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When I was a teenager I didn't feel pretty when I saw Natalie Wood prancing around as a Puerto Rican character in the 1961 film version of West Side Story. Marnie Nixon's vocals and strange accent had no relationship to the familiar (to my ear) sound of Nuyorrican Spanish.

Her predecessor on the Broadway stage in the role of Maria was Carol Lawrence (1957).  

Yes—they found Puerto Ricans to play Maria's sidekick Anita (Chita Rivera and Rita Moreno) but the star had to be a white woman.

Here is part of my sing-a-long lyrical response, which opens with:

"I feel pretty, pretty shitty
It's a pity how shitty I feel
a committee has been organized to whitewash me "

and I close with a rousing:
I feel angry. Very angry.
It's alarming how angry I feel
because Hollywood will never get real.

I was a teenager then. They didn't have a name for this all-too-frequent phenomena back in those days, though we were real clear about related issues like blackface. We have names for it now.

It's called whitewashing and racebending.

The casting of white actors in non-white roles, or whitewashing, is not new. It's a tradition, which was pointed out quite clearly recently by Aasif Mandvi in his recent Salon piece (see slide show).    

"Racebending" as defined at the activist website

[R]efers to situations where a media content creator (movie studio, publisher, etc.) has changed the race or ethnicity of a character. This is a longstanding Hollywood practice that has been historically used to discriminate against people of color.

More often than not, this practice has a resultant discriminatory impact on an underrepresented cultural community and actors from that community (reinforcement of glass ceilings, loss of opportunity, etc.) In the past, practices like blackface and yellowface were strategies used by Hollywood to deny jobs to actors of color. Communities of color were helpless to control how they would be represented in media. Because characters of color were played by white actors, people of color were hardly represented at all–and rarely in lead roles. While white actors were freely given jobs playing characters of color in make-up, actors of color struggled to find work.

Our society has yet to escape the legacy of these casting practices, which still continue in a subdued form today. Even today, although actors of color are disproportionately underrepresented in the media, films with lead characters of color are still cast with non-minority actors.

A friend sent me a link to this recent whitewashing controversy in California, a state that is certainly not bare of Asians.
California's Asian American population is estimated at 4.4 million, approximately one-third of the nation's 13.1 million Asian Americans.
Heated exchanges at La Jolla Playhouse over multicultural casting:
The casting of “The Nightingale,” written by Tony-winning “Spring Awakening” collaborators Duncan Sheik and Steven Sater, has drawn sharp criticism. The musical, adapted from the Hans Christian Andersen story and set in ancient China, features a multicultural cast of 12, with two actors of Asian descent in supporting roles. The show's lead role of a young Chinese emperor is played by a white actor.
The production has five male roles. All are played by white men.

Spoken word artist Jason Chu makes it clear when he says, "Colorblind is just another way to say we don't care."

A community forum was between audience members, activists and the creative staff:
La Jolla Playhouse: The Nightingale Panel Discussion.

Some had come from as far away as New York.  

I found one question to the staff quite thought provoking:

If this had been set in Africa would you have dared to cast a white male as the African King? Would you have considered casting a white male?
The answer was, "I’m not sure it’s productive to say what if," which to me was not an answer at all.

(Continue reading below the fold.)

Members of the Asian American Performers Action Coalition (AAPAC) a group started in New York in 2011 "to expand the perception of Asian American performers in order to increase their access to and representation on New York City’s stages" were panelists.

This graphic is from their "Ethnic Representation on New York City Stages" Report.

This report tallies the ethnic make up of cast members from every Broadway show which opened in the last five seasons as well as from productions at the sixteen largest not-for-profit theatre companies in New York City.  It is the first report on minority casting in New York City theatre ever to be released publicly.
pie chart graphic from
Ethnic representation in NY theater

Over 50 years after West Side Story, wherever we look, it's still happening. I have to laugh bitterly whenever I hear the phrase "post racial or colorblind America."

It ain't happening.

It's not just Hollywood, or television, or the stage. It's in books, on book covers, in video games, animation, advertising, and in the news.

The irony is that when producers make the attempt to correctly transfer characters clearly described as people of color from a book to the screen, there is also a racist pushback against those efforts. We saw it happen recently around Hunger Games, which was diaried and discussed here at Daily Kos:

The Hunger Games "Racism, Reading Comprehension, and Projection"

Racists Angry That Hunger Games Characters Are Black

Whitewashing isn't just an issue here in the U.S.

As a kid, I loved the swashbuckling novels written by Alexandre Dumas. My dad, who had played a musketeer on Broadway, made sure I learned about Dumas' African ancestry.

Alexandre Dumas, père
Portrait of Alexander Dumas. 1855
Gérard Depardieu au festival de Cannes. 2010. Actor Gerard Depardieu at Cannes Film Festival 2010
Gerard Depardieu at Cannes film festival, 2010
The BBC covered the protest around the casting of Gerard Depardieu as Dumas.
Dumas film with white actor Depardieu sparks race row:
The celebrated but fair-skinned screen star, Gerard Depardieu, had to darken his skin and wear a curly wig to play the part in L'Autre Dumas.
Critics argue the French movie industry has deliberately undermined the 19th Century novelist's ethnicity...Dumas was the grandson of a Haitian slave and often referred to himself as a negro.

Historian Claude Schopp says although his books were revered by his contemporaries, he was often mocked for his colour. "In caricatures or in sketches he was always presented with big lips, with Afro hair, as a sort of monster."

Reactions from blacks in France were vocal:
But France's Representative Council of Black Associations has objected to Depardieu in the role, saying black actors are not given an opportunity to play white roles in French cinema. "It's very shocking and it is insulting," Patrick Lozes, president of the council, told the London Daily Mail. "It is a way of saying that we don't have any black actors who have the talent to play Alexandre Dumas, which of course is not true. In 150 years' time could the role of [U.S. President] Barack Obama be played in a film by a white actor with a fuzzy wig?" he added. "Can Martin Luther King be played by a white?"

Dumas, beloved author and playwright who died in 1870, is one of few national cultural figures of color in France, although many today don't know about his black ancestry. "There is a mechanism of permanent discrimination by silence," said Jacques Martial, a black actor who made his name playing a television police detective.

At the same time, "down-under" in Australia, an iconic historical military hero got similar treatment.

Director slammed for 'white-out' of legendary Gallipoli sniper Billy Sing

A FURORE has erupted over a new mini-series about the deadliest sniper at Gallipoli, Chinese-Australian Billy Sing, who is played by a white.

This portrayal in the The Legend of Billy Sing has been attacked by Australians of Chinese ancestry as a betrayal of their heritage, robbing them of a rare historic hero.

Director Geoff Davis has cast his son Josh in the lead role, while Sing's Chinese father is played by the veteran actor Tony Bonner, who came to prominence as a blond-haired helicopter pilot in the Skippy TV series.

But here's the good news. Google "whitewashing." Young people are pushing back. We don't have a lot of discussions here on Daily Kos about fan art, or video, or young adult books. Cyberspace has many communities, and the discussions of whitewashing, white as the "normative" and the power of images, is taking place.

I have been reading some of these sites and blogs with great interest.

EmpressFunk at has a wonderful poster that breaks down whitewashing and racebending. Go take a look.

This impassioned post illustrates to me that some young white folks "get it."

Whitewashing, Racebending, and Why “We’re All Human” is Bullshit

There are a few things you should know about me before I start ranting. I am a white heterosexual Christian cis male middle-class American. I am a member of the majority in pretty much every area of life. I am privileged in ways that it took me a long time to fully understand.

And racism still pisses me off so much I can’t even see straight.

I admit to being fairly ignorant of the concept of privilege for most of my life. And I know that what I’m about to say won’t mean as much as if it had come from the fingertips of somebody who truly understands oppression. But I still have opinions on this, and if you don’t want to read them, get out now. This is mostly related to drama on Katrina’s blog, but a lot of this has been stewing for a while so I’m letting it all out.

Also, if my white privilege causes me to say anything ignorant, feel free to correct me (politely, if you can). I am a member of the Korra fandom. “Racebending” has been an issue in the Avatar fandom since M. Night Shyamalan directed the abysmal The Last Airbender, casting white people in the main roles, erasing pretty much all the references to Chinese culture, and generally making things really awkward for everybody.

Here we have a reaction to a new young adult book series:

Today In Racism: YA Series 'Save The Pearls' Employs Offensive Blackface & Racist Stereotypes

First off, while she may want to pat herself on the back for creating a story that turns on its head stereotypical tropes about the social value of whiteness and blackness, the very names she chooses to use say that Foyt may still hold those tired tropes dear. “Pearl” as a term for whiteness ascribes high value, rareness, beauty and worth. And Coal as a term for dark-skinned? Low value and dirty. And as blogger Nnamdi Bawse points out, it’s a tried and true racial slur. But even without the shameful history of the slur, choosing such wildly divergent names, holding wildly divergent values, implies a positive value judgement on whiteness and a negative value judgment on blackness.

Then let’s take the “Beauty and the Beast” analogy. To refer to a dark-skinned man as “beastly” carries with it negative notions of blackness that are rooted in a historical portrayal of black men as sexually savage beasts. As Dr. David Pilgrim, professor of Sociology at Ferris State University writes, “During the Radical Reconstruction period (1867-1877), many white writers argued that without slavery — which supposedly suppressed their animalistic tendencies — blacks were reverting to criminal savagery.” So essentially, the construction of black men as “beastly” was used to justify slavery. So, awesome. Yeah, NO.

Finally, witness this video Foyt made to publicize her book, featuring a white woman in blackface.

Memo to the world: Blackface is not okay. Like, EVER. Blackface is rooted in bygone minstrel shows, where white actors would play outrageously offensive stereotypes of blackness. As the website explains, blackface is more than simply the application of dark makeup to a white face. Blackface “originated in the White man’s characterizations of plantation slaves and free blacks during the era of minstrel shows (1830-1890), the caricatures took such a firm hold on the American imagination that audiences expected any person with dark skin, no matter what their background, to conform to one or more of the stereotypes: the coon, the mammy, the Uncle Tom, the buck, the wench, the mulatto and the pickaninny.” These racial stereoytypes are all highly negative and delimiting.

Since I am well past the age for YA fiction, though I do read dystopian sci-fi, I would not have run across this particular critique had I not been paying attention to the online discourse around racebending.  

This piece gives a bit of the history of the development of the racebending activist community:

Racebending: Fan Activists Fight Racist Casting

In December 2008, producers of the film adaptation of the Nickelodeon cartoon Avatar: The Last Airbender set off a firestorm of criticism when they announced their casting decisions.  Despite the fact that the television show had a distinctly Asian aesthetic and borrowed many elements from East Asian and Inuit cultures, four white actors had been cast in the lead roles.  Many fans became irate, demanding that the roles be given to Asian American actors because they had always imagined that the characters were racially Asian.  When one of the lead actors dropped out of the project he was replaced with Dev Patel, who is South Indian (as is the film’s director, M. Night Shyamalan).  But fans insisted that the nation his character belonged to were the villains of the series, so now the problem was that three white stars were heroes and the South Asian actor and his people were villains.  The backlash continued in heated online debates and has culminated in a number of protest activities, ranging from letter-writing campaigns and the spread of counter-media to a planned boycott of the upcoming film.  The fan activists who mobilized over the casting decisions for The Last Airbender (TLA) continue to work on issues related to the film, but have also shifted their focus toward discrimination in casting more generally.  In many ways they successfully model a mode of activism that is necessarily multilingual, moving between the languages of fandom, activism, and racial politics as it becomes strategically advantageous.  This case study examines their transition between these roles and some of the difficulties that they face in doing so.
These days there are far more books that deal with the pernicious role of media in stereotyping and whitewashing people of color.

I'd like to suggest a few for your consideration:

AMERICAN INDIANS: Stereotypes & Realities, by Devon A. Mihesuah

Indians in Unexpected Places, by Philip J. Deloria.

Latino Spin: Public Image and the Whitewashing of Race, by Arlene Dávila.

Latino Images in Film: Stereotypes, Subversion, and Resistance, by Charles Ramírez Berg.

Screening Asian Americans, edited by Peter X. Feng.

We live in a global society where the vast majority of the worlds peoples are not socially constructed as "white." Changing demographics here in the U.S. are trending toward a majority population of those who are now labelled "minority" or "people of color" in less than 40 years from now.

One would think that various industries that will depend on the dollars of entertainment consumers should have already adjusted to this shifting market. They haven't. So what would be "smart capitalism" is bogged down by racism.

Take the Oscars:

A Los Angeles Times study found that academy voters are markedly less diverse than the moviegoing public, and even more monolithic than many in the film industry may suspect. Oscar voters are nearly 94% Caucasian and 77% male, The Times found. Blacks are about 2% of the academy, and Latinos are less than 2%.
This pathetic statistic is reflected in the the Emmy awards as well.  

The NY Times hosted a debate about television, Whitewashing on the Small Screen. Here's a breakdown for the Director's Guild.

The only thing that is going to change this is if we vote with our dollars, and raise a louder fuss.

