Cate Blanchett could play a bowl of soup if she so wished. But she does know there are some roles that she would be wrong to take, even if she doesn’t understand why. “I don’t think about my gender or my sexuality,” she told Vanity Fair in a February 13 profile when asked about playing Lydia Tár, a self-described U-Haul lesbian. “For me in school, it was David Bowie, it was Annie Lennox. There’s always been that sort of gender fluidity.” Though the two-time Oscar winner can’t seem to grasp the “obsession with labels,” she does seriously consider them. “I have to really listen very hard when people have an issue with it,” she said, referring to her portrayals of lesbian women in Carol and Tár. “I just don’t understand the language they’re speaking, and I need to understand it because you can’t dismiss the obsession with those labels — behind the obsession is something really important.” We can guess that behind the obsession is what some experience on a day-to-day basis (like maybe news about police murdering Black people, a rise in anti-Asian hate crimes, and widespread transphobia and homophobia across the political spectrum), making them side-eye certain whitewashing casting decisions.
“If [Carol] was made now, me not being gay — would I be given public permission to play that role?” she wondered. When asked if she thinks she should be cast in the midcentury lesbian romance, were it being made today, she said, “I don’t know the answer to that.” She gives instead a different example of the “obsession”: the curious case of Scarlett Johansson, a white actor who played a Japanese woman in the film adaptation of Ghost in the Shell, and who exited a project where she was set to play a transgender man after a flurry of backlash. “If you and I were having a conversation [25 years ago], it would be in your publication and that was it,” she said. “Now, somehow it’s like these opinions get published, and Scarlett Johansson doesn’t play a role that maybe she was the only person who could play it.” Maybe! “I don’t want to offend anybody,” she added. “I don’t want to speak for anybody else.” Points for that!