is not much of an ally when it gets in the way of her personal advancement. I hope this new movie will be rewarded in the same way as GitS - mediocre reviews and a box office failure.— Hanna Ines Flint (@HannaFlint) July 3, 2018
We have to stop hiring non-trans actors to play trans characters. In my opinion, it's equally as traumatic & offensive as black-face. It also shows how lazy, unwoke, and complicit in transphobia you are. #CASTAUTHENTICALLY! https://t.co/3WW1cOzrEE— Steven Canals (@StevenCanals) July 3, 2018
Here's how this will go down:— Magdalene Visaggio, Immaterial Girl (@MagsVisaggs) July 3, 2018
Trans people will object. The director will stand by their casting choice, saying "ScarJo is the best for the role. But Im glad we're having this conversation." Then nothing will change.
Same as always.https://t.co/RnZAeEQZnk
there are literally so many trans actors that could've been cast in this role. why do we keep casting Scarlett Johansson in roles where she doesn't fit the criteria? https://t.co/nnD7PKH5Gc— anthony amorim is lo:st (@AnthonyAmorim) July 3, 2018
Scarlett Johansson is gonna work with Ghost in a Shell director again and this time she's playing a trans man i cant breathehrkfkg pic.twitter.com/okHK5459bo— dilara (@elbirdilara) July 3, 2018
First the Japanese, and now Scarlett Johansson is taking on the trans community with her new film Rub and Tug. I can't wait until her Rosa Parks film comes out. https://t.co/nbmoMkoNlN— Valerie Vza Complex (@ValerieComplex) July 3, 2018