Arcade Fire Responds to Criticism Over Casting Andrew Garfield as Trans Woman in ‘We Exist’ Video

Garfield 1

In case you missed it earlier this month, Arcade Fire released the music video for their single ‘We Exist’ – featuring an impressive performance by Andrew Garfield as a trans woman named Sandy.

Not everyone was happy about Garfield’s role in the video however. Trans lead singer for Against Me! Laura Jane Grace, for example, openly expressed her frustration that Arcade Fire failed to hire “an actual ‘Trans’ actor instead of Spider-Man.”

Garfield2In an interview with The Advocate, front man Win Butler and video director David Wilson addressed the concerns surrounding Garfield's participation.

"There was just so much thought and love that went into the video I don't personally see it as negative," Butler says of the casting, but adding "I can totally see the sensitivity of the issue."

Wilson, the director, says he had considered casting a trans person but was moved by Garfield's passion for the project after their first phone conversation. "Before I got on the call, I thought, Is this the right person — should we be using a transgender person?" he remembers. "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."

Check out the full interview here, where Butler also discusses the Jamaican undertones on the album and how "We Exist" is a reaction to the country's notoriously anti-gay culture. 

And in case you missed the "We Exist" music video, click here


  1. Lazycrockett says

    This is just getting eye roll worthy. AG brings clout with clout comes attention which can lead to thought and understanding of issues.

  2. KM says

    Eh. Gay people can’t really complain about this one. They make the same stupid comments about “should have hired a gay actor” all the time.

  3. RayJacksonMS says

    Yeah because some nobody would have really brought attention to the issue.

  4. RayJacksonMS says

    Yeah because some nobody would have really brought attention to the issue.

  5. jed says

    laura jane grace, are you going to be happy if an equally capable gay actor is passed over for a straight actor to play a straight role?

  6. Oh vey says

    Give the complaining trans people what they want. Only cast trans actors for trans roles. Conversely, NEVER consider trans actors for non-trans work. Happy now? Heh, even then some “trans spokesperson” will complain.

  7. jjose712 says

    KM: The gay actor comment is not exactly the same. The people complain about gay actors not getting gay roles and straight actors being praised for being brave (when it’s obvious that a lot of gay actors are rejected for straight roles for being openly gay).
    And of course there’s ocassions where that casting is a problem, i remember clearly the awkward (borderin in homophobic) interviews that the two actors playing the gay couple in Emmerdale gave some years ago

    In this case it’s a non issue, the fact that it’s a famous actor who take the role only benefit the exposure and brings attention to the subject.
    And of course not all trans people make the complete transition

  8. Thedrdonna says

    If it’s about being trans, which is sort of debatable (could be a drag queen), then she’s obviously at the very beginning of her transition. It makes more sense to use someone who obviously hasn’t transitioned yet.

  9. David From Canada says

    I think it’s great that Andrew Garfield, a prominent, young male, did the video with Arcade Fire. To all others, stop your bitchin’ and just enjoy.

  10. Qj201 says

    Another transbian with a product to sell now getting webhits after making a hissy fit.

  11. says

    If you can’t cast an actual transwoman to play a transwoman, then cast a ciswoman because casting cis men to play transwomen reinforces the very wrong belief that transwomen are men. It’s really not a hard concept to grasp. Transwomen are women so cast transwomen or women to play their roles!

  12. lee says

    Your confusing acting with an actor. Could an already transwomen acted the character, more than probably not because she has already established whom she is. This had to be about what the process of becoming a transwomen creates in that persons mind and not as a biography. Frankly, AG was truly believable as that character, and a very brave artistic move for such a young actor to be involved in a project like this.

  13. Ernie says

    Derrick, with the exception of a few Brazilian shemale porn stars, “transwomen” look like men in dresses far more than they look like actual women. So of course it is more realistic to have a “transwoman” played by a dude in a dress, as opposed to a real woman. Filmmakers don’t have to perpetuate the delusions of trannies that they can pass.

    As for this latest attack on a would-be ally of the trans activists, it only goes to show: you cannot be allies with rage-filled, mentally ill people. Sooner or later, they will turn on you, if for no other reason than you are a nearby and accessible target.

  14. Craig S says

    I certainly understand the desire for better portrayals in media, but whether a positive and visible trans role is being played by a trans actor or not isn’t the most productive target to go after.

    I remember hearing this exact same complaint about the movie “Transamerica” — to which I pointed out that at the time there were exactly no out trans actors who were famous enough to carry a movie’s box office success, so the representational win of replacing Felicity Huffman with a trans actress would have meant forfeiting anybody actually going to see the film. (Sure, in 2014 you could cast Laverne Cox — but she wasn’t on the radar at all in 2005.) And similarly, this video wouldn’t have gotten the publicity it’s gotten if it didn’t have a big name actor in it.

  15. Craig S says

    Ernie, look up “confirmation bias”. You’re easily able to see the trans people who fit your preexisting assumptions about them (mentally ill, unable to “pass”, etc.) and failing to see the many who don’t. And anyway, whether a trans person “passes” or not has nothing whatsoever to do with the matter at hand.

    Now go back to guarding your bridge, Troll Man.

  16. Knock says

    It seems they won’t be happy until everything banned or under their control.

  17. Ryan says

    Sometimes we’re our own worst enemy. Hundreds of thousand or millions more people will see this because Garfield was in it, which has incredible value in terms of advancing the movement.

    So it’s good decision from a pragmatic movement-building standpoint.

    It’s also a great decision from an artistic standpoint insofar as Andrew Garfield is an incredible actor who did an incredible job with this part.