Green will trump whitewashing.  

One day.


Originally posted to Daily Kos on Sun Aug 05, 2012 at 07:00 PM PDT.

Also republished by Barriers and Bridges, Black Kos community, Theatricals, Protest Music, and DKOMA.

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Comment Preferences

  •  tips for taking a stand (127+ / 0-)

    and confronting whitewashing.

    "If we ever needed to vote we sure do need to vote now". Rev. William Barber, If you're in a coalition and you're comfortable, you know it's not a broad enough coalition" Bernice Johnson Reagon

    by Denise Oliver Velez on Sun Aug 05, 2012 at 01:29:59 PM PDT

  •  THIS, THIS, THIS. (35+ / 0-)

    Thank you, Spirit Sis.  You already know this is one of my hot buttons.  It's been gettin' pushed a LOT lately.

    Authentic Native American silverwork, jewelry, photography, and other art here.

    by Aji on Sun Aug 05, 2012 at 07:05:43 PM PDT

  •  The House Speaker is a person of color... (6+ / 0-) from the tanning booth!


    You points are good, and the only good thing is that things were much worse when I was a kid in the 1950s.  Then it was unimaginable that people of color (including Hispanics) would ever hold any high position in society or politics.

    "The best lack all conviction, while the worst
    Are full of passionate intensity." --W. B. Yeats

    by Pragmatus on Sun Aug 05, 2012 at 07:06:12 PM PDT

  •  I agree 100% on West Side Story (12+ / 0-)

    especially in its time, late 50s and early 60s. How much more powerful that would have been if either Chita Rivera or Rita Moreno had played Maria!

    I feel cheated because the producers miscast the role on both occasions.

    I am also offended by various non-American actors have to play the wrong nationality, as if any non-American country is the same as any other.

    •  I watched West Side Story (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Shahryar, Denise Oliver Velez

      Only one time, and it was at school. I remember Natalie Wood because I had a terrible crush on her because of this movie. I don't remember the other gals too well. Im sure that played a role in this right or wrong.

      No Jesus, Know Peace

      by plok on Sun Aug 05, 2012 at 08:02:47 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  just my opinion, but Rita was prettier (3+ / 0-)

        much more attractive to a young 10 year old and, looking now at pictures from then, I still think so.

        •  Not disagreeing w/this or diarist, (0+ / 0-)

          but I am sure a major facet of casting Wood in the "Juliet" roll of this production had at least somethign to do with her being cast in the "Juliet" role in Rebel Without a Cause. WSS on stage was inspired by the same social perceptions as Rebel - and Wild One, and Blackboard Jungle- which is to say the juvenile delinquicy scare. (The authors originally saw the ethnic conflict as being between Catholics and Jews, and I'm guessing here but my guess is that the shift to Italian-americans and Nuevo Ricans had as much to do with Bernstein falling under the spell of the Afro-Cuban jazz movement as it was playing out by the 1950s.

          Have you heard? The vice president's gone mad. - Bob Dylan, 1966

          by textus on Mon Aug 06, 2012 at 04:13:34 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  While I agree about whitewashing... (7+ / 0-)

    West Side Story was a milestone that opened more doors than it closed, and I think it deserves better than sniffy 60 year later dismissals as "Whitewashing."  It should be redone!

    There was a play called Porgy and might not play so well today, but at the time opened many eyes, stereotypical and flawed as it was.

    It was the entry.  Now inside the film industry, perhaps the time has come to redo the classics that opened doors, eh?

    The nation we save from Republican sharpsters will be our own. We need a Democratic Congress, and to reelect President Obama....this won't be easy...we better get started NOW!

    by boilerman10 on Sun Aug 05, 2012 at 07:11:11 PM PDT

    •  I assume you're Caucasian (9+ / 0-)

      Imagine what a young Puerto Rican girl thought when she saw that movie -- you learn that deep down inside, you'll never be perfect enough to portray someone who looks like you and talks like you, because they want a white ingenue in that role. You're only good enough to be the sidekick, the might get a Supporting Actress Oscar (like Rita Moreno did) but you'll never get a Best Actress.

      Fast forward 50 years, when young people of color watched in pride and cried to see someone who looks just like them achieve the highest elected office in the land...then imagine how they feel when that man and his wife are attacked and vilified by political opponents who spew all manner of filth about them, from wanting to see his grades (because obviously he was too dumb to succeed without the help of affirmative action) to questioning his family, his faith, and even his birth.

      "If we ever needed to vote we sure do need to vote now" -- Rev. William Barber, NAACP

      by Cali Scribe on Sun Aug 05, 2012 at 10:45:06 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Yeah, 1957 should have been like 2010. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        You know, "what a young Puerto Rican girl thought when she saw that movie" is to a large extent an empirical question, so I'd be interested in hear the answers, plural.

        Mitt Romney '12: Berlusconi without the sex and alcohol!

        by Rich in PA on Mon Aug 06, 2012 at 03:58:35 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  A note on "Porgy and Bess" (Gershwin's only opera) (8+ / 0-)

      It's worth noting that the Gershwins actually stipulated in his will that—barring specific circumstances—the cast of Porgy and Bess must be black.

      Ira Gershwin (George's brother) specifically refused to allow the film version to cast white actors in blackface. Moreover, he refused to allow South African productions with an all-white cast.

      We don't want our country back, we want our country FORWARD. --Eclectablog

      by Samer on Mon Aug 06, 2012 at 03:17:57 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Never knew that (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Denise Oliver Velez, raincrow

        Thank you for pointing this out. I love Gershwin's music, and now I love the man and his brother for taking such a stand. We have to fight for the few roles that are written for us because of whitewashing. It's as if we don't exist, which is silly, cruel and downright evil.

        Cheers to the Gershwin brothers for doing what is right. More scriptwriters/composers should follow their lead.

  •  As an American Indan (41+ / 0-)

    I am often offended when movies/TV either: (1) cast a non-Indian to play an Indian role (this is going on right now) and/or (2) feel that the script has to have a non-Indian hero to "rescue" the poor Indians (i.e. Dances with Wolves).

    My mentor and elder used to tell me that until we controlled the media we would continue to be non-prime people, relegated to comedy relief and not taken seriously.

    Since I'm now getting into rant mode, I'd better stop.


  •  Really Interesting Discussions (11+ / 0-)

    There is no one answer about race, acting and how a particular actor interprets a role and how the audience perceives his or her race.

    For example, Chita Rivera ...

    In the 1960s, she was considered too exotic for the lead role in West Side Story.

    But she is a Mainland-born, half-Puerto Rican actress who is of European appearance. If you look at the Afro-Caribbean/Taino folks that comprise most of the Puerto Rican population in New York ...

    These folks don't look like Chita Rivera or Rita Moreno, for the most part.

    I still think both of them are great actresses and both are capable of great performances in West Side Story, or the TV show Oz, for example.

    How about gay actors who play straight people on TV?

    Thanks for stimulating this interesting conversation.

    "I'll believe that corporations are people when I see Rick Perry execute one."

    by bink on Sun Aug 05, 2012 at 07:16:04 PM PDT

  •  Yes! Phil Deloria! (3+ / 0-)

    His stuff is wonderful.  As is this diary, which I'm hotlisting both for the reading list and for possible use in the classroom.

    I'm in complete and total agreement.  Now, let's talk about the fact that the non-gay actor in the gay couple in Modern Family wins all the Emmys.

    -7.75, -8.10; All it takes is security in your own civil rights to make you complacent.

    by Dave in Northridge on Sun Aug 05, 2012 at 07:17:08 PM PDT

  •  This is how I'll know racism is over... (6+ / 0-)

    A white guy can play a Chinese Emperor, a Black Guy can play George Washington, and an Asian Guy can play Marting Luther King without anyone batting an eye or writing an article about it...

    Till then, we're all pretty racists. (Overstatement, for effect.)

    •  Yeah, okay (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Denise Oliver Velez, sethtriggs

      And sexism will be over when Harriet Tubman is played by a white man?

      There's a difference between casting for a known historical figure whose appearance we have a pretty good idea of, and casting for a non-specific role, or a fictional character.  The former isn't a problem (except when whitewashing is going on). The others are huge problems.

      •  I'd buy that, if only Italians could play Caesar (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        and only Zulu could play Chaka. Race is a fluid historical-sociological concept related to identy, and there are plenty of people running around quite attached to identites that didn't exists or would have been impossible for people of their particular genetics to possess in centuries past. I see no reason why in centuries future our decendants can't abandon and transcend them, and create new identies of their own.

        •  Uh-huh (0+ / 0-)

          A few centuries hence, regardless of how people see each other at the time,  I suspect that people, looking at a picture of Shaka Zulu, Julius Caesar, and Isoroku Yamamoto won't have much difficulty telling them apart.

          •  The best performance of King Lear I ever saw (5+ / 0-)

            was by James Earl Jones. Denzel Washington has done Shakespeare as well.

            The problem with race specific casting is that it would have excluded these mammoth talents from such projects.

            On the other hand, the world could have done without OLivier doing Othello in Black face.

            From an actor's point of view, the ideal would be that all roles would open to anyone, regardless of phenotype. The problem is that we don't live in that ideal world.

            Consequently there is no justification for arbitrarily whitewashing non-white characters. The objective result is discrimination against actors of color. Racist in effect, regardless of motivation.  

            Nothing human is alien to me.

            by WB Reeves on Mon Aug 06, 2012 at 02:00:39 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  I think what makes the real difference between (4+ / 0-)

              those casting situations is that in Othello, race and racial differences matter.

              Most of the rest of Shakespeare's plays, white-as-default is only defendable because he was English and in the historical plays race is clear for most of the principal characters by the nature of who they were in society at what time.

              I've heard of one case where on play, it may have been Twelfth Night, was apparently intentionally cast so that each pair of characters written as being confusable with each other were played by two actors of completely different skin tones.

              There's one case where I would not have an issue with Othello being played by a white actor: a case of flipping the races completely and casting everyone else in the play with black actors to make a point.

              Prayers and best wishes to those in Japan.

              by Cassandra Waites on Mon Aug 06, 2012 at 06:57:43 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

            •  Great points, the question becomes (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Cassandra Waites

              In a society's mind, is the most important aspect of a character his appearance or his essence. If the audience recoils at the idea that a character has a different skin color than the original, then that recoil is not the product of nature. It's the product of valuing the consistancy of skin color, or physicality, above all. But we know that, within what define as a race, people are generally fine switching things up.

              At this point, people rarely care is an actor is as tall or short as the original, has the same color eyes, or anywhere near the same facial features. For characters born after audio-recording, little effort is often made to reproduce the sound of their voice correctly. As long as their skin color is reasonably close, it's all good.

              And to me, issues of whitewashing aside, it is a way to limit possibilities on the basis of race alone.

              For instance, the Biritsh opening ceremonies invluded people of all races, in various scenes from British history, when we know 'historically' that their hues would not have been so varied until recently, especially along the various class lines they portrayed. Was that an affront to all that is good and true, or is it a more statement that the living of today own history as much as the dead? And even if the past was segregated, we don't have to leave it so...unless we choose to do so because do so is as important to us as it was to those now gone.

              •  British past wasn't all that "segregated" (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                WB Reeves, Denise Oliver Velez

                The Romans were in charge for nearly 400 years and drew their Legions from everywhere in the Empire and posted them everywhere else. There's no telling what you might find under the Eagles, or settled down with a patch of land after mustering out.

                The Norse were the next major influence, and they had a habit of swiping women from everywhere - and they were known to raid down the coasts of Africa and east to the Levant.

                Even if you allow for several centuries of isolated homogenization after 1066 (and there was never that much isolation, with English interference in Continental wars and getting repeatedly dragged into Crusades and what have you), England started to become a maritime mercantile power circa the mid-15th century - and once you had extensive trade, you had people coming and going from all over. There is a minority opinion that Shakespeare's "Dark Lady" of the Sonnets was actually black - which isn't impossible, as there are documented instances of black people living and working in Elizabethan England.

                And of course the more major a maritime power England/Great Britain/the United Kingdom became, the more diversity you would find.

                If it's
                Not your body,
                Then it's
                Not your choice
                And it's
                None of your damn business!

                by TheOtherMaven on Mon Aug 06, 2012 at 08:46:40 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

              •  There was at least one wealthy Black (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                WB Reeves

                in England in the Industrial Revolution.

                The First Black Britons

                Cesar Picton was a former servant, who became a coal merchant in Kingston-upon-Thames, and was wealthy enough by the time he died to be able to bequeath two acres of land, and a house with wharf and shops attached.
                So, no, they didn't make that Black guy in the top hat up.

                Hands off my ObamaCare[TM]

                by Mokurai on Mon Aug 06, 2012 at 10:22:17 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

            •  You raise troubling issues (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Denise Oliver Velez

              about representation of North African Muslims. Othello is referred to in the play as Black, in accordance with English prejudices of the time (portrayed as Italian prejudices), but he would more likely have been a light brown Arab/Berber from Morocco or elsewhere on the Barbary Coast.

