Non-apologies and Trans Characters in Hollywood.

There seems to be a weird trend where someone is called out on a mistake only for them to issue a non-apology that takes none of the blame. Making mistakes is inevitable – as humans, we’re flawed and messy. The repeating of the same mistakes and not owning up to them is what I personally have trouble with.

It can be hard to admit you’re wrong and even harder for your actions to reflect that. Our society’s obsession and subsequent intense pressure towards success and perfection makes owning up to mistake damn near impossible but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try. Mistakes can often offer an incredible opportunity to learn and grow more.

All of this comes in the wake of yet another cis man being cast as a trans woman in a film. In this case, Matt Bomer was cast as a trans woman in a new movie called Anything and Mark Ruffalo offered a non-apology for it. I could go on about the implications of casting men to play trans women in Hollywood – like how it sends the dangerous message that trans women are really just men or how it takes away what little roles trans actors have to portray trans characters. This is an incredibly important conversation but there are significantly smarter people with significantly better insight that have been talking about this and I’ll let them take the ropes on it.

Some of those people saying some of those things include:

  • Jen Richards, who among her arguments against cis actors playing trans characters, mentioned that Matt Boer was cast in the lead role from the get go, meaning that the possibility of a trans woman playing the leading lady wasn’t even a possibility.

  • Jamie Clayton, Jen Richards Call Out Matt Bomer, Mark Ruffalo for Casting Cis Male to Play Trans Woman in Anything – Jessica Lachenal, The Mary Sue
  • With Matt Bomer’s Casting, Hollywood Again Fails to Have Trans Actors to Play Trans Characters – Zack Ford, ThinkProgress

Ruffalo responded to the criticisms by not offering much of an apology or any sort of acknowledgment that a mistake was made. He’s tweeted only twice about this issue and once was to explain his decision to recommend Bomer for the role. No apology, no admission of wrongdoing. Just a tweet acknowledging the criticisms and a pretty bland explanation for the decision. Bomer, on the other hand, seems to have done nothing to acknowledge the criticisms other than temporarily blocking trans actress Jamie Clayton for her criticisms.

Now, I don’t think Ruffalo or Bomer are terrible people that deserve to rot in hell or anything like that. Nor do I think either are the sole reason that yet another cis man is playing a trans woman in a movie or that they conspired to do this. I do think that there was some ignorance that went into the creation and casting of this movie but that’s doesn’t mean that it wasn’t a mistake with very real and potentially violent consequences.

Related to all this, there seems to be this trend in society of non-apologies and as far as I can tell, the responses to the criticisms of casting Bomer in Anything seems to scream non-apology. People will acknowledge criticisms and mistakes without ever apologizing or even admitting that a mistake was made. Accountability is often thrown out the window and at times, others are blamed for misinterpretations. Non-apologies are easy and convenient because actually admitting your mistakes and wrong doings takes a whole lot of vulnerability and honesty – things that many often try to avoid.

Everyone fucks up and should be given a chance to learn and grow from their mistakes- not everyone will come out of the womb knowing everything. But when people either don’t admit to any wrongdoing or repeatedly make the same mistakes, they should be called out and criticized. There’s no accountability or growth in that. It’s easy and safe to give into your ignorance and privilege blind spot because being critical of your own privileges can be really uncomfortable.

I hope that the trend of non-apologies can stop happening and that more accountability all around can happen. I also hope that we can one day move on from just having conversations around trans people playing trans characters and actually have it be a reality in Hollywood.