A FEUD has erupted between the lead singers of two bands in recent days, after punk musician and trans* activist Laura Jane Grace of Against Me! accused Arcade Fire’s Winn Butler of engaging in “blackface” entertainment at the expense of trans* people during the production of music video We Exist.
The clip, which stars Andrew Garfield as a young trans-woman (pictured above) fighting off violent drunks at a bar, has courted controversy after the clip’s director and Arcade Fire band members purposefully chose the Hollywood star over trans-identifying actors and actresses.
Dear @arcadefire , maybe when making a video for a song called “We Exist” you should get an actual “Trans” actor instead of Spider-Man?
— Laura Jane Grace (@LauraJaneGrace) May 22, 2014
The front woman of Against Me! then proceeded to say that the video “inaccurately plays on and perpetuates stereotypes” and compared the pattern of casting non-trans* actors in trans* roles to that of “white actors in blackface.”
In an interview with the US-based LGBTI magazine The Advocate on Sunday, Butler said in response that while the casting of an actor such as Mr Garfield helped with the impact on viewers, he could also “see the sensitivity of the issue” among the trans* community.
“For a gay kid in Jamaica to see the actor who played Spider-Man in that role is pretty damn powerful, in my opinion,” Butler said.
He also stated that the song was written in response to homophobia in Jamaica and that it was the band’s decision to expand the video’s message with their own perspectives on gender identity.
In response to this comment, Grace then replied that her primary issue wasn’t with the casting choice of Garfield per se, but the stereotypical under-representation of actual trans* people in LGBTI-supportive media.
— Laura Jane Grace (@LauraJaneGrace) May 25, 2014
“It’s called We Exist and there is literally no signs of that existence represented. (It) should have been called ‘They Exist’,” Grace said.
The music video’s director David Wilson has also publicly stated the reasons behind his decision to cast Garfield as the lead within this production.
“Before I got on the call, I thought: Is this the right person – should we be using a transgender person?” Wilson said.
“But then getting on the phone with Andrew, and Andrew’s commitment and passion toward the project was just overwhelming. For an actor of that calibre to be that emotionally invested in a music video is just a very special thing. It just completely made sense.”
The controversy surrounding the music video for We Exist comes in the wake of Grace recently signing up for a documentary series with AOL surrounding her transition, as well as a tell-all short feature with MSNBC where she talked about the positive level of support that she has received from her fan base and the music industry as a whole since coming out as trans*.