              What would you think of Stanislavki playing Othello, as he actually did? How about this list, from Wikipedia:

              ...recent actors who chose to ‘blacken up’ include Ralph Richardson (1937), John Gielgud (1961), Laurence Olivier (1964), Anthony Hopkins (1981) and Orson Welles. Ground-breaking black American actor Paul Robeson played the role from 1930 to 1959. The casting of the role comes with a political subtext. Patrick Stewart played the role in the Royal Shakespeare Company's 1997 staging of the play and Thomas Thieme, also white, played Othello in a 2007 Munich Kammerspiele staging at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford. Michael Gambon also took the role in 1980 and 1991; their performances were critically acclaimed.

              Hands off my ObamaCare[TM]

              by Mokurai on Mon Aug 06, 2012 at 10:10:07 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  If you read the text of the play, (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Denise Oliver Velez

                particularly Iago's virulently bigoted comments in monologue or to his co-conspirator Rodrigo, it's pretty explicit that Othello was a "black Moor", i.e., sub-Saharan African.

                Shakespeare knew the difference between "black Moors" (African) and "tawny Moors" (Levantine/Arab), and was usually quite specific in his texts.

                If it's
                Not your body,
                Then it's
                Not your choice
                And it's
                None of your damn business!

                by TheOtherMaven on Mon Aug 06, 2012 at 11:20:41 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  During the early days of the British Empire (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  Denise Oliver Velez

                  Brits used the term "moor" to refer generally to all subject peoples of color. I came across this fact while reading about the formative period of the British Raj in India.

                  An aside, the Poet Pushkin, often heralded as the epitome of the "Russian Soul", kept a statue of a "Blackamoor" in his study to remind himself of his own ancestry.

                  Then there's the question of Bethoven's nickname: "The Moor."

                  Nothing human is alien to me.

                  by WB Reeves on Mon Aug 06, 2012 at 11:51:42 AM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  Beethoven may have been a case like Dumas pere, (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    Denise Oliver Velez

                    with black ancestry on the distaff side. Considering that it was not nearly as obvious as with Dumas pere (who was documented at 1/4 black and looked every bit of it), it was probably farther back than that. The theory goes that during the long period that the Low Countries were occupied by Spain, the Spanish maintained order by the use of, among others, black soldiers from Northern Africa, who left their traces behind in the gene pool. Maybe so, maybe no, we don't know and probably never will.

                    OTOH Alessandro "il Moro", last member of the senior line of the Medici, almost certainly came by his nickname via his mother, a mulatto servant in the Medici household. It isn't certain whether his father was Lorenzo II (grandson of Lorenzo "il Magnifico") or Giulio/Pope Clement VII.

                    If it's
                    Not your body,
                    Then it's
                    Not your choice
                    And it's
                    None of your damn business!

                    by TheOtherMaven on Mon Aug 06, 2012 at 03:44:38 PM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  Speaking of Dumas Pere (0+ / 0-)

                      his story is worth telling. A French Marshall for the Republic during the Revolution, his treatment at Napoleon's instigation is a lasting shame for France.

                      Nothing human is alien to me.

                      by WB Reeves on Mon Aug 06, 2012 at 05:11:08 PM PDT

                      [ Parent ]

                      •  Actually that was Dumas pere's *father*, (0+ / 0-)

                        General Dumas. Dumas pere was the author of The Three Musketeers, The Count of Monte Cristo, and many many other fiction and non-fiction works.

                        Dumas fils gave the world La Dame aux Camelias, aka "Camille", aka "La traviata" (once G. Verdi got hold of the story). He was 1/8 black and rather odd-looking, since he had kinky blond hair.

                        If it's
                        Not your body,
                        Then it's
                        Not your choice
                        And it's
                        None of your damn business!

                        by TheOtherMaven on Mon Aug 06, 2012 at 07:04:33 PM PDT

                        [ Parent ]

  •  I'd like to see Porgy and Bess in whiteface, with (5+ / 0-)

    all of the characters played by people of color, with the story set in Westchester, and see how many people were OK with that.   Good diary.  

    You don't need to firebomb Dresden to prove that you can fly the plane.

    by SpamNunn on Sun Aug 05, 2012 at 07:20:30 PM PDT

    •  Elizabeth, you are presently my female companion (2+ / 0-)

      just wouldn't do it, would it?

      You don't need to firebomb Dresden to prove that you can fly the plane.

      by SpamNunn on Sun Aug 05, 2012 at 07:41:02 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Simply transpose to poor Southern Whites (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Denise Oliver Velez

        or Latinos in LA or New York, or any immigrant neighborhood in the 19th century. Well, rework it in somewhat the manner that Bernstein,. Robbins, et al. did in morphing Romeo and Juliet into West Side Story.

        But I do like the idea of transposing it to prosperous, even rich people. The cocaine fits perfectly, as does It Ain't Necessarily So. This crowd here would certainly go for

        Them things that you're liable
        To read in the Bible
        They ain't necessarily so.
        in the mouth of a modern drug dealer.

        We would have to rethink the dialogue and the music, certainly.

        Beth, you are my main squeeze now.

        Betty, you are my SO now.

        I'm pretty sure a competent playwright or screenwriter could think of something that would work.

        Hands off my ObamaCare[TM]

        by Mokurai on Mon Aug 06, 2012 at 10:34:17 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  As an American mutt: It's difficult to relate to (4+ / 0-)

    "whitewashing", or "race baiting".  

  •  Which brings us to Robert Downey Jr in (6+ / 0-)

    Tropic Thunder.

    How would you rate his blackface performance and should it have been done?

    "Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity." --M. L. King "You can't fix stupid" --Ron White -6.00, -5.18

    by zenbassoon on Sun Aug 05, 2012 at 07:23:13 PM PDT

  •  Excellent, thought provoking diary as always. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Denise Oliver Velez

    Thank you.

    I am going back to watch that video again. Weird.

  •  really interesting and introduces issues I'd (20+ / 0-)

    never considered before.
    My youngest daughter was adopted from China. When she was little she loved all the Disney princesses and once told me she wasn't pretty because she didn't look like Snow White, Sleeping Beauty or Cinderella. I asked her if Mulan was pretty and she said yes -- and then I pointed out that she looked somewhat like Mulan (though Mulan was much lighter skinned than my daughter who, especially in the summer, is a lovely nut brown). But when it came to finding Disney figures for birthday cakes, no Mulan was offered. Only the white princesses.
    Luckily her other favorite movie was a 1997 movie of the Rogers & Hammerstein Cinderella musical with a cast so diverse it looks like a street near the UN.
    Brandy as Cinderella, Whitney Houston as the Fairy Godmother, a Filipino actor Paolo Montalban as the prince, Whoopi Goldberg and Victor Garber as the Queen and King. The stepmother and one stepsister were white and the other stepsister was black; Jason Alexander was the advisor to the king and queen.
    It's a really fun movie and my daughter watched it over and over. Once she told me that the fairy godmother (Whitney Houston) had skin just like hers! The movie works beautifully and leaves you wondering why it is so unique -- why can't casting always be done that way? When race is not relevant to the character, there's no reason to assume everyone in the production should be white.  

    We're not perfect, but they're nuts! -- Barney Frank

    by Tamar on Sun Aug 05, 2012 at 07:26:13 PM PDT

    •  I'll have to get that movie for (4+ / 0-)

      my young family members
      Thanks for sharing.

      "If we ever needed to vote we sure do need to vote now". Rev. William Barber, If you're in a coalition and you're comfortable, you know it's not a broad enough coalition" Bernice Johnson Reagon

      by Denise Oliver Velez on Sun Aug 05, 2012 at 08:29:25 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I know that opera isn't (4+ / 0-)

        considered exactly mainstream, but they've been making strides in recent years -- thank you, Marian Anderson, Grace Bumbry and others.

        They cast for voice, so there have been a number of productions at the Met with a black singer as male or female lead, even if the setting is "traditionally white," for lack of a better term. Think Jessye Norman singing Wagner.

        "This writing business. Pencils and what-not. Over-rated, if you ask me. Silly stuff. Nothing in it." -- Eeyore

        by Mnemosyne on Sun Aug 05, 2012 at 09:11:40 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Jessye Norman as Sieglinde... (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Denise Oliver Velez

          The voice worked fine, the visuals were a problem - especially when (as usual) the only available Siegmund was Nordic-white. And Siegmund and Sieglinde are supposed to be long-separated Half Identical Twins, and the libretto harps on the resemblance ad nauseam.

          There aren't too many other instances where race is a factor - Verdi's Otello, of course, for exactly the same reasons as Shakespeare's. It's a minor element in Verdi's Aida - less so these days as we learn more about just how racially diverse the ancient Egyptians were and how little they cared about anything but "being Egyptian". (She's still an Ethiopian slave in the Egyptian court, therefore socially inferior.)

          And of course there's Porgy and Bess, which carries a contractual obligation that all the cast must be black.

          If it's
          Not your body,
          Then it's
          Not your choice
          And it's
          None of your damn business!

          by TheOtherMaven on Mon Aug 06, 2012 at 09:06:02 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Anybody who has ever sung Turandot n/t (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Denise Oliver Velez

            Hands off my ObamaCare[TM]

            by Mokurai on Mon Aug 06, 2012 at 10:51:01 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Turandot is a "special case" (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Denise Oliver Velez

              The story is set in a fairytale version of "Ancient China" which can in no way be connected to any real period of Chinese history. It was originally a Persian tale about a haughty and cold Mongol princess, very freely adapted from a Mongolian Atalanta named Khutulun, who swore she would marry no man unless he could outwrestle her, and the losers would have to forfeit 100 horses. Supposedly she had a herd of 10,000 before she finally gave in and married a handsome man who didn't enter the contest. Somewhere along the way - certainly by the time the Persian tale was translated into French in 1710 - the more dire conditions we are familiar with developed: three riddles, and the loser forfeits his head.

              If it's
              Not your body,
              Then it's
              Not your choice
              And it's
              None of your damn business!

              by TheOtherMaven on Mon Aug 06, 2012 at 11:52:35 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

  •  another great post (4+ / 0-)

    I've spent some time with a buddy from so Florida the last couple of days. He asked me what I thought about the Zimmerman case.
    I answered he belongs behind bars.

    John told me if Zimmerman walks Miami will burn again basically. John used the words Anarchy will break out.

  •  Same with Cleopatra played by Liz Taylor. (3+ / 0-)

    "...I just want you to know there are BILLIONS of us rooting for you..." Sir Paul McCartney

    by eden4barack08 on Sun Aug 05, 2012 at 07:28:50 PM PDT

    •  well, no one really knows (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Denise Oliver Velez

      what Cleo looked like, so she might have looked like the younger Liz.

      (Hope I don't have to add that that's snark.)

      "This writing business. Pencils and what-not. Over-rated, if you ask me. Silly stuff. Nothing in it." -- Eeyore

      by Mnemosyne on Sun Aug 05, 2012 at 09:12:52 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  I Will Always Remember (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Denise Oliver Velez, jaysunb

      The interview with Lena Horne about the fact that (a) Max Factor developed makeup especially for her so that she could appear darker than her natural skintone, since Hollywood thought she photographed too light (i.e. too white) and (b) Hollywood then promptly used this makeup on Hedy Lamarr so that she could play an African.

      Can't win for losing, in other words.

      •  hah! yes -darken up Lena. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        head shaking.

        "If we ever needed to vote we sure do need to vote now". Rev. William Barber, If you're in a coalition and you're comfortable, you know it's not a broad enough coalition" Bernice Johnson Reagon

        by Denise Oliver Velez on Sun Aug 05, 2012 at 09:16:33 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Technically the Lamarr role was Egyptian-Arab, (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Denise Oliver Velez

          which for some bizarre reason counted as "white". This was a change from the source material in order to conform to a Hays Code rule forbidding "interracial" relationships onscreen. (The role in question was Tondelayo in White Cargo, 1942.)

          If it's
          Not your body,
          Then it's
          Not your choice
          And it's
          None of your damn business!

          by TheOtherMaven on Mon Aug 06, 2012 at 10:51:21 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  Even more Lena Horne stories: (3+ / 0-)

        Her scenes in several MGM movies were cut due to southern theater owners complaining about seeing black faces in predominately white films.

        Also, she was up for the role of Julie Laverne, the "tragic mulatto" character in the film Show Boat, but again, MGM catered to these same film owners by casting Ava Gardner in the role instead.

        "Do they call you Rush because you're in a rush to eat?" -"Stutterin' John" Melendez to Rush Limbaugh.

        by Nedsdag on Sun Aug 05, 2012 at 09:50:45 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  And, there's movies like , "Pinky & (3+ / 0-)

        Inmitation of Life." A couple of hilarious attempts to promote white superiority.
        The women cast to play the birth mother were "large & dark" ...unmistakeably a negro. The daughter always played by a white woman.
        They couldn't even bother to find a light skinned sister to play a role of what she would have actually looked like. Dandrige, Horne, Dee  ?????

