Vanity Fair released its Oscar issue yesterday featuring Scarlett Johansson on the cover and an interview with Scarjo that dives into her work on two Oscar contenders, Jojo Rabbit and Marriage Story, as well as details about the upcoming Black Widow solo movie, her recent divorce, and the difficulties of being a mother. Scarjo talks about how being a parent was more of an input for her role in Marriage Story than her divorce. She also hopes that Black Widow will be a movie that elevates the genre by being both empowering and deeply probing at the same time.
Unfortunately, every interview with Scarjo is coloured by her…I’m not even sure what you’d call them – f-ckups, faux-pas, transgressions? The incidents where she repeatedly puts her foot in her mouth and then forgets how to take it out for a few days. Scarjo has become synonymous with controversy, an endless meme at her own expense.
The problem with Scarjo, as Sarah and Lainey have repeatedly pointed out, is that she just seems to keep stepping in the same pile of sh-t over and over again. After the whitewashing of Ghost in the Shell, Scarjo again stirred the pot by trying to play a trans man in Rub & Tug. Even though she eventually pulled out of the role, she doubled down on her comments in an interview with David Salle, claiming that “as an actor [she] should be allowed to play any person, or any tree, or any animal because that is [her] job and the requirements of [her] job.”
Then, Scarjo said she would still work with Woody Allen in an interview with THR back in September despite being a Times Up advocate and supporter of women coming forward about sexual assault. When the Woody Allen issue comes up in the Vanity Fair piece, this is the response:
“I’m not a politician, and I can’t lie about the way I feel about things.”
“And also, I think that when you have that kind of integrity, it’s going to probably rub people, some people, the wrong way. And that’s kind of par for the course, I guess.”
There’s a difference between integrity and stubbornness. Scarjo refuses to acknowledge any sort of culpability or sense of responsibility for the words that she speaks and the impact and power she has in speaking them. These qualities always seem to be lacking in Scarjo’s statements, whether she’s saying something dumb or apologizing for saying something dumb.
To pretend like PR isn’t part of the job is naïve, especially for someone who’s been in the industry for so long. You can’t just say I’m not a politician so I’m going to speak my mind and not give two sh-ts about who it hurts, WHILE ALSO being mad that people call you out on it.
When the VF reporter explains to her why some people may view her statements about Woody Allen as hypocritical, she stumbles a little, briefly approaching some sort of realization.
“I do understand how that is triggering for some people…”
But immediately follows it with a disclaimer and explanation:
“But just because I believe my friend does not mean that I don’t support women, believe women. I think you have to take it on a case-by-case basis. You can’t have this blanket statement—I don’t believe that. But that’s my personal belief. That’s how I feel.”
Even the reporter mentions that this part of the interview is awkward af. Because it seems like Scarjo doesn’t feel like apologizing for her statements. She doesn’t seem interested in correcting them or offering any sort of insight based on what people are criticizing her for.
What’s interesting (and simultaneously infuriating) about the Vanity Fair feature is that it tries to paint this issue in a different light, one which clumsily ties a bow and moves on.
“It’s a strange time when the same qualities we make a show of valuing in actors’ work—a sense of conviction, a willingness to risk, an independence of thought—can be viewed, the moment the camera is switched off, as personality faults. If part of what we ask actors to do is to help us to work the world out, it seems like she’s attempting just that.”
As Sarah has pointed out, this is also the argument for assholes who just want to do whatever they want. Of course there can and should be a discussion about callout and cancel culture, and how they can create a hostile environment where honest mistakes and earnest dialogue are met with severe rebuke. But that’s not the conversation we’re having. Rather, it seems like all Scarjo wants to do is voice her opinion, uninformed and unchanged, without any consequences.
And the thing is, Scarjo hasn’t really faced any real consequence to her statements. She’s the world’s highest paid actress and is in not one but TWO Oscar contenders this year. The only consequence she has received so far is being made fun of on Twitter and being called out at the Emmys. The only time Scarjo shows some remorse for her actions in the interview is with respect to Rub & Tug.
“In hindsight, I mishandled that situation. I was not sensitive, my initial reaction to it. I wasn’t totally aware of how the trans community felt about those three actors playing—and how they felt in general about cis actors playing—transgender people. I wasn’t aware of that conversation—I was uneducated. So I learned a lot through that process.”
That’s a start for sure, but a lot of this interview frames the issue as if ScarJo is still figuring things out and that it’s everyone else’s fault for holding her accountable while she does so. And that’s fair, but as she says, her “initial reaction” whenever she steps in it and hurts people with her words is more often than not to hold up both middle fingers. Also, while people are still educating themselves, they don’t usually broadcast their opinions to the world. It would be like playing Radio City Music Hall while you’re still learning the proper way to hold a guitar.
Do I think Scarjo is a bad person? No. She’s a very talented actor who puts a lot of effort and thought into the work she produces. There’s a great anecdote near the end from Roman Griffin Davis who plays Scarjo’s son in Jojo Rabbit. He shares how Scarjo made the set very comfortable for him because he was new and scared, and she, both as a mother and as a former child actor, could empathize with that. What if she were to apply the same empathy and consideration to her critics and to the decisions she makes regarding her career and the statements she makes about it?
To read more from Scarlett Johansson and see pictures in Vanity Fair, click here.