Only a few days after Against Me!’s lead singer Laura Jane Grace came out against the casting of Andrew Garfield in their video for “We Exist,” Arcade Fire’s frontman and the video’s director have come forward to explain why they decided on the “Amazing Spider-Man” actor to embody the trans character of Sandy.
It all started on Twitter, when Grace — an openly trans woman born Tom Gabel — questioned the use of a cisgender (a.k.a. non-trans) actor to portray the transgendered Sandy. “Dear @arcadefire,” the tweet started. “Maybe when making a video for a song called ’We Exist’ you should get an actual ’Trans’ actor instead of Spider-Man?”
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
Grace’s criticism follows a recent wave of conversation from the trans community about the use of non-trans actors to portray their struggles in popular culture. Similar questions were raised in regards to Jared Leto playing a trans woman, Rayon, in “Dallas Buyers Club.”
However Win Butler, lead singer of Arcade Fire, stands by the choice, telling The Advocate, “For a gay kid in Jamaica to see the actor who played Spider-Man in that role is pretty damn powerful, in my opinion.”
The magazine also spoke with the clip’s director, David Wilson, who explained he was aware of the concerns before they even decided on Garfield. “Before I got on the call, I thought, Is this the right person — should we be using a transgender person? 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 caliber to be that emotionally invested in a music video is just a very special thing. It just completely made sense.”
Not everyone in the trans community feels Garfield’s inclusion was misguided, though. The magazine also noted that Garfield was coached by popular trans musician Our Lady J, who said on Twitter of the video, “I can’t watch this without crying.”
— Our Lady J (@ourladyj) May 16, 2014