        But, Hey,  both movies were made to reinforce the mindset of that day....

        Poor government comes about when good citizens sit on their hands instead of standing on their feet.' -- Robert Baker

        by jaysunb on Sun Aug 05, 2012 at 11:02:32 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  In the 1934 version of An Imitation of Life, (2+ / 0-)

          the woman who played the light skinned daughter was actually a light skinned black actress named Fredi Washington.

          I don't understand what happened 25 later. I guess the producers thought Dorothy Dandridge and Ruby Dee were too old to play the daughter.

          "Do they call you Rush because you're in a rush to eat?" -"Stutterin' John" Melendez to Rush Limbaugh.

          by Nedsdag on Sun Aug 05, 2012 at 11:30:34 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  This is so true (13+ / 0-)

    There are times when it is interesting to have actors of different backgrounds play different figures. But when it comes to historical figures, especially ones that have a history of having their background challenges (Othello) I think directors need to pay special attention.

    I also get very annoyed when TV shows like "Friends" went it's 1st 8 years without having a single black person on the show. A show set in NYC didn't have single black person in a coffee house, deliver the mail, walk down the street, live next door, etc to the cast. I just found that to be white washing. There has been a similar uproar about HBO's "Girl Friends" (I think that's the name of the show). My take is that directors are often awarded for costumes, and physical scenes in movies, yet someone the people in the background get ignored?

    -1.63/ -1.49 "Speaking truth to power" (with snark of course)!

    by dopper0189 on Sun Aug 05, 2012 at 07:29:51 PM PDT

  •  Excellent post! (5+ / 0-)

    Charleston Heston in Touch of Evil is a double-wammy: it's whitewashing and a sick political boomerang, when you consider what Heston stood for: Reagan, Bush, gods and guns. He'd be standing shoulder-to-shoulder today with Sheriff Joe Arpaio. Your papers, Chuck?

    stay together / learn the flowers / go light - Gary Snyder

    by Mother Mags on Sun Aug 05, 2012 at 07:31:52 PM PDT

    •  Paul Newman (5+ / 0-)

      For another white, playing a Mexican (with one of the worst faked Spanish accents) in The Outrage -- a terrible remake of Rashomon reset in the Southwest.

      Mit der Dummheit kämpfen Götter selbst vergebens.

      by MoDem on Sun Aug 05, 2012 at 07:37:07 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Actually Charlton Heston (2+ / 0-)

      Marched in the 60's during the civil rights movement. The guy's politics were pretty repugnant late in his life but let's not call him something he wasn't.

      Why do I have the feeling George W. Bush joined the Stonecutters, ate a mess of ribs, and used the Constitution as a napkin?

      by Matt Z on Sun Aug 05, 2012 at 07:45:28 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  And Reagan once represented a union, Matt. (5+ / 0-)

        I don't need to call Heston anything. His own words do:

        During a December 7, 1997 speech before the Free Congress Foundation, a controversial think tank that promotes the far-right’s viewpoint in “The Culture War,” Heston compared the perceived plight of white conservative Americans to “European Jews … The Nazis forced them to wear six-pointed yellow stars sewn on their chests as identity badges. It worked. So what color star will they pin on our coats? How will the self-styled elite tag us? There may not be a Gestapo officer on every street corner yet, but the influence on our culture is just as pervasive.” He went on to say, “Heaven help the God-fearing, law-abiding, Caucasian, middle class, Protestant, or even worse Evangelical Christian, Midwest, or Southern, or even worse rural, apparently straight, or even worse admittedly heterosexual, gun-owning or even worse NRA-card-carrying, average working stiff, or even worse male working stiff, because not only don't you count, you're a downright obstacle to social progress … The Constitution was handed down to guide us by a bunch of those wise old dead white guys who invented this country. Now, some flinch when I say that. Why? It's true...they were white guys. So were most of the guys who died in Lincoln's name opposing slavery in the 1860s. So why should I be ashamed of white guys? Why is ‘Hispanic pride’ or ‘black pride’ a good thing, while ‘white pride’ conjures up shaved heads and white hoods? Why was the Million Man March on Washington celebrated in the media as progress, while the Promise Keepers March on Washington was greeted with suspicion and ridicule? I'll tell you why: cultural warfare.” Heston also declared, “I find my blood pressure rising when Clinton's cultural shock troops participate in homosexual-rights fund-raisers but boycott gun rights fund-raisers...and then claim it's time to place homosexual men in tents with Boy Scouts, and suggest that sperm donor babies born into lesbian relationships are somehow better served and more loved … Mainstream America is depending on you counting on you to draw your sword and fight for them. These people have precious little time or resources to battle misguided Cinderella attitudes, the fringe propaganda of the homosexual coalition, the feminists who preach that it's a divine duty for women to hate men, [and] blacks who raise a militant fist with one hand while they seek preference with the other.” Heston’s speech is still featured on the website of white supremacist David Duke, who lauds the remarks by stating, “A few years ago I was astounded to read these courageous remarks by Charlton Heston. I am thankful to hear a man with such high esteem say essentially the same things for which I have been reviled by the liberal media. His words should be reproduced and put into the hands of every American.” Julian Bond, then-Board Chairman of the NAACP, reacted to the speech by saying, “Charlton Heston's civil rights credentials are seriously sullied by his bigoted and homophobic remarks and his attacks on racial minorities. The endorsement by white supremacist David Duke further threatens to erode the considerable respect many Americans felt toward Heston for his years-ago commitment to human rights.” NRA Leadership

        stay together / learn the flowers / go light - Gary Snyder

        by Mother Mags on Sun Aug 05, 2012 at 08:03:39 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  John Wayne played two Asians in the same movie (6+ / 0-)

      The movie was so painfully bad that Howard Hughes never made another.

      The movie was filmed at an atomic bomb test site. 91 of the 220 cast and crew later developed cancer, including John Wayne.

      •  About that... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        ...people tend to misread stats.

        Roughly 33% of people will have some sort of cancer if they live long enough (said cancer might not be fatal) merely by being alive. Based on pure odds, out of 220 people you'd expect about 73 of them to have developed cancer at some point. So 91 isn't that huge a leap. In a given group, that's just as plausibly a random chance cluster as actually meaning anything.

        Also, Wayne (as wasn't uncommon at the time) smoked like a chimney. The same situation occurred among uranium miners exposed to radon back in the 1940s, who smoked constantly, even on the job: while the radon increased the risk of lung cancer, and radiation increased the risk of lung cancer, both had a synergetic effect that vastly increased the risk of cancer.

        So being downwind of the Nevada Test Range may have had an effect but it's not as clear cut as the factoid may make one believe.

        •  BUT truckloads of the irradiated sands were (0+ / 0-)

          shipped back to Hollywood for filming close-ups - and it is NOT coincidence that every single one of the leads, plus the director, died of cancer.

          If it's
          Not your body,
          Then it's
          Not your choice
          And it's
          None of your damn business!

          by TheOtherMaven on Mon Aug 06, 2012 at 09:23:10 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  To be fair to Heston (and Welles) (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Denise Oliver Velez

      Heston was a furiously strong supporter of what Welles was trying to do with the film. It wouldn't have gotten made without Heston being in it. Like West Side Story, I'm glad the movie exists, and while it's unfortunate that it had to go down that way, I'd rather it exist than not exist. Heston doesn't try on a stupid accent or try to do anything to play the ethnicity, which I think is better than him trying to "sound Mexican," especially because there are a decent number of Mexican actors who do great stuff in it aside from Heston.

      Heston got a LOT of flack over the years for that role, still does. And it's really unfair because Welles made that movie on shoestring, with desperation lurking around every corner, and when he went out of the country to shoot his next project the studio took it away from him and mangled it, and one of his only friends during that time was Heston.

      I'm no fan of Heston's politics or of the fact that the culture existed that said it was okay for him to play a Mexican in that film, but I blame the studio and the culture more than Heston specifically. I feel the same way about Wood, who does her best. And especially now that you go see WSS you get totally all-hispanic casts all the time.

      I also wonder why that no one seems to have an objection to Marlene Dietrich in that film playing a Mexican either. Or George Chakiris (a Greek) playing Mexican in WSS.

    •  Note that Heston (0+ / 0-)

      was a political liberal, in particular because of Civil Rights issues, until post 1968, and that the issue that moved him to the right was specifically gun control.

      I don't agree with his shift and couldn't stand him most of my teens and early adulthod, but at the time he made Touch of Evil, it wouldn't surprise me if J Edgar was keeping a file on him.

      Have you heard? The vice president's gone mad. - Bob Dylan, 1966

      by textus on Mon Aug 06, 2012 at 04:26:07 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  And this aspect is one of *my* hot buttons on this (6+ / 0-)
    Even today, although actors of color are disproportionately underrepresented in the media, films with lead characters of color are still cast with non-minority actors.
    Anytime an actor of color gets a lead role, they have to surround that person with White actors, I guess so White people feel more "comfortable" and will be more likely to go see the movie. It's so deeply embedded in White privilege: entitlement to always be able to see people on film and screen that look just like them.

    Does Denzel playing a lead in a big budget film ever get a Black No. 2? No. He gets Ethan Hawk or Ryan Reynolds or the like. And if he has a Black female love interest (and that's a big "if"), you can bet she'll have only seconds of screen time.

    And don't even get me started on TV's current Hawaii Five-0. A state (where I lived for 10 years as an adult) with a non-White majority population, but the two leads are BOTH White, and the side kicks are People of Color. Yeah.

    If "elitist" just means "not the dumbest motherfucker in the room", I'll be an elitist! - David Rees from "Get Your War On".

    by Oaktown Girl on Sun Aug 05, 2012 at 07:39:24 PM PDT

  •  An interesting and rare exception -- Jackie Brown (4+ / 0-)

    In the source material, a book by Elmore Leonard, Jackie Brown is a blond white woman.  

    Tarantino chose Pam Greer instead.  And, Greer didn't even dye her hair.

    Mit der Dummheit kämpfen Götter selbst vergebens.

    by MoDem on Sun Aug 05, 2012 at 07:40:23 PM PDT

  •  Oblig. Charlie Chan-Kentaro Moto-James Wong entry (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Denise Oliver Velez, Aquarius40

    Split decision while not Asian actors 20th Century Fox and Monogram Pictures marked a spot in film history in which these characters were as in their source material world class detectives who commanded respect the world over.

    Of note an obscure entry in the Wong Series Phantom of Chinatown. series the role went to Keye Luke

    The 1st Amendment gives you the right to say stupid things, the 1st Amendment doesn't guarantee a paycheck to say stupid things.

    by JML9999 on Sun Aug 05, 2012 at 07:41:07 PM PDT

  •  Theater producers have enough to worry about (3+ / 0-)

    They shouldn't have to go down a checklist to get every one's race correct.

    I saw The Nightengale in La Jolla. There were two Asian women in the cast that did a very good job. The white emporer and the two white men playing eunuchs were also very good.

    I have seen enough bad plays so that when I see a good one I just feel grateful.

    •  How hard is it to figure out that China equals (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Denise Oliver Velez

      Asian? Although I will say that at least at lower levels (community-based pr smaller experimental companies), theater does non-traditional casting more than tv or movies. It looks like the statistics suggests this changes once theater becomes higher paying.

    •  Glass menagerie (4+ / 0-)

      First. I am really enjoying botht he diary and this whole discussion. Saying that as a 50-something white buy who has reviewed music, theater and film.

      The challenges of theater evolve over time. I ahve a very good friend who was casting a college production of The Glass Menagerie in the 1980s. Clearly, the best audition he got for Jim was an African-American actor. It threw him to the extent that something that significant in casting would usually be something that would originate with a director and spring from his original plans of how to interpret the text.

      The call-back went like this: It is unfair to ask you this,, and this won't affect whether I cast your, but but make sense of having a black Jim in a play with an otherwise white cast. The student actor, at that point, laid out a back story that made perfect sense. It took St Louis deseg laws, housing patterns, and several other things into account, and my friend also immediately realized it would add some resonance to Tom bringing Jim home to dinner, and to Amanda's reaction (no spoiler here) at the end.

      As I understand it, Williams was either a textualist or a racist and once famously stopped a production of Streetcar having an African-american Stanley, but he was safely dead at this point. And opening night, I heard people - not college students, community types - marveling at how well the casting fit the text.

      I don't know that this anecdote contributes anything to this discussion, but one contributes as one can.

      Have you heard? The vice president's gone mad. - Bob Dylan, 1966

      by textus on Mon Aug 06, 2012 at 04:43:33 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  'Starship Troopers' was a good example of this (3+ / 0-)

    In the book, the reason many of the characters had Hispanic names, was because they were from South America and the Philippines (the lead character, Johnny Rico, was Filipino) because the northern hemisphere countries had destroyed each other in atomic wars. But in the movie, Paul Verhoeven cast ultra-white actors such as Casper Van Dien, Denise Richards, and NPH in the roles.

    Granted, part of the reason may have been because Verhoeven wanted to REALLY make it obvious that the Earth Federation was a Nazi regime to fit his re-imagining of the story, but still.

