Netflix's show Casa de Papel is massively successful. Dubbed Money Heist in English speaking countries, the series is one of the streamers most popular original projects and revolves around a gang of criminals pulling off some major heists. This is the type of show where the "villains" are revealed to be increasingly complex, just like anyone else, and in their own ways the heroes. And with the fourth season having been released this month, the show began to introduce a few similarly complex LGBTQ+ characters and storylines into the narrative. One, in particular, has caught criticism from viewers.
While the first two seasons of the show center around an extremely intricate scheme to rob the Royal Mint of Spain — that is successful, if I may add — the group is brought back together to help on of its own. While running from the law, one of the original members of the crew is arrested, and in a bid to gain his freedom, those who are still at large stage another massive break-in in order to gain leverage to get him out. To do this though, the team gets rounded out.
The new additions to our loveable mob include Palermo, the gay king of the "boom, boom, ciao," as well as Manila, who is trans. We find Palermo in what turns out to be a pretty heartbreaking situation romantically — in short, he loved a straight man who never loved him back and as a result, busies himself with NSA hookups. Manila, on the other hand, tells a bit of her story, explaining the idea of transitioning to her cousin in a pretty well-written way. But some on social media have pointed out that Netflix chose a cisgender actress to do so.
"Okay so is Belen Cuesta (Manila) in Money Heist is Apparently a cisgender woman playing a transgender role," Christa Pata wrote to Twitter. "Now the question is ... WHY NOT CAST A TRANS PERSON FOR A TRANS ROLE?"
The sentiment was echoed by others as well.
While Cuesta no doubt does her role well and is a well-known actress in Spain having won the Spanish equivalent to an Academy Award, Netflix did miss out on an opportunity to shine a light on a growing group of trans actresses who could have filled the role. This could have proven to be a breakout moment for the right person.
This comes as a part of a longstanding conversation about who should fill the roles of LGBTQ+ characters. Cuesta feels that it should all be open.
"A cisgender actress can play a transgender woman or a transgender woman can play a cisgender woman," the actress told El Espanol in an interview while saying that she "supports" trans actors and actresses. And while this would be great in an ideal world, it's not reality.
If the world were perfect, it would be nice to see everyone being able to play all roles but the reality is that's not what is happening. LGBTQ+ actors who have come out about their sexuality or gender identity have seen a loss of jobs and when they are booked for jobs, only jobs that are LGBTQ+. Meanwhile, cisgender heterosexual performers can book them all.
If Cuesta — and Netflix — truly want to support trans talent, sometimes the best thing you can do is knowing when to say no to a job.