In a “Between the Scenes” segment on The Daily Show on Wednesday (which you can watch in full below), Trevor Noah weighed in on the latest controversy sparked by Scarlett Johansson. The actress was responding to criticism for playing a role that should have gone to a Japanese actor in 2017’s Ghost in the Shell, as well as the backlash that caused her to drop out on the lead role of a transgender man in Rub and Tug last year. Unfortunately, she further stepped in it while defending herself.
“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,” she said in an interview with As If magazine, adding that she feels art should be “free of restrictions.” “I think society would be more connected if we just allowed others to have their own feelings and not expect everyone to feel the way we do,” she continued.
Although Johansson later clarified her remarks, the point she seemingly missed is that “trees” aren’t underrepresented in Hollywood, whereas minorities and the LGBTQ population are. Likewise, as Noah pointed out, for far too long Hollywood has been defined by “stories for and by white people,” and that roles for minorities have typically been derivative and stereotypical. He also brought up the popularity of Crazy Rich Asians as how much being represented onscreen is meaningful to people.
“We take for granted how much representation means to human beings, and I think in two ways. One, in an inspirational front, and two, just how it shapes society,” he said, noting that many Americans can only define Muslims as seeing them play terrorists in movies:
“You’d think that a place that considers itself so liberal would try to find a place to represent people. I’m not saying there are no Middle Eastern terrorists, but I’m saying there are Middle Eastern stories that run the gamut — there’s a spectrum. Great show, you know like there’s a show on Hulu called Rami, it’s one of my favorite shows I’ve ever watched. It shows you what it’s like to be a Muslim family living in America. Like the range of Muslim, super religious all the way through to, yeah, ‘I drink and I eat pork and I say that I’m Muslim.’
But it’s authentic, you know? And those stories I think are so important, not in like a charity way, but in a great TV, great stories, great inclusivity. Just like, yeah let’s tell some original stories.”
He concluded by elaborating that what Johansson doesn’t seem to grasp is that people aren’t attacking her over her choice of roles, but instead pointing out the “luxury” of choosing these roles. Again, you can watch the full clip below.