    Romney 2012 - Sic Semper Fidelis Tyrannosaurus!

    by Fordmandalay on Sun Aug 05, 2012 at 07:44:28 PM PDT

  •  I am sensitive when I see a movie (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Denise Oliver Velez, shanikka, NancyK

    playing in Africa about a political or historical event concerning issues in which the Africans are involved, is being played by Afro-Americans.

    You may think that's not fair, but it's putting me off, because though both are black, they are different and I feel that those roles played by Afro-Americans act in ways Africans wouldn't. I think also that it is dependent on who has written the script and produced and directed.

    This can't be described as white-washing, but it feels to me like westernizing the emotions and behavior and cultural environment of Africans.

    The best movie clips concerning Africa are made by Africans and narrated and written by them, same as I now have learned and seen with movies about the American Indians. The ones played, narrated and written by an Indian are clearly what you want to see and learn.

    I like mini documentaries made by African film-makers. Al Jazeera has sometimed quite authentic ones.


  •  The opera world is genuinely color blind. (13+ / 0-)

    "Blackface" has been common in opera as a necessity for filling roles such as Verdi's Otello and pretty much all of Aida, since in the past you just couldn't find the black singers for it in European opera houses.  This was also true for Asian roles in Madama Butterfly and Turandot.

    Today, you'll still find white singers playing non-white roles.  But it's actually much more common to see non-white singers playing "white" roles.  Opera audiences don't bat an eye at Denyce Graves as Carmen, or Leontyne Price as an Italian noblewoman, or Simon Estes as a Russian tsar.  It's all about the pipes.

    Fortunate, singers such as Marian Anderson and Paul Robeson blazed trails early in the 20th century and desegregated the opera world long before society at large started to follow suit.

    •  For some reason a large fraction of (5+ / 0-)

      black male opera stars have been baritones or basses, excluding them from the role of the most famous black person in opera -- Verdi cast Otello as a tenor! Paul Robeson starred in the title role of Shakespeare's Othello, but his voice was two octaves too low for Verdi's version.

      Paul Robeson and Marian Anderson desegregated the concert stage, but not opera. I'm not aware of any opera role Robeson performed even though he was both a singer and an actor, and Anderson only performed in one opera role, relatively late in her career.

      As someone with a Metropolitian Opera subscription today, it is hard to imagine that Anderson was the first black person to perform there, as recently as 1955.

      •  Russians tend to have a similar problem (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Denise Oliver Velez

        The classic Russian male voice is bass-baritone - which is why so many male title characters in Russian opera are written for that range (Boris Godunov, Eugen Onegin, etc).

        If it's
        Not your body,
        Then it's
        Not your choice
        And it's
        None of your damn business!

        by TheOtherMaven on Mon Aug 06, 2012 at 09:32:30 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  This is in part due to the Russian Orthodox (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Denise Oliver Velez

          liturgy emphasizing bass singers. (I sang bass with the Slavyanka Russian Chorus.) In the Chekhov play The Seagull there is the following speech:


          I remember when the famous Silva was singing once in the Opera House at Moscow, how delighted we all were when he took the low C. Well, you can imagine our astonishment when one of the church cantors, who happened to be sitting in the gallery, suddenly boomed out: "Bravo, Silva!" a whole octave lower.

          Hands off my ObamaCare[TM]

          by Mokurai on Mon Aug 06, 2012 at 11:15:41 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  What they didn't do themselves, they helped others (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Denise Oliver Velez

      to do following them. Marian Anderson set up a singing competition for young African-American singers (winners included Betty Allen and Shirley Verrett), and Paul Robeson put on a concert to sponsor Leontyne Price's studies at Juilliard. (Interestingly, Ms. Price's debut role at the Met wasn't Aida - she turned that down the first time around - but Leonora in Il Trovatore opposite another rising star, Franco Corelli.)

      If it's
      Not your body,
      Then it's
      Not your choice
      And it's
      None of your damn business!

      by TheOtherMaven on Mon Aug 06, 2012 at 12:10:21 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Thorny problem. (3+ / 0-)

    There is obviously a pattern and practice of using white actors to portray minority characters, but at the same time you don't want to say that an actor can't adequately or superbly inhabit a role because of their appearance, within certain practical limits.  

    Otherwise, how far do you take it?  Must a Chinese actor not portray a Korean?  Must Italians never play Spaniards?  Is it out of bounds to use a Spanish-descended Latino instead of a native-descended Latino?  Is it not okay to use an Indian actor as an Arab, or a Navajo as an Aztec?

    Ultimately you have to judge the artistic merit and honesty of the people making the casting decisions.  Can you trust that they will choose actors based entirely on merit rather than racial trivia?  Case-by-case judgments are a lot harder than just reacting against a general pattern of racism, but it's the right response.

    Republicans hate you more than they love their children.

    by Troubadour on Sun Aug 05, 2012 at 07:47:50 PM PDT

    •  How about Omar Sharif as the Russian (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Denise Oliver Velez

      Doctor Zhivago or as assorted Arab Muslims?

      ...born Michel Demitri Shalhoub on April 10, 1932 in Alexandria, Egypt to Joseph Shalhoub, a lumber merchant, and his wife, Claire. Of Lebanese and Syrian extraction, the young Michel was raised a Roman Catholic
      We really do not have single ethnic/religious identities, you know.

      Contrary to the Mittster, England is not Anglo-Saxon, and the UK as a whole far less so. Just within recorded history, we have invasions of Britain and Ireland by Celts, Romans, Angles, Saxons, Danes, and Norwegians (including Norman French), and importation of people from everywhere in the former British Empire and a good many other countries besides.

      I am personally half Polish Jew, half mixed Scottish, Irish, and Welsh, and thus partly most of the invaders of both regions (very likely including Russians in Poland via pogrom, hence Tatars and possibly Mongols in Russia), plus 100% Black African ancestry when you go back far enough.

      And proud of it.

      Hands off my ObamaCare[TM]

      by Mokurai on Mon Aug 06, 2012 at 11:31:53 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Green is the color. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Denise Oliver Velez

    One must look at the consumer base and where the money is. A better understanding of this (i.e. follow the money) will allow people to ask the right (and larger) questions, like “Why is there less disposable income (i.e. money to spend) within the minority demographics”?
    The powers-that-be are not racist enough to stop sending US jobs to non-white/non-European labor markets. Chasing the dollar is one thing that will always trump race, one must simply look at where the money (and profit-margin) is and ask the larger questions.

  •  at 13%, I'd say African-Americans are represented (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    proportional to their demographics.  The other races are obviosly under-represented.  Asians probably don't support their childrens' artistic impulses, and push them into more practical endeavors and scholastic channels.  Latinos?  that's a head scratcher.

    Oregon:'s cold. But it's a damp cold.

    by Keith930 on Sun Aug 05, 2012 at 07:50:00 PM PDT

    •  The 13% for African Americans (3+ / 0-)

      on b'way is because they have had quite a few "all-black" shows.

      "If we ever needed to vote we sure do need to vote now". Rev. William Barber, If you're in a coalition and you're comfortable, you know it's not a broad enough coalition" Bernice Johnson Reagon

      by Denise Oliver Velez on Sun Aug 05, 2012 at 07:52:10 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  13% may represent the country as a whole (3+ / 0-)

      but definitely not NYC. The fact that the others are so much smaller, especially, Hispanic, is indeed very interesting.

    •  I'd be curious to know the racial composition (0+ / 0-)

      of the broadway audience. Any racial discrepancies would be more surprising, if minorities are consuming the 'product' in population-proportional ammounts and less if they aren't.

    •  Fact-free ethnic stereotyping of Asians (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Denise Oliver Velez

      is out of bounds here.

      Look at the vast history of all of the arts in Asia, of which we have more than 4,000 years of artifacts and well over 2,000 years of documents. Look at modern Asian musicians, artists, architects, actors. Look at the Japanese/Korean/Chinese/Indian movie and animation businesses.

      You owe us an apology.

      Now, where we have data, we can ask meaningful questions. Jewish achievement in 20th century US entertainment is undeniable, from tummlers in the Catskills, the New York Yiddish theater, and Klezmer wedding musicians to moguls in Hollywood and an assortment of superstars. But so is the increasing level of achievement by many ethnic groups. One can make a strong case that the difference is racism and discrimination. But then one must explain how Whites gave permission to Jews in entertainment, while denying permission to so many others.

      I will not attempt an explanation here. I don't even know the explanation, really. Just remember, if you don't know the answers, if you don't even know the questions, you cannot meaningfully opine on them.

      Hands off my ObamaCare[TM]

      by Mokurai on Mon Aug 06, 2012 at 11:52:44 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Don't forget the casting of Johnny Depp (6+ / 0-)

    as Tonto in the upcoming Lone Ranger remake. The Last Airbender was bad enough but I can't believe that SUCH a high profile and big budgeted movie would see nothing wrong with casting a white man as an Indian in this day and age.

    Why do I have the feeling George W. Bush joined the Stonecutters, ate a mess of ribs, and used the Constitution as a napkin?

    by Matt Z on Sun Aug 05, 2012 at 07:51:17 PM PDT

    •  I want to see just what Dep does with the role (0+ / 0-)

      before we judge that casting.

      I understand that he has Indian heritage and attends meetings with Cherokee families pretty regularly, although he may not be an officially enrolled tribal member.  

      I hope that he can pull it off so that everybody is happy.  

    •  I am ambivalent about this (0+ / 0-)

      because I always assumed that Johnny Depp was some either Hispanic or Native American, judging by his looks.  He looks a lot like my sister who inherited a lot of our own Native American genes in the looks department.

      I am also ambivalent because Mr. Depp is (in my humble opinion) one of the best actors and biggest box office draws, so I can see why he would be cast.

      "I watch Fox News for my comedy, and Comedy Central for my news." - Facebook Group

      by Sychotic1 on Sun Aug 05, 2012 at 09:32:11 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Think how much (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Denise Oliver Velez

    better Kung Fu would have been if Bruce Lee (who came up with the idea) had starred instead of David Carradine...

  •  BTW, I remember an animated 'Tarzan' from '80s.. (12+ / 0-)

    That blew my mind - Tarzan was traveling across Africa on some kind of quest, and every week he would discover a new kingdom/city/group of people, and never ONCE were ANY of those people black! They were always a new group of white people.... in AFRICA!

    And this was a Saturday morning cartoon, on one of the major networks. It just doesn't get more blatant than that.

    Romney 2012 - Sic Semper Fidelis Tyrannosaurus!

    by Fordmandalay on Sun Aug 05, 2012 at 07:59:00 PM PDT

  •  Yeah... (8+ / 0-)

    And another too obvious thing about Hollywood films is how Blacks, Hispanic, Indian or Asian characters seem to so frequently get killed off in the first few minutes of a film. Or they're depicted as the bad guy. Etc. Etc.

    This has been so shockingly blatant its beyond dispute.

    Right on, Denise.

    "In times of universal deceit, telling the truth will be a revolutionary act". -George Orwell

    by ZhenRen on Sun Aug 05, 2012 at 07:59:32 PM PDT

  •  Unaware of recent West Side Story NY production? (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Shahryar, Denise Oliver Velez

    The late Arthur Laurents, the writer of the original book of the Broadway show in the 1950s, directed a production that ran during 2009-10 in New York (and has toured since) in which the Puerto Rican characters had some Spanish dialogue and sang their songs mostly or completely in Spanish, including "I Feel Pretty" ("Siento Hermosa").

    Whatever the casting of these roles, surely this must count for something.

    There's plenty to read online about the origins of this production (see, for example, and the tinkering with the amount of Spanish that occurred during the New York run.

  •  Nuyorican Spanish (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Denise Oliver Velez, shanikka

    Is indeed quite different in sound from other Spanish dialects. My wife was born in Mexico City, grew up in California -- and when she moved to New York she could not communicate in Spanish because she spoke and understood Mexican Spanish.

  •  Glad you got The Last Airbender in there (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Denise Oliver Velez, shanikka

    That was a super big deal down in LA

  •  Another problem (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Denise Oliver Velez, shanikka

    is that Sabbath observant Jews rarely if ever can get live theater performance gigs. This man:

    starred in Les Misérables in Tel Aviv, New York, and London -- but has never had another Broadway role. (His understudy loved it because he always got at least one, and often two, performances a week!)

    •  It's less of a problem in the movies (0+ / 0-)

      I don't know how many people are aware that the oh so WASPy looking Leslie Howard was an observant Jew of Hungarian extraction and had it in his contract that he got the Sabbath off. Yes that included during Gone With the Wind.

      If it's
      Not your body,
      Then it's
      Not your choice
      And it's
      None of your damn business!

      by TheOtherMaven on Mon Aug 06, 2012 at 09:36:31 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Illuminating and as insightful as ever. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Nice work, Deo.

    Interesting piece delving into racism on CNN right now.

    Until I find the time to deal with DallasDoc's lynch mob mentality, I will just be in and out on DKos.

