Against Me's Laura Jane Grace Hits Out at Arcade Fire's 'We Exist,' Band Responds

Frontman Win Butler says "seeing the actor who played Spider-Man in that role is pretty damn powerful."

Ultimate Guitar

Arcade Fire frontman Win Butler has responded to criticisms of the band's new video for "We Exist" by Against Me! singer Laura Jane Grace.

As NME notes, Grace documented her own gender dysphoria on the band's latest album "Transgender Dysphoria Blues" and hit out at the Canadian band's decision to cast non-trans actor Andrew Garfield as an "actual 'trans' person" in the video last week.

The video stars "Spider Man" actor Andrew Garfield as a transgender woman, donning a wig and dress, having an altercation in a bar and eventually joining Arcade Fire onstage at Coachella.

Butler and director of the video David Wilson have now responded to Grace's remark in a new interview with the Advocate in which the frontman claims that he feels having somebody known for playing a Hollywood super-hero is more effective in delivering the message of the song, about a gay child in Jamaica coming out to his father.

"Once something gets on the Internet, it works its way into people's lives in a way that I think is pretty powerful," says Butler. "For a gay kid in Jamaica to see the actor who played Spider-Man in that role is pretty damn powerful, in my opinion."

Admitting that he can "totally see the sensitivity of the issue," Butler adds: "There was just so much thought and love that went into the video I don't personally see it as negative."

Meanwhile, "We Exist" director Wilson admits that he considered casting a trans person for the video, but decided on Garfield for his "commitment and passion toward the project."

"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 caliber to be that emotionally invested in a music video is just a very special thing. It just completely made sense."

YouTube preview picture

25 comments sorted by best / new / date

    Do we need to cast trans people in trans roles now? I thought that was, y'know, why we called it acting. If a well respected actor can properly portray a trans person they shouldn't, ironically, be discriminated against just because they don't fit physical attributes that aren't even shown as part of the film/music video.
    Good point. Robert Downey Jr. played a black guy and no one batted an eye.
    Tom Hanks in Philadelphia Neil Patrick Harris in HIMYM Hell back in the old times of theater men used to portray the women by wearing drag.
    Only certain people are allowed to be offended. I find that offensive.
    I'm offended by you being offended around me.
    I know you're joking, but I really do get offended when people get offended over trivial things, which is kind of ironic.
    Between this and Jared Leto and Hillary Swank playing transgender roles, it seems obvious that directors simply choose actors they believe can pull off the role. That's what they've always done and are probably going to keep on doing regardless if the role is straight, gay, trans or whatever. Plus having the guy who played Spiderman act in one of your music videos will probably bring in a lot of views for it
    Pikka Bird
    It's not like this is the new blackface, y'know. Or ... transface. I don't demand to see real mass murderers cast in the next Tarantino flick, for instance. It's called acting.
    I'm so sick of hearing about Tom, erm, Laura constantly bitch and hearing about it on every damn music website. Everyday it's a new TMZ-ish story about her. I'm super happy for him coming out. I'm glad she is happy now. Good you're happy, now make some freaking music and shut up.
    Bickering about a trans actor has go to be the most un rock and roll thing ever. You think Van Halen when the were making the video for Hot For Teacher asked themselves if the were being sensitive to the plight of trans people?
    If anyone here actually followed Against Me they'd know they're a band built on convictions. They started as an Anarcho Punk band. Probably no one on UG knew any of that though because UG stays reporting on the same ****ing bands over and over.
    Van Guff
    If I was a director, I'd rather have a CIS actor play a trans role and play it really well, than have a trans actor playing a trans role and do a half-assed job.
    At least the SONG is actually about a kid coming out. Most of the time when I watch a music channel 99% of the videos have gay people in them but the song itself has nothing to do with promoting gay rights or removing prejudice. It's like a business-ploy afterthought.
    This whole thing was a simple comment on Twitter in regards to her initial reaction. The whole thing was resolved a few days ago where she acknowledged that she had a better understanding of their perspective, the reasoning behind it, and that a trans woman was consulted in regards to helping to legitimize the role played. This whole store is a non issue. Oh, and FYI, Laura is a total badass (and an extremely nice person), and the new AM! album is great, you should all give it a listen, because she is making music, and it's really good.
    Tom/Laura should get her head around the fact that, as pointed out here already, casting is subjective and also, how well would the point of 'trannies exist, life is hard for them, become aware of this' come across if the video had depicted some actual trans people living a fictional, universally accepted life? I had hoped that this gender-change thing would be like 'angsty socially aware punk man is now angsty socially aware punk woman', not 'angsty punk man is now a social-networking woman with the vocabulary of a L.A. teenager.'