Folks, in my ever expanding and pointless quest to become a filmmaker, I have decided that my first feature length film will be a Russian epic starring Salma Hayek, Samuel L. Jackson, Gong Li, Michelle Rodriguez and Viola Davis. I know those seem like odd casting choices, but these folks are excellent actors, so you won’t notice that they are not white. In fact, you might think that Russians are actually black! I know what you’re probably thinking, “That’s nonsense!” Well friends, you’ll be happy to know that tends to be the trend in Hollywood. The idea being that it’s all about the box office draw: Hire “big name” actors that may get away with being whatever ethnicity. Especially when they are not of that ethnicity.
As an avid movie lover, it’s disheartening to see that films in the U.S. tend to lack…melanin. In addition, one could make a strong argument that Hollywood has decided that they do not need to cater to an African-American audience. Often, African-American characters are deemed urban or relegated to the oft repeated “White Guy Saves Brown People” trope. In addition, the substitution of black actors with white actors is not uncommon.
Ridley Scott’s upcoming “Exodus: Gods and Kings” highlights this trend. And it seems that Christian Bale has moved on from being “Batman” to being a “Black Man” (everyone in this movie is so glamorous and beautiful!):
This is Egypt?! Why is everyone so pale?!
In addition to this bit of casting, the latest controversy is Rooney Mara being cast as Tiger Lily in a gritty reboot of Peter Pan. That seems legit. Right? As someone who is very familiar with the Peter Pan universe, the casting of Rooney Mara should be considered odd because Tiger Lily is actually Native American. And let’s just say Rooney Mara is more white lily than Tiger Lily.
But it’s not just that Hollywood is casting white actors in minority based roles. Recently, Zoe Saldana was tapped to portray Nina Simone. Weird huh? Just think: “black(er) face”. And this doesn’t just extend to Africans and African-Americans. Whether you’re Asian, Middle Eastern, Latino, or even a shade of brown, you probably get the sense that Hollywood has no problem with Mickey Rooney-ing the shit out of minority characters.
So what is Hollywooods’s aversion to beautiful dark skin, wider noses, and kinky hair? Is it too real? Too authentic? Or is it because our features don’t scream “Western Civilization”:
But how does this get resolved? Is it even an issue? Should it be an issue? Why am I writing about this? Maybe because we have to fight racism/prejudice on all fronts. Do I think that Christian Bale and other white actors should have turned down the role? No. Do I think they should feel guilty about being cast? Not necessarily. What exactly is the responsibility of white actors, or other actors racially miscast, in Hollywood? Honestly, hopefully nothing. The trend will more than likely continue and as with most trends, they tend to change with the times…and dollars. Blatant misrepresentation will only lead to moviegoers to express their disgust by not watching movies that are racially inaccurate. Which is something that I can and will get behind. So, pay attention Hollywood: “colored” folks like movies too.
As for Zoe Saldana as Nina Simone? Twins!:
Source(s)/Credit(s) and Links:
1. Featured image: Entertainment Weekly
2. “Exodus: Gods and Kings” movie trailer: YouTube
3. Rooney Mara Tiger Lily casting: Jezebel
3. Wyatt Cenac video: Comedy Central
4. Dish Nation video: YouTube