    I am also bothered by the disparate numbers of our brothers and sisters lost on DKos through force, intimidation, boycott, or otherwise.

    Just not worth my time and aggravation to participate here at this time.

    Keep the faith, tho.  Religious or otherwise.

    “Do not think that I came to bring peace on Earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I came to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law." - Jesus

    by Jose Bidenio on Sun Aug 05, 2012 at 08:15:54 PM PDT

  •  I'm a huge fan of Avatar The Last Airbender... (5+ / 0-)

    ...and what made Shyamalan's casting white people more egregious was that he then went on to change the way characters names were pronounced under his proclaimation that he was Asian and thus knew how the names were supposed to be pronounced.  For him to try to excuse his changing the pronunciation of names for the sake of cultural accuracy made such action insulting given how flippantly he had cast white people in the four main roles.  One of the four ended up being recast, leading to all the bad guys of the film being played by Indians.  The three heroes though remained white.  And in a casting choice I could never understand, one minor Asian character from the show ended up being played by a black man in Shyamalan's film.

    So we fans of Avatar The Last Airbender went into the film already annoyed over the racebending, and then to have Shymalan's script, both in dialog and in narration and plot, be reminescent of a high school student having written an essay on a novel having only read the Cliff Notes, it left most of us fans unable to find a single redeeming quality in the film whatsoever.  I went into the film expecting changes for the sake of adapting the 20 episodes of season one into a film, but I never expected Shyamalan to totally change characters' motivations the way he did.  His film is an absolute disgrace to the show.  I mean, there's a reason Avatar The Last Airbender won a freaking Peabody Award.

    Thankfully, Nickelodeon seemed to have recognized their stupidity.  They've since let the co-creators of ATLA get back into that world and do more stories, and we now have The Legend of Korra.  We've only had one season of LOK so far, and it was awesome.  But we recently learned that we're going to have FOUR seasons!!!!  52 episodes total by the end of it.  They're hard at work on season two now, and what little tidbits that have been released so far sounds exciting, with the spirit world taking a particular prominence in the up-coming season.

  •  the main problem is that MOST of the people in (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Denise Oliver Velez

    charge from writers, to producers, to directors, to studio and TV heads are white. Since they are represented in the shows it does not bother them.

    Just look at the people in charge in the La Jolla playhouse they are ALL white.

    •  Wondering what the legal structure of the playhous (0+ / 0-)

      is -- is it one of those 'clubs' where members get together and do the performances?  If it is, it seems to me that the members who do the most supporting of the club, are most active, and who make the most in contributions ought to have first crack at the best roles, regardless of race.     Do they have that many Minority members to fill all those roles?  

      Hopefully, after all the whohah dies down, they will be getting out and recruiting for a broader spectrum. '

      I just want to say thank you for posting this diary, and I appreciate people that are posting comments.   We are all struggling with various diversity issues, and having a place like this where they are discussed is really valuable;  I admit I've been oblivious to much of this.
      Thank you.

  •  Hmmmm..... (5+ / 0-)

    Diversity is an issue in media and it has been for a long time and it persists as a problem. And Hollywood has done some absurdly stupid things over the past forty years to either deal or not deal with the issue.


    Any director, casting director, producer, etc. is going to argue that their first responsibility is to the narrative of the story, and that means casting the actor they feel will do the best job with the role, irrespective of anything else. The only way I can see a situation where you must cast a character strictly based on the source material's ethnicity is if you can make the case the ethnicity is intrinsic to the character or the story. Otherwise, fidelity to the ethnicity in the source material can cut both ways.

    For example, Donald Glover of NBC's "Community" (who's African-American) publicly lobbied for an audition to portray Spider-Man in 'The Amazing Spider-Man.' From all reports, Sony only considered white actors for the role of Peter Parker, with it eventually going to Andrew Garfield. There is nothing innate to the Spider-Man story that says Peter Parker must be a white teenager. But some of the more rabid fanboys feel that because Stan Lee & Steve Ditko drew Peter Parker/Spider-Man as a white teenage boy, he must always be a white teenage boy because that's the source material.

    From Ta-Nehisi Coates at The Atlantic:

    I think storytellers--first and foremost--must pledge their loyalty to the narrative as it comes to them. I don't believe in creating characters out a of desire to please your audience or even to promote an ostensible social good. I think good writing is essentially a selfish act--story-tellers are charged with crafting the narrative they want to see.
    In fact, some shows & films have tried to deal with this issue by having race neutral casting. Instead of casting a character as being specifically a white male or black female, whoever is the best actor/actress that auditions for the part gets it. This is the way its done on Shonda Rhimes produced shows & it's the reason many of the guest stars that play the patients & families are interracial couples on "Grey's Anatomy." However, the process still doesn't guarantee diversity.
    Broadway's casting is remarkably color-blind. Black/non-white actors have had major roles in nearly every Broadway show around. For example, Chicago (Velma/Billy Flynn), Les Misérables (Javert, Mme Thenardier, Fantine, Cosette, Eponine), Wicked (Fiyiero), Beauty and the Beast (Belle), Miss Saigon (John) and most notably Robert Gulliame as the titular Phantom of the Opera. Even applies when such casting would be implausible—like a black/Asian Eponine playing the daughter of the white Thenardiers in Les Misérables. There have even been some cases where a white actress has played Young Eponine or Young Cosette and a non-white actress has played the older versions of those characters, or vice versa.
    Back in the late '80s/early '90s, the producers of the musical "Miss Saigon" got a lot of grief for casting Jonathan Pryce in the role of a Vietnamese pimp, with some likening the production to a minstrel show.
    •  Understudies compound this effect. (0+ / 0-)

      When I saw Wicked on broadway, Elphaba was played by a black woman.  When I saw Rent on Broadway, Maureen was played by a black woman (yes, in addition to the traditional black casting of Mimi and Joanne. To this day, I just can't fully buy white Maureens, because I saw the musical at such a formative time in my life.)

      If only film and screen were so open to showcasing diverse talent.

  •  Pacific Overtures (3+ / 0-)

    Stephen Sondheim wrote Pacific Overtures, a very ambitious artistic musical about the opening of Japan to the West, and it was on Broadway in 1976.  I knew Freda Foh Shen in college, and she was in that original Broadway cast of PA - I remember hearing about it from a friend and we were all thrilled for Freda, thinking this was her sure ticket to stardom.  The cast was almost completely Asian, except for the parts of Perry and other Westerners.  And it was not a financial success, closed after a few months, even though it was nominated for 10 Tony Awards.  I don't think audiences were ready for a mostly Asian musical cast.  Freda had a fabulous voice that I haven't heard her have a chance to display in the relatively small roles in TV and movies I've seen her in since.

    Dee, your diary made me think about this in two connections - first, Sondheim of course wrote the lyrics for West Side Story, and I wonder if he insisted on that mostly Asian cast in 1976 for PA in part remembering the travesty of casting for West Side Story years earlier.  And I also wonder what kind of opportunities Freda Foh Shen did not have, even with her lovely, lovely voice, because she didn't "look" the proper part.

  •  Robert Morley As Emperor Of China - Ghengis Khan (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Denise Oliver Velez

    My favorite miscasting in 1965 at the beginning of civil rights legislation in the US. Genghis Khan was directed by Henry Levin

    Here's the list of characters: one Asian and one Egyptian.
        Omar Sharif (Temujin, later Genghis Khan)
        Stephen Boyd (Jamuga)
        James Mason (Kam Ling)
        Eli Wallach (Shah of Khwarezm)
        Françoise Dorléac (Bortei)
        Telly Savalas (Shan)
        Robert Morley (Emperor of China)
        Michael Hordern (Geen)
        Yvonne Mitchell (Katke)
        Woody Strode (Sengal)
        Kenneth Cope (Subotai)
        Roger Croucher (Massar)
        Don Borisenko (Jebai)
        Patrick Holt (Kuchiuk)
        Susanne Hsiao (Chin Yu)

    Levin also directed some notable stinkers.
         Scout's Honor (1980 TV movie)
         The Treasure Seekers (1979)
         Run for the Roses (1977)
         That Man Bolt (1973)
         The Desperados (1969)
         The Ambushers (1967)
         Murderers' Row (1966)
         Se Tutte le Donne del Mondo (1966)
         Genghis Khan (1965)
         Honeymoon Hotel (1964)
         Come Fly with Me (1963)
         If a Man Answers (1962)
         The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm (1962)
         Le Meraviglie di Aladino (1961)
         Where the Boys Are (1960)
         Journey to the Center of the Earth (1959)
         Holiday for Lovers (1959)

    Time is an enormous, long river, and I’m standing in it, just as you’re standing in it. My elders are the tributaries, and everything they thought and every struggle they went through & everything they gave their lives to flows down to me-Utah Phillips

    by TerryDarc on Sun Aug 05, 2012 at 08:22:13 PM PDT

  •  George Chakiris! (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Denise Oliver Velez, shaharazade

    speaking of West Side Story, while looking at pictures of Rita Moreno (who still looks pretty dang good at 81!), I came across Chakiris, who's a Greek-American but I guess that's close Puerto Rican!!!!

  •  Othello (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Denise Oliver Velez, johnosahon

    Within the last 25 years, I saw Placido Domingo in blackface s Othello--he was magnificent vocally--not bad acting--and embarrassing.  As an old Jew, I always found films of Al Jolson similarly embarrassing--Jews should know full well the pain of minority stereotyping and belittling. To paraphrase an unpolitically correct boss --it's time to cast a spade as a spade.  
    BTW, I've also seen white Madame Butterflys.  A good story gets killed by such miscasting--the author's message gets lost--and bigotry gets to be displayed.  The theater claims to be the most liberal industry--and is in the forefront of gay rights--but they're fucking part of the problem.  Maybe it's time to stop singing "Money makes the world go 'round."

    Apres Bush, le deluge.

    by melvynny on Sun Aug 05, 2012 at 08:30:50 PM PDT

  •  My college theater department ... (5+ / 0-)

    ... had non-racial casting as a policy. And, amazingly enough, no one keeled over in their seat, no angry letters, no notice all, just the best actors cast in the right roles. Hell, in Major Barbara, they cast an Arab kid in a big role and it was a beautiful thing. Now, he's working a lot in Hollywood, receiving pleanty of roles ... mostly as a terrorist.

  •  Regarding the Oscars, (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Denise Oliver Velez

    while there is certainly a need for more non-whites in Hollywood, I'm not sure, in the immediate, what people expect from AMPAS, since nobody really disputes that those numbers accurately reflect the makeup of the film industry (particularly at the elite level, the people who get asked to join).  If most cinematographers are white men (and they are, currently), then the cinematography section of AMPAS will be.  It's not really a question of AMPAS doing something different, it's something that has to be addressed in terms of the actual makeup of the industry.

  •  Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog (6+ / 0-)

    One of the extras on the Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog DVD is a musical commentary track.  Yes folks, in addition to Dr. Horrible itself being a musical, it's commentary track is a musical too.

    One of the songs on the commentary track is "Nobody's Asian In The Movies", sung by Maurissa Tancharoen, who helped write Dr. Horrible, had a small part in it, and is married to Joss Whedon's brother Jed.

    For the sake of sharing:






    But Maurissa, movies couldn’t even be made without Asians.
    We need them to play the parts we’re not willing to.

    You’re right, Jed!

    THAT’S ME  

    I guess my parents will be proud of me after all.

    What does your dad do again?

    Oh!  He’s a nerdy, funny scientist.

  •  The film "A Mighty Heart" (2+ / 0-)

    based on the Daniel Pearl murder received positive reviews, but I have refused to see the film because Pearl's wife, Marianne, who is biracial, was played by Angelina Jolie.

    I know that Marianne Pearl gave her blessing to the film and appeared on the red carpet with Brad Pitt and Angelina, but I'm sorry, the producers (Pitt was one of them), could've cast an actress of color to play the role.

    "Do they call you Rush because you're in a rush to eat?" -"Stutterin' John" Melendez to Rush Limbaugh.

    by Nedsdag on Sun Aug 05, 2012 at 09:12:53 PM PDT

  •  An offender that made me tear my hair out (2+ / 0-)

    is "Prince of Persia"!  
    Gyllenhaal isn't just caucasian, he's Swedish!

    •  I think he was cast for an Aragorn-ish look (0+ / 0-)

      and Dog knows, Viggo Mortensen is half-Danish. Doesn't matter so much when you're talking about Middle-earth or other faraway lands of High Fantasy. On the other hand, Persians are not Arabs (as they will tell you with great annoyance if you make that assumption) and are in the Indo-European megaclass (along with, yes, Swedes and Danes, and Russians, and Irish, and Greeks, and so on and so forth).

      If it's
      Not your body,
      Then it's
      Not your choice
      And it's
      None of your damn business!

      by TheOtherMaven on Mon Aug 06, 2012 at 05:50:45 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Yea (0+ / 0-)

      If at least he looked somewhat persian, not even that...There are a few lesser known actors who would have done well, considering the Persian look is very varied and mixed.

