Being on social media it seems these issues are made more prevalent than at any other time, especially as a consumer. I’m sure insiders for decades had problems with castings and characters who were portrayed by the select few who could land the role. That’s the nature of the business though, isn’t it?
Now About These Castings
There has been a clear change over the years. I’m not quite sure of the actual reasoning, but I’m to believe it’s to show more diversity in films, which most always mean less European or pale-skinned individuals. I had no immediate issue with this as a consumer and simply because I respect the idea of representation and the apparent belief of seeing someone you identify with being important. But there’s limitations to representation, something I’ve said before. Not only that, I think it interferes with what it means to act and the business of generating money in the film industry.
The art of it is to portray something or someone to convince the viewer. It’s the job of performers to capture their attention and emotion. The very idea of suspending one’s disbelief comes to play here. Now if this is what it means to act and perform in film then it should easily be seen why such strict enforcement of characters being confined to a person’s identity is not always right.
For instance, there’s a character who is missing a leg. Do you only try to hire those actors with missing legs, or can you find someone to pull off a character missing a leg? You can do either one but you shouldn’t be required to only do the former when the latter is an option. Excluding historical accurate figures, this ability for people to play a character should have little to no restrictions. Jamie Foxx says some words to this that deserves a look.
But take SNL for example. We’ve all heard of it I’m sure, and we know the cast is always limited to a select few members. What SNL does is they stay true to the art form through satire, and each cast member plays a large variety of characters and have always done so since the beginning. Kate McKinnon is an ideal example to this example. She’s played a multitude of characters (both male and female) and I doubt anyone would complain against her doing so. This freedom people like her and the SNL crew enjoy is what the film industry has lean away from in some respects. It’s not entirely, but you can see it being done.
Maybe it’s to not offend the many different identity groups who are out there and due to fear of bad publicity affecting a film’s output. Maybe it’s to appease them. Maybe it’s to serve an untapped market with the expectations of a high return on investment. Maybe it’s to try and right wrongs (i.e. #OscarsSoWhite) and shake up industry standards, and troll a few people in the process. Who really knows the true nuts of bolts of it all. But the number of incidences where a film was criticized for a casting or a character who was portrayed by someone that wasn’t true to form all show the public and the industry is in search of change. The principles to acting shouldn’t regardless of those changes when all these aspects can and should coexist.
Sometimes they’ll cast performers who aren’t true to a character’s original form (i.e. Catwoman, Power Rangers, Little Mermaid, Domino, Johnny Storm, Nick Fury, Ghost in the Shell, Fahrenheit 451, Titans, etc), but it’s deemed progressive to do so and represents a particular shift that producers are making. It’s that or these performers were so good they were hard to pass for the part.
Personally, I think there’s a quota these individuals in position are attempting to fill or there’s some obligation they think has to be done, and for social reasons maybe (i.e. underrepresentation, whitewashing, you name it). Whatever the motivation is, it shouldn’t conflict with an actor or actress’s ability to act and take a job to play any character in a story, especially one that is fairly popular and has an acting ability worth the investment. If you’re reading and thinking Scarlet Johansson then so be it, but I’m speaking in broader terms here.
Trevor Noah on Scarlett Johansson’s Representation Comments: “We Take for Granted How It Shapes Society”
In response to some recent comments made by Scarlett Johansson about representation in the arts, late-night host Trevor Noah shared his perspective via Comedy Central’s The Daily Show onWednesday night.
Now A Word Or Two About PC Culture
I think what political correctness has done is this. It holstered people’s individual identity so high on the importance scale that we sort of told art in its truest form to take the backseat. Marginalized people would see more of themselves and certain producers could gloat in their self-importance for facilitating the act as they walk to the bank, or not. Assuming my framing is on target here, this takes agency away from performers of all persuasions, doesn’t it?
If we saw acting as like any other job we’d naturally see it as may the best man or woman win, right? It doesn’t always pan out that way I assume, and then there’s quite a lot of caveats these days too (one of them I mentioned earlier). But I’ve began to grow my thinking beyond just having representation and the importance of representing everyone as much as possible, or to be politically correct. Because the goal itself seems to exclude those who could have, among other qualities, played a character just as good or greater.
I understand the push to be a more inclusive society and film producer’s are taking the mound to show that push in their films. It’s a subtle way of achieving the goal. However, this idea that performers and producers alike shouldn’t do something creatively because it’s politically incorrect to do so is a dooming idea for the art form’s longevity. There are no rules with art but you kill it with the same heavy hand that comedians who hold back on jokes have fallen under.
Let’s look at this quote by Pierre Joseph Proudhon for example, which says “Man…wishes to labor when he pleases, where he pleases, and as much as he pleases. He wishes to dispose of his own time, to be governed only by necessity, to choose his friendships, his recreation, and his discipline; to act from judgment, not by command; to sacrifice himself through selfishness, not through servile obligation.” This quote was against communism but I’m using it to make a point about these “controversies” in film castings. I think it speaks for itself.
So to wrap it up, my mindset about castings and acting is maybe it should be free to express whatever it wants with respect to historical figures. But if a fair-skinned person is acting as MLK and without using blackface to do it, then is there an issue? Maybe, maybe not. However, the same could be said in reverse. We’ve seen incidences like it before such as Eddie Murphy’s White Like Me sketch.
One day we’ll evolve passed our overreactions to skin differences, but I’ll say this. If a story is about a set of characters who have a set of characteristics, then people in charge can cast them in their truest form or they can decide to paint outside the lines and cast whomever they want for the job.
On Monday, as the town buzzed about new box office records set by , the film’s 40-year-old director, Jordan Peele, was not whiling away the hours in a Universal lot bungalow fielding congratulatory calls from studio execs. Peele was on a cramped stage in East Hollywood at improv mecca Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre, the starriest guest yet for the school’s new conversation series.
For the most part, this decision should be left to creators, and fans as well as other onlookers should learn to become more open-minded and less reactionary to any one decision they make. Wishful thinking. But art is art at the end of each day. It is made by the creator and for the pleasure of the creator. Us, being the viewers, are less like customers at a fast food joint and more like people in an art museum.
I think this “customer is always right” mantra has convinced us otherwise for too long, and one side effect has resulted in a lack of artistic freedom. These creators and performers shouldn’t be mandated to design or fit into the boxes we’ve created for ourselves in society. Boxes that are nothing more than social constructs. No, no I say. These boxes we live in are what performers are given the freedom to swim in and out of to reflect so many unique stories we enjoy. That’s there only job as far as I see it.