Edith Britton – Chapter 7

“Black people yelling "racism!" White people yelling "reverse racism!" Chinese people yelling "sideways racism!" And the Indians ain’t yelling shit, ’cause they dead. So everybody bitching about how bad their people got it: nobody got it worse than the American Indian. Everyone needs to calm the fuck down.” Chris Rock (Bigger and Blacker)

When we think about race and movies what often comes to my mind is black and white. Oscar diversity is more than just a black and white issue. Although keeping things black and white is “simple” we mustn’t forget that African Americans and those who identify as black, are not a representation for the entire diverse minority spectrum. Latinos, Asians, native Americans have been misrepresented and faced with prejudice in Hollywood since the early days of cinema. We must not forget that, the American nation was built/founded on racism and to think it will never exist in movies is naïve. But we have made steps forward, however, there have been many steps backwards.

The whitewashing of American feature films, the most recent and first box office bomb of 2016, Gods of Egypt only brought in 14 million box office weekend. At this point, to my understanding, producers and the companies who create these films don’t give the audience the benefit of the doubt, yet they rely on them to give them money at the box office. I believe it’s common knowledge that three-people with dark skin in a movie that takes place in Egypt (which is in African in case some people don’t know) would raise a few eyebrows. How about the movie Pan when Caucasian actress Rooney Mara played Tiger Lily, a Native American character. Maybe their angle is that this is a fantasy world, so the rules can be bent. But cultural appropriation is not a flexible idea. What are these studios afraid of? Why is race so hard to talk about? Do they not realize that diversity sells?! If there were a cast of black actors and extras in Gods of Egypt, it would of lost money not only because it’s probably a really bad movie, but the diversity issue would be the last thing discussed. Diversity sells because the world is not made up of 99% white people.

Asian actor/entertainer Rain in Ninja Assassin (2009)

Latino actor Benecio Del Toro

First Nations actor Adam Beach

I have loved comic books, vampires, and the fantasy genre back when you would get made fun of for reading them; unlike know where if your not interested you’re the uncool kid. So when I heard that they would be creating a stand-alone movie for Black Panther from the Marvel Universe, with actor Chadwick Boseman as the lead, words couldn’t express my excitement. Next Marvel announces that Creed director Ryan Coolger is set to not only direct the feature film, but that the casting choices will be loyal or better yet authentic to the characters story (he’s from Africa). Although I didn’t see Creed so I’m unfamiliar with his Coolgers directing style, but him being a black individual was enough for me to rejoice about the films production. But why does a black director need to be hired to properly represent a culture of people in a very lucrative money making genre such as this? And why is this a big deal.

Marvel character, Black Panther Actor Chadwick Boseman

The most recent topic these past few weeks has been the Oscars. Hearing that Chris Rock was going to host the Oscars and was going to dabble in the #oscarsoswhitecontroversy, I knew it wasn’t going to be as “bad” as the audiences feared. And when I say bad I mean with malicious, and direct race jokes. He didn’t cross any lines unfortunately but I agree with some of Chris Rocks comments; that what minorities lack is opportunity. We are not given the same opportunity as other white actors even for minority roles that have castes white actors because lets face it, the gatekeepers want to see people who look like them (I’m a little bias her but endure with me). Why does a black man being thrown out as a possible candidate to play James Bond (Idris Elba) get looked at as ghetto because of his skin tone? I mean, he’s a fictional character from a books series can’t the rules be bent there as well? Or does Tiger Lily not matter as much as Bond (that’s your own assumption).

If there’s one thing we all know is that humor is way to discuss uncomfortable and controversial topics. Thank god/whatever spiritual being there is, for these jesters because they dare to go over that line too not only make you laugh but to think. I appreciate comedians like Chris Rock, Dave Chappelle, Richard Pryor (and others) because they have acknowledged the race issue intellectually through their humor. If you haven’t seen their stand up, I suggest you check them out, especially Chris Rocks Bigger and Blacker.