  •  Theatre vs. Film (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Denise Oliver Velez, miscanthus

    I wonder if theatre can get away with completely color-blind casting more than film because theatre is always more representational and abstract - you have real people up on stage and the stage is a construct and it's not meant to be super realistic all the time.

    Meanwhile film adaptations are usually set in real locations, they have to have seamless worlds. No one bats an eyelash when Lea Salonga plays Fantine in Les Mis, (both times I've seen it - once 15 years ago, once two months ago - the girl playing Eponine was black) but in the movie there's a stronger sense of "it has to be really there"-ness. Film's ontology is more realistic, you have to "buy" that everyone who is related looks like they can be related, you have to buy that they're all in France so they all kinda look French. It has to be grounded in reality more or less. At least that's what people think, anyway. I think theatre productions get more leeway to dodge that need for everyone to look the same if they're from the same place.

    I've seen it taken to weird levels though, once I saw the Von Trapp kids came out on stage during Sound of Music and each one was a different ethnicity. People laughed. It was uncomfortable. They were clearly trying too hard to make it colorblind.

    There's no real solution that works for every example you can think of. Branagh can do that in Shakespeare movies, cast people for characters who are from the same noble house and one will be black and no one cares, but other movie's can't. It's case by case.

  •  I sort of agree with this but... (0+ / 0-)

    you have to understand, that, especially movies are expensive. Nobody was going to risk the millions spent on "The Last Samurai" on an unknown Asian actor. They simply changed the legend of the story and made the last samurai an American so it could be Tom Cruise.

    This sort of goes for plays too. I'm just going to go out of my way and assume that the majority of people that attend Broadway plays are white. If the majority of your attendees are white, then it basically makes sense that they'd use those actors for the majority of roles. Although, if the story or role specifically calls for a minority actor, I agree that they SHOULD be able to find someone to play the role.

    But if they can't find someone who's up to those roles, then I feel like they should feel free to use someone else. Say they did an audition for an Asian role, and none of the Asian auditions were up to the caliber of the rest of the cast; at that point I would feel justified in selecting a white actor or actress.

    Basically I feel though, the way to change this, is not to "vote with your dollars". That doesn't seem to work often against large industries or corporations (Chick fil-A). The bus boycotts worked because they took place in individual cities. You're never going to get all minorities to boycott movies. It just isn't going to happen. The way forward for stuff like this is to produce movies that explicitly showcase minority actors in films largely anchored by minorities. Recent examples are Slumdog Millionaire and Red Tails (T-U YOU KNOW!). Both of those movies shocked Hollywood and things are changing because of them.

    •  I disagree. Think about what you just (5+ / 0-)

      said..."some unknown Asian actor".  Um...if you don't cast Asians - how do they get to be "known"?

      "If we ever needed to vote we sure do need to vote now". Rev. William Barber, If you're in a coalition and you're comfortable, you know it's not a broad enough coalition" Bernice Johnson Reagon

      by Denise Oliver Velez on Sun Aug 05, 2012 at 09:28:03 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Certainly not by (0+ / 0-)

        losing millions on a movie. My main point is, Asians- like the Indians in Slumdog and Afro Americans in Red Tails, (and really everything Spike did before those) need to make a blockbuster or at least a pretty decent movie with mainly Asian actors. THEN Hollywood/Broadway will take notice. You can't really force Hollywood to put Asians into movies, you have to show that Hollywood/Broadway can profit by putting Asians into movies.

        Hollywood especially, is probably scared that if they cast a movie full of Asians, that it'll end up like those cheesy movies on the AZN network or something. Asians have to prove them wrong. In other words, stop asking white producers to give you roles. You're only going to have limited success through that method. Make them want to give you roles because you are THAT good and you made an Asian film that was THAT good. "Cast down your buck where you are".

        Just by looking at the cast of "The Last Samurai", there are clearly plenty of Asian actors that are good enough for decent roles. They should make a movie together. Just off the top of my head, I think it'd be great to have a WWII movie from the Japanese perspective, they could start with that.

        •  you are making NO sense (3+ / 0-)

          Slumdog millionaire was made up of unknown indian actors, by your logic they should have cast the twilight actors to play indians, so they could attract audience.

          If everybody thought like you, ONLY white people would be on tv and cinema right now

          •  Errm no (0+ / 0-)

            because Slumdog was clearly set in India (only Indians could credibly be cast for the roles) and the Indian actors propelled themselves to critical acclaim. The same is true for Red Tails and most of Spike Lee's films and all of Tyler Perry's films. Spike's She's Gotta Have It, Do the Right Thing and Malcolm X (with alot of help from the Cosby Show and The Fresh Prince of Bel Air), are movies that provide a sort of model for casting black actors that Hollywood later uses in its Blockbusters. Will Smith and Martin Lawrence's Bad Boys, and Will's later appearances in Independence Day and MIB owe ALOT to Spike and Bill Cosby. Spike and Bill introduced black culture to Hollywood and provided the molds for black casting that are still being used today.

            Indians have begun this process with Slumdog Millionaire, and I would argue that it's occurring at a faster pace than it did with black actors (the lead female actor in that movie is already being cast in other movies).  

            Asian American actors simply do not have these equivalents at all. Is it right that minorities have to prove themselves to Hollywood this way? No, they SHOULD be judged on their individual merits. But that's simply the way it is, you can either accept it and be ignored or prove yourself and get picked up. Producers and directors simply aren't going to respect Asian Americans' ability to draw audiences of all kinds until they see concrete evidence that they can give blockbuster performances. Americans of every racial persuasion like winners and to be a winner you have to win.

            •  again you are making no sense (4+ / 0-)

              if asians cannot be cast in films that actually deal with asia, how are they supposed to prove themselves?

              From the article we are not even discussing why asians are not given A-list roles, they are NOT even given roles that are of Asian origin.

              Just so you know slumdog is a british movie, directed and produced by major british company, it was not organised by local indians in bombay. The british took a risk, wrote and created the movie. If they were like americans waiting for india to "prove themselves", it would not had been made.

              Red tails was financed by George Lucas, if america really cares about representing asian in movies and tv, they will do it, after all there have been many successes like "crouching tiger hidden dragon" and "Memoirs of a Geisha" which both won multiple oscars

              •  Last time I'm going to try this... (0+ / 0-)

                Why do you feel that you have to rely on "the Hollywood establishment" to support Asian actors or entertainers? You're right that Slumdog and Red Tails were financed by white "establishment" producers/directors. But Slumdog had Bollywood behind it. Red Tails and Spike, Will, Denzel and Bill Cosby behind them. There was something to build from.  You're asking Hollywood businessmen to take a risk on a venture that pretty much hasn't made much money. Even the British guys who made Slumdog could assume that it was going to make most of its money back in India and Great Britain.

                George Lucas was essentially assured of the same thing with the extensive Tuskegee Alumni network throughout the South and in cities around the country.

                And what Slumdog and Red Tails built upon were movies financed by Indians and Afro Americans. Malcolm X, what I consider to be the greatest black film ever made, was directed and received much of its funding from black celebrities of the time (Spike Lee wouldn't have been able to finish the film without contributions from Oprah and the like). And Spike's first film (She's Gotta Have It) had barely any funding at all, but it propelled him to eventually make Malcolm X.  Black people supported his films with their money, and he was able to eventually able to make more films of greater and greater expense with broader appeal.

                Now, just as a thought experiment, lets take Spike Lee out of 1985 and transplant him to 2012. Lets make him Asian too. Compared to 1985 Spike, he's probably in a better position arguably because in 2012 Asian Spike's world there are actually a great number of films cast entirely with Asians in existence prior to the one he intends to make (although 1985 Spike had 'The Wiz' now that I think about it). Also, film technology is less expensive and more ubiquitous than in 1985 too, so that helps. There are also a number of Asian mini celebrities in existence to draw from, and one major one (Jackie Chan). You also have these Asian mini celebrities on YouTube, which would probably be decent actors if given the chance.

                Now Asian Spike's got a decent cast together. He's got some better and cheaper cameras (compared to '85). Now the hard part is to get the funding. Spike Lee's She's Gotta Have It was made with $175,000 in 1985. Now that's probably like $200,000. In 2012, its not impossible for an Asian director who graduated from a half decent film school to get $200,000. I just don't see why that would be hard to get. You could probably just appeal to Oprah or Jackie Chan and get that change. If he had to, Asian Spike could raise it on the internet.

                Point is,  Spike Lee didn't say "why is Hollywood not letting me direct anything?!". He knew Hollywood execs would rather lose and arm and a leg than bet on a unproven black director that wanted to do a movie with an all black cast that wasn't the Jackson 5. So he produced and directed his own films with unknown actors. Building upon each film until he reached his pinnacle with Malcolm X. By that time, he and Bill Cosby had paved the way for African Americans to have leading roles in films. Cast down your bucket where you are.

        •  You mean we should go back and make (0+ / 0-)

          Tora! Tora! Tora! ?

          And then what? We should pretend that Kurosawa never existed, and do him over? Bruce Li? Crouching Tiger?


          Also, kuru kuru (circling finger around ear) pa (pointing upward). Baka yaro! I nom a!

          Hands off my ObamaCare[TM]

          by Mokurai on Mon Aug 06, 2012 at 12:43:44 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  You raise the key point! (0+ / 0-)

        It may be the obligation of theatre-in-general to advance the cause and interests of underrepresented artists, but for any theatre company in particular it could be economically disastrous.  That's the problem with capitalism and the arts.

        Mitt Romney '12: Berlusconi without the sex and alcohol!

        by Rich in PA on Mon Aug 06, 2012 at 03:54:38 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Thanks for the Jason Chu video!! (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Denise Oliver Velez

    Had never heard of him. He spoke quite well in the vid.

    One boy against the Stock Market all Wall Street ascream. --Allen Ginsberg, "Elegy Ché Guévara"

    by Anak on Sun Aug 05, 2012 at 09:38:14 PM PDT

  •  Prince of Persia (3+ / 0-)

    Didn't they recently make a movie with a white guy titled Prince of Persia?  I couldn't watch Jake Gyllenhal play the Prince of Persia.

    "I watch Fox News for my comedy, and Comedy Central for my news." - Facebook Group

    by Sychotic1 on Sun Aug 05, 2012 at 09:41:58 PM PDT

    •  What makes you think Persians weren't white? (0+ / 0-)

      They're as Indo-European as, say, Greeks (and in fact got a heavy Greek back-infusion from Alexander the Great and his troops). To this day you still find Iranians with blue or grey eyes and even, rarely, blond hair.

      It would actually have been a worse travesty - and gotten people of Iranian ancestry mad as all billy heck - to have cast someone of Arabian ethnicity. Persians are not Arabs, and they're very insistent about that. (Arabs are not Indo-European - they're Semitic, and they speak a Semitic language. It's a whole separate megaclass.)

      If it's
      Not your body,
      Then it's
      Not your choice
      And it's
      None of your damn business!

      by TheOtherMaven on Mon Aug 06, 2012 at 06:18:17 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  As a (0+ / 0-)

        half-semitic (jewish though) half indo euroepean full persian, I disagree. There many different mixes in Iran since we were smack in the middle of all kind of trades plus southern persians may very well share genes with arabs from right across the pond, the Persian Golf.

  •  Another side to this... (4+ / 0-)

    I watch a lot of indie film, and another type of miscasting is constantly handing over the most plum LGBTQ roles to straight actors.  It creates a vicious circle... when casting a high-profile film (like Brokeback Mountain), casting directors will say "Well, there just aren't that many a-list actors who are openly gay".  And they're right, but it's mainly because the smaller films, where the future a-listers are getting attention, keep giving gay roles to straight actors (often those wanting to "show depth and versatility").  This, in a cruel twist, keeps some LGBTQ acroes in the closet, because close-minded casting directors often don't "see" an openly gay or lesbian actor in a straight role.

    As an independent film-maker, I always read LGBTQ actors for LGBTQ parts.  I'll always cast the best actor for a role, but I DO go out of my way to find LGBTQ actors to read for parts, because it's my preference to cast gay roles with gay actors.  My current budget (read: micro) often limits my available talent, but I'll read anyone who's willing to take part.  Maybe when the next phenomenal LGBTQ actor/ress breaks out in Hollywood, they'll be able to give me a shout-out for giving them their start come Oscar night...

  •  Good night folks (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Pam from Calif

    thanks for reading and commenting.

    I'm nodding out at the keyboard :)

    "If we ever needed to vote we sure do need to vote now". Rev. William Barber, If you're in a coalition and you're comfortable, you know it's not a broad enough coalition" Bernice Johnson Reagon

    by Denise Oliver Velez on Sun Aug 05, 2012 at 09:53:06 PM PDT

  •  30 Days of Night (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Denise Oliver Velez

    Because I'm a fan of Ben Templesmith's comic art from having read Warren Ellis' disturbing and brilliant detective series Fell (which, comic fans, if you haven't read, just do), I'm currently reading the entire collection of comic series in the 30 Days of Night universe, of which Templesmith did most of the artwork and some of the writing.

