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In response to some recent comments made by Scarlett Johansson about representation in the arts, late-night host Trevor Noah shared his perspective via Comedy Central’s The Daily Show on Wednesday night.
During her cover story interview with As If magazine, Johansson was quoted as saying, “You know, as an actor I should be able to play any person, or any tree, or any animal, because that’s my job and the requirements of my job.”
She later clarified her intention with the statement, “The question I was answering in my conversation with the contemporary artist, David Salle, was about the confrontation between political correctness and art.” She went on to say, “I personally feel that, in an ideal world, any actor should be able to play anybody and art, in all forms, should be immune to political correctness. That is the point I was making, albeit didn’t come across that way.”
Noah’s segment began with the host saying that Johansson “has a record for coming under fire for playing roles that people have said could go to other minority groups.” He gave the example of her role in Ghost in the Shell, where she played a Japanese character in the anime adaptation. Noah also mentioned Johansson’s recent decision not to play Dante Tex Gill, a real-life trans figure, in the feature film Rub & Tug.
The late-night host then referenced her statement about playing any person as an actor, noting, “I understand why you might want to get defensive as a person. I can even understand why some white people might feel like they’re under attack in and around these conversations. But I think what’s often lost is when Scarlett goes, ‘I should be allowed to play an animal or a tree or anything,’ and it’s like, yes, but that’s exactly what people are saying: For so long, Hollywood and the people who define storytelling in America have defined it as stories to be told for an by white people. And so the roles that have generally been reserved for black people have been the stereotype of criminal, maid, slave. That’s pretty much it.”
Noah goes on to say, “We take for granted how much representation means to human beings, I think in two ways. One: in an inspirational front, and two: just how it shapes society.” He uses an example of muslims being associated with terrorists and how that idea is “propagated by Hollywood,” due to the the nationalities that typically portray terrorists on screen. Noah calls that type of imagery powerful because it puts an image of those people in the minds of the consumer.
“You’d think that a place that considers itself so liberal would try to find a place to represent people. There are middle Eastern stories that run the gamut,” Noah points out. “There’s a show on Hulu called Rami, it shows you what it’s like to be a Muslim family living in America. It’s authentic, and those stories are so important, not in a charity way, but in a ‘great TV, great stories, great inclusivity’ kind of way.”
Noah ends the segment by saying that what Johansson doesn’t necessarily understand is that people are not attacking her, they are pointing out that she has the “luxury” of choosing any type of role while others are often stereotyped into a particular box by society.
Watch the full clip below.
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