Jared Leto recently won 8 awards for Best Supporting Actor for his performance in Dallas Buyers Club. It’s a film about an HIV positive man who creates an organization as a front to sell smuggled non-FDA approved medication to other people living with HIV. Although the film has been successful and Leto has received an abundance of praise, there’s some controversy of his portrayal of a trans woman.
In a Time article, Steve Friess says people should not applaud Leto for his performance. Friess claims Leto’s praise echoes that of Hattie McDaniel’s performance as Mammy in “Gone with the Wind” and that ” it’ll be another moment when liberals in Hollywood, both in the industry and in the media, showed how little they understood or empathized with the lives of a minority they imagine they and Leto are honoring.”
Autostraddle posted an article detailing an interaction where protestors called Leto out for transmisogyny. Trans Hollywood’s Tumblr breaks down Leto’s acceptance speeches and deconstructs how the language he uses marginalizes transgendered people and is insensitive towards the trans community. Many people have noticed and called attention to the trend that historically cisgender people play transgender roles, and then receive awards and credit for it (like Hilary Swank and her academy award for playing Brandon Tina in Boys Don’t Cry).
Should a trans woman have played Rayon in the film? If a trans woman had played the same part and given the same performance, would she have won an oscar? These questions cannot be answered definitively but they are shedding some new light on trans representation in Hollywood and across the nation.