When actor/comedian/writer/producer Dave Chappelle walked away from a 50 million dollar contract on Comedy Central, many people called him crazy. Why is he crazy? Because he stood up for himself, because he wasn’t happy the way his joke were being altered or the fact that he wasn’t ok wearing a dress? Mind you Charlie Sheen gets praised for standing up to the creator of his show, still gets TV shows gigs, and continues to rake in millions yet we all know he’s allegedly snorting cocaine off a hookers ass before downing some tiger juice at Hollywood hotel. Now don’t get me wrong, I like Charlie Sheen, he doesn’t give a damn what people think and I respect that, but there’s a double standard here with these two entertainers and their situations with big companies. And although Charlie Sheen is half Mexican, he doesn’t look anymore ethnic than his father who had to shield his given name so that he could get work when he was breaking into Hollywood.

Another Latino actor, Freddie Prinze Jr. faced when he was trying to break into the acting business. His father, a known Latino comedian Freddie Prinze committed suicide when Freddie Jr. was very young. He stated that initially he wasn’t given jobs because he had darker skin from being out in the sun and his hair was toughing his shoulders. His agent told him to stay out of the sun and cut his hair – he did, and he began to get responses from auditions. He had to change his look and “hide” his heritage to get hired in Hollywood

Applying the Critical Process

Think about an ethnic child watching a TV show, movie and unable see a character that looks like him/her. Growing up there weren’t many people I saw I could relate to. This is important I believe for young children, to have characters in movies, show, magazines, characters that they can look at and say “ hey that could be me one day, I can be on that TV screen, I can be a superhero, I can be whoever I want. That’s a possibility for me” and that should be inspiring for anyone.

One thing I didn’t agree with this chapter, was its lack of other minority groups being discussed. Question: Another thing is why are minorities not getting the opportunity for roles: is the problem that we are reinforcing stereotypes instead of challenging them?

Video Links:

1) White Washing Article

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/07/10/hollywood-whitewashing_n_5515919.html

2) Dave Chappelle Inside the Actors Studio

https://youtu.be/Hdz5KunxWOE

3) Idris Elba

http://variety.com/2015/film/global/idris-elba-responds-to-james-bond-authors-too-street-remark-1201586006/

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3 thoughts on “Edith Britton – Chapter 7

  1. This topic reminds me of the announcement of the Harry Potter play that is being made. When the news broke that a black actress (Noma Dumezweni) will be playing Hermione, the casting choice received backlash. I remember the comments being made on how they CAN’T see Noma playing Hermione, as they (the audience) is used to seeing a white actress portray her.

    It made a huge enough fuss that the author, J.K Rowling had to comment on Twitter about how Hermione looked in the text. J.K Rowling also NEVER specify Hermione’s skin color, only stating that she has brown eyes, frizzy hair and very smart.

    I think we are so used to seeing certain actresses portray a character- that we turn away a blind eye on any actress that doesn’t suit our preference or what we are use to.

    http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/heat-vision/black-hermione-controversy-jk-rowling-850458

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    • I agree with your comment. People want stick with the mainstream images that portray these characters. With the recent Fantastic Four film casting black actor Michael B. Jordan as Johnny Storm, there was a lot of backlash and so was the case with the speculation that black comedian/actor Donald Glover would play Spiderman a few years back. These were met with very racist and negative responses because white actors had originally played these characters and people couldn’t fathom a black actor in these white roles. Many critics suggested that minorities should start creating their own characters. While I can partially agree with this, I think that people should see their favorite characters or heros as representations of themselves.

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  2. Ryan Coogler is a great director. I liked his film Fruitvale station (I was almost brought to tears) and I am excited to see the Black Panther film as well. When a black director is attached to direct a film that will represent his culture, it is a big deal because it’s from his perspective rather than a director who isn’t black and doesn’t know the black experience. Also, with the Oscars, Chris Rock made several important points because there are great minority actors out there who are so talented, but they are often ignored. Idris Alba is one of them and was excellent in Beasts of No Nation. Most of the films in the categories I haven’t even heard of and I think many others can agree

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