Jared Leto is Not the Problem

Jared Leto is Not the Problem

A friend of mine shared this article on Facebook. I wrote this reply. I then decided it would make a good blog post. If you read names and don’t know who I’m talking about, it’s my Facebook friends.

If this blogger honestly thinks that Leto took on the role or acted in it to in any way harm, degrade or disrespect the trans community, this blogger is a fucking idiot. But I do not believe that to be the case.

If this blogger accepts that Leto took on the role to do his best to represent the trans community and failed, that is another matter. But if so, then this blogger should not be attacking Leto. This blogger should be presenting the exact nature of that failure and what could fix it in the future. But that is not the case. This is an attack on Leto.

If this blogger is writing this article to get clicks, shares and reblogs, well then this blog is a success. Otherwise, thumbs down. And I believe that this is the case.

I can’t speak to the truth of the problem of this movie or not, because I don’t exist in that community and unfortunately don’t know anyone who does. (And the existence of this blog post is not a proof that the community disapproves and the film is a problem — it is proof that ONE person disapproves).

Where is the survey of the trans community about whether THEY feel represented or misrepresented by the film? Where is the actual data supporting this person’s angry rant?

Well, rant right back at you, lady.

If this movie is a problem, Leto is not the problem. Leto did not write the script, he did not develop it, he did not cast it. He is an actor who saw a role with INCREDIBLE potential for performance and depth of character, and he took it — like ANY of us would do. And you only have to watch his interviews to know that he really did do his best to represent this woman faithfully.

The blog claims he did no “formal” work with a trans woman. How exactly does this person define that? Is Leto required to post a formal declaration that he is working with this trans person, this OTHER, so that he can try to understand what is going on in this bizarre other person’s head? Or should he just MEET with them like a PERSON and try to understand what’s going on in their life, and then apply that to his role?

Seriously, what the fuck does “formal” even mean here?

I PERSONALLY agree that the role should have gone to a trans woman. But that is a symptom, a symptom of a problem, and Leto is not the problem. The problem is the industry and its preference for casting white males in everything.

Should we blame Keanu Reeves for being in the Matrix when Neo was supposed to be African-American? Should we blame Jason Statham for doing martial arts action movies when they could just as easily go to amazing Asian actors? Should I be blamed for desperately wanting to direct one of Yo Frank’s scripts, even though they probably SHOULD be directed by a buddy of his who also happens to be Asian?

Obviously the answer is no. These guys see opportunities to do great work, and they take it. I would do the same. You would do the same.

Leto could have turned it down, saying the role should be played by a trans woman. And the producer would find someone else to do it — but NOT a trans woman. And if he was turned down again, the producer would find another NOT trans woman. And finally the producer would find someone who would take the role.

So at that point, is the problem the person who took the role, or is the problem the motherfucking producer?

Brendan, if I wrote a script with a trans woman in it, and I wrote that part ESPECIALLY for you, because I know you, I love you, and there is a certain je ne sais quois that I wanted from YOU and no one else in that role, (and, while we’re imagining, let’s say I had an actual budget)…

…please don’t tell me you would turn it down.

Tell me that you would demand another such role in the film that would be filled by an actual trans, sure. But don’t tell me you would deny good work if I wanted you for it.

Otherwise, you and I and 90% of WMM should just give up and go home, because any jobs we get SHOULD be going to African-Americans or Asians or (in your case and mine) women to help get them more represented in the industry.

This IS a rant, because this person is pointing the finger in the WRONG direction. She SHOULD be shouting. She SHOULD be trying to make a change in the industry. She SHOULD be leading a revolution.

And she’s pointing the gun at the wrong fucking target. Leto is a potential ally, and she’s railing at him like an enemy.

It’s stupid, and I cannot abide stupidity on something this important.

Garrett Robinson

Over 100,000 readers have read and loved Garrett's books, like the fantasy hits Nightblade and Midrealm. He's also a film festival favorite with movies like Unsaid, and a tech guru who posts lots of helpful how-tos for writers and filmmakers over at garrettbrobinson.com.

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1 comments
BrendanCadiganWeinhold
BrendanCadiganWeinhold

And here was my response on Facebook: 
I agree that Leto's hiring is a symptom and not the root of the problem. Also, yes, I'd jump at the chance to play a role like that. Where I found the criticism valid, however, was in Leto's failure to accept that he was, for better or worse, setting himself up as a representative for a group and then failing to do his due diligence insofar as reaching out to that community goes.

I also didn't read this as the diatribe that I think other people did. I didn't think the author was hating on Leto, but rather criticizing him on several fair points.

If what she says is true, "Leto claimed in December that he had never heard criticisms that trans roles should go to trans actors", then he is being unreasonably oblivious. I've heard that and plenty of criticisms that you can extrapolate from that, including "disabled roles should go to disabled people." And as Cate Blanchett demonstrated, actors can make great art portraying genders and abilities they don't possess themselves. But we're talking about power politics to some extent. And conversations about it need to take place for us to change things. This article points out that he didn't use the occasion and his celebrity to effectively bring the people at the forefront of these fights to the forefront of the media.

I think both the author and Leto have made disingenuous statements, but the crux of the matter, to me is:

I think artists of all sorts have a social responsibility, and I believe Jared Leto must agree, considering his Oscar speech about the Ukraine, but he doesn't seem to have allied himself effectively with several political groups that see him spending their emotional capital. 

I agree the target is the imperialistic, patriarchal, capitalist hegemony, but as a self-proclaimed GBLTQ ally, he is due some criticism from the particular group that he has found himself speaking about frequently. I see it simply as pressure by this author to educate himself, not "pointing guns".

Also, a quick Google search "Jared Leto transgender" demonstrates it's not just the one person.

And here's a more comprehensive article on that topic: 
http://www.advocate.com/commentary/2014/03/10/op-ed-what-people-dont-get-about-dismay-over-jared-leto

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