    One of the things I really like about the Barrow-centric stories is that it very much portrays the Inuit-heavy ethnic mix of Barrow matter-of-factly and well. Changing the hero's identity--and Eben is a terrific hero who undertakes an unusual and irrevocable personal sacrifice to save his town--entirely subverts the original material. Much as I like Josh Hartnett (and also much of Sam Raimi's body of work), knowing now from that Salon slideshow that they've whitewashed Eben (and I'm assuming Stella), I have no interest in seeing the film. Might just re-read the comics.

    Such a shame. 30 Days is fantastic, atmospheric horror with genuine heart, and could've been made into a masterpiece of cinematic horror, with--bonus--an Inuit hero and heroine. What a lost opportunity.


    "No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream." --MLK

    by Progressive Witness on Sun Aug 05, 2012 at 10:00:47 PM PDT

    •  30 Days of Night really burns (3+ / 0-)

      because there was an easy way out if they couldn't find an Inuk actor (and there aren't that many, to be fair): they could have legitimately had a Japanese, Chinese, or Korean actor.

      The physical resemblance is close enough (which is to be expected, since Inuit are recent immigrants to North America)  that confusion happens in real life. I knew a woman for years before I found she wasn't Inuit but ethnic Chinese from Burma, and more than one Inuk has been approached by someone who starts speaking in Japanese, not realizing they're not from Japan.

      And it's not like it hasn't been done. Toshiro Mifune played an Inuk shaman in 1993's Shadow of the Wolf and didn't look out of place in comparison to the people I live and work beside.

      •  When I was in the Peace Corps in South Korea (0+ / 0-)

        in the 1960s, it was remarked how excited Korean children were at seeing American cowboys and Indians movies with actual Native Americans who looked just like them. They always rooted for the Indians, of course.

        Hands off my ObamaCare[TM]

        by Mokurai on Mon Aug 06, 2012 at 12:51:42 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  don't even get me started on M. Night's The (4+ / 0-)

    Last Airbender.

    Besides the acting being stilted beyond being watchable, besides the complete and total elimination of everything that made the show absolutely fucking amazing and besides him turning literally a work of artistic wonder into absolute shit, he actually had the fucking nerve, the gall, to not cast one person of color in a movie based on a show that mirrors ancient China. It was awkward. It was racist. It was a great, steaming pile of shit all around. M. Night had absolute gold to work with. He is the only person I know that can spin gold thread into a great big ol' pile of dung.

    And the video game of the movie? Holy Jesuchristo that thing was a stinker.

    Thank the FSM above we have Legend of Korra. I hope everyone has been watching.


    Squidward: The noises! How are you two making those noises?

    Patrick: Well, that's easy. All you need is a box.

    SpongeBob: And...imagi~nation!

    by rexymeteorite on Sun Aug 05, 2012 at 10:02:10 PM PDT

    •  I know I have. (0+ / 0-)

      Again and again and again.  I love having episodes of Korra off of iTunes to be able to watch whenever I want.  Now to only get broadband internet for a few minutes so I can add the last five episodes of the first season to what I already have.

      I'm so looking forward to the future seasons of Korra to come.  I just read this evening that Grey DeLisle, who did the voice of Azula in ATLA, will be returning doing the voice of "The Dark Spirit" next season.  Azula was such a freakishly awesome-scary antagonist; here's hoping The Dark Spirit freaks me out just as much.  And given that it's a spirit, and Mike and Bryan have proven they can do creepy spirits well (Koh totally freaks me out), I can imagine the Dark Spirit will be done well.  That is assuming it's an antagonist; for all I know it could just have a spooky name but be friendly.

  •  I showed my spouse (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Denise Oliver Velez

    the diary on the Hunger Games and negative reactions to the portrayals of Rue and Thresh, and he was dumbfounded. "It was in the freaking book!" was his response -- he read the book before seeing the movie, and apparently that one district was predominantly black (African-Panemian?).

    He may be a PITA sometimes, but he's smarter than your average racist.

    "If we ever needed to vote we sure do need to vote now" -- Rev. William Barber, NAACP

    by Cali Scribe on Sun Aug 05, 2012 at 11:04:45 PM PDT

  •  Johnny Depp as Tonto (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Denise Oliver Velez, raincrow

    in the upcoming Lone Ranger movie is making a lot of Native Americans unhappy these days.

    I have to agree- there are a lot of young NA actors who could have played the part of an Indian pretty damned well.

    And, to capture a new generation for the Lone Ranger, I also think both the Ranger and Tonto should be younger than Depp.

    Right many are called, and damn few are chosen.

    by Idaho07 on Mon Aug 06, 2012 at 12:07:17 AM PDT

    •  i have heard that Depp has some NA blood (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Of course, that doesnt mean that they could have found someone else, but Depp can be box office gold.

      The struggle of today, is not altogether for today--it is for a vast future also. - Lincoln

      by estamm on Mon Aug 06, 2012 at 03:44:08 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Regarding The Last Samurai & A Beautiful Mind (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Denise Oliver Velez, raincrow

    I was always under the impression that the samurai of the title was the samurai played by Ken Watanabe, not the Tom Cruise character. And wasn't the Tom Cruise character based on a real-life European?

    An egregious case of whitewashing was the casting of Jennifer Connelly as John Nash's Salvadoran wife in A Beautiful Mind. I refused to see that movie in the theaters, for that reason and because it also won Best Picture over The Fellowship of the Ring.

    •  The director has said that Watanabe is (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      the last samurai (though "samurai" is also its own plural, so I thought it could just as easily refer to the whole army).

      Regarding Cruise's character, yes, in a vague way.  He's a composite of various Germans.

  •  watching movies on Netflix can get depressing (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Denise Oliver Velez, raincrow

    The lack of diversity in racial make up of cast after cast is so bad, all you can do is ignore it.
    Native Americans have been shamefully portrayed and white bended. My family jokes about there being another  Indian movie about a white guy.

  •  hey, wait a darn minute there! (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Denise Oliver Velez

    paul robeson! oh, wait, never mind, he moved to france.

    i disagree, i think it's a pretty telling answer:

    The answer was, "I’m not sure it’s productive to say what if," which to me was not an answer at all.
    roughly translated from the original "i really wish you hadn't asked that.", "why yes, we would. why would you have a problem with that, i don't understand?"

    as i got old enough and learned to read, i started reading books that had either already been made into movies, or would be made into movies. this is when i started noticing that sometimes large hunks of the book disappeared from the movie version, or there were actual plot changes. mostly these were for time constraint purposes, which i understood. however, i also started noticing "ethnic" characters disappeared, unless they were critical to the plot. it's amazing how much like caucasions native americans and asians actually looked, in the days of my youth. if you didn't know better, you'd have thought they were actually white people, made up to (poorly, mostly) look like native americans and asians. go figure.

    •  An awful lot of the Black story vanished from (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Fried Green Tomatoes. In order for Ninny Threadgoode to be able to narrate the story, the plot had to be rearranged so that she would know things that were the deepest, darkest secrets imaginable in the original.

      Hands off my ObamaCare[TM]

      by Mokurai on Mon Aug 06, 2012 at 01:03:52 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Wow.... Great diary!!!! (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Denise Oliver Velez, raincrow

    I was too tired last night to read, but took time before work this morning.

    Funny, growing up, this was always a discussion at home.  My mother knew someone growing up who made her way to "Hollywood". But of course only and always had minor roles or just in the ackground as a visual.

    Just weren't any films anyway about Asians.

    The biggest milestone for my Mom's generation was knowing someone in a leading role in the indy film, Chan is Missing, Woody Moy.  

    All the suffering of this world arises from a wrong attitude.The world is neither good or bad. It is only the relation to our ego that makes it seem the one or the other - Lama Anagorika Govinda

    by kishik on Mon Aug 06, 2012 at 01:58:37 AM PDT

  •  Didja know Boris Karloff wasn't "white"? (3+ / 0-)

    At least not by the contemporary standards at the time he was born. His Grandmother was East Indian and he was the great nephew Anna Leonowens (author of "Anna and the King of Siam" and also of mixed Anglo-Indian heritage.)

    During the early part of his career, he obscured his family background by floating the story that he had alienated them by taking to stage instead of following a respectable career in the British foreign service. This is still the "official" story. Though he never discussed his ancestry while living, in his later years he did allow himself to photographed with his natural, sun darkened skin tone.

    Gives a whole new dimension to his portrayal of the creature in "Frankenstein."  

    Nothing human is alien to me.

    by WB Reeves on Mon Aug 06, 2012 at 03:30:17 AM PDT

    •  Merle Oberon passed - oh boy did she pass! (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      WB Reeves, raincrow

      She passed herself off as Tasmanian (and was very, very careful never to costar with Errol Flynn, who WAS Tasmanian and would have rumbled her instantly). But she apparently was half-caste Indian - we still don't know all the details - and light enough to "pass" as all white, so "pass" she did.

      If it's
      Not your body,
      Then it's
      Not your choice
      And it's
      None of your damn business!

      by TheOtherMaven on Mon Aug 06, 2012 at 09:43:56 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Hawaii five-o (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Denise Oliver Velez, raincrow

    The 60's one.  I recently watched the entire run on netflix.  In the first season or two, they had well known whites play the Asian villain.  However, they stopped doing that eventually.  I think Jack Lord had something to do with that.

    The struggle of today, is not altogether for today--it is for a vast future also. - Lincoln

    by estamm on Mon Aug 06, 2012 at 03:47:32 AM PDT

  •  I don't know if this is the right poster-case. (0+ / 0-)

    It's a play about ancient China by two white guys, based on an original story by a white guy.  I could take this in one of two related directions:

    1) The whole thing is inauthentic so it seems arbitrary to ask for authenticity in the final step, which is casting.  

    2) It's ethically weird to be OK with the whole race-bent enterprise so long as the casting is a certain way.

    Mitt Romney '12: Berlusconi without the sex and alcohol!

    by Rich in PA on Mon Aug 06, 2012 at 03:52:24 AM PDT

  •  Great diary...I still remember G. Clooney during (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Denise Oliver Velez, raincrow

    his Oscar speech saying basically that "Hollywood has been ahead of the curve on diversity and inclusiveness".   And all of Hollywood nodded and patted themselves on the back because of their greatness.  The only outrage came from a small group of minorities in film and stage.  But hey--if Clonney says it's true--and we all love George, so...

    Hollywood seems to always get a pass on these types of things because, hey, they're all so liberal (and Democrats).

    They are no different than they rest of society, and in some ways worse.  It's all about the dollar.  They still allow miorities to be protrayed as sterotypes, while the white man/woman continues to come to the rescue.  If we were to believe Hollywood,  with so mant great, helpful white people in this world, hardly any minorities would be struggling in a racist world.  If we were to believe Hollywood, the only racist people in this world are uneducated, Republican southern men/women.  And that is a dangerous thing for any of us to believe.

  •  Does cut both ways though, an all black (0+ / 0-)

    streetcar named desire production seemed very off to me because Williams meant that play as a metaphore for the end of the gentile old South and the rise of the Industrial North and it's tough, uncultured men.

    so, yea, cast the proper ethnic actor for the role

    •  Maybe... (0+ / 0-)

      ...But I'm not altogether convinced. Literature is a funny thing, and there can be so many levels of meaning--and some of them may even be outside the author's understanding. A really great piece can resonate in a thousand different ways. To limit Streetcar (to use your example) to just one metaphorical moment--no matter how accurate your analysis--would be to render it more and more as a museum piece as time goes by. That said, some re-interpretations work, some don't. I suspect we'll really only find out by trial and error.

      •  Well, some literature is time-specific (0+ / 0-)

        Death of a Salesman is and the way they define themselves through worldly success is always an issue....but some plays, like All My Sons, can't be updated or changed to make any sense.

  •  Great stuff, Dee. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Denise Oliver Velez

    I hear you, and I hear the pain expressed by the folks in the comments. I've said this before, and I'll say it again. Things are better in 2012 than they were in 1957. Far better. But better isn't good enough. We've got more to do. Let's keep working.

  •  As an Asian-American (3+ / 0-)

    When I see white actors playing Asians, what I see is reinforcement of majority culture's stereotypes and perceptions of Asians--Mickey Rooney in Breakfast at Tiffany's, the lead actors in the film The Good Earth, John Wayne as Ghengis Khan, and so on.  The make-up, the accents, and the "slanty" eyes are universally awful.  More recently, when Asian characters do show up in movies and television, the storyline often desexualize (the math/science nerdy side-kick who can't get girl) or criminalize Asian men.  Asian women actors do a bit better but I have seen too many portrayed as safe characters, the voiceless, wise, kind selfless mothers, or the other extreme as prostitutes.  

    To me there is a difference in retelling or revisioning a story (for example an all black cast of Cinderella) and an actor playing someone of another race by changing their facial structure through make-up/ prosthetics, taking up a stereotypical accents of that other race, or mimicking what they believe is the behavior of the other race.  I am not saying that this is what this particular play does.  Not at all.  However, the legacy of how white actors have portrayed Asians may be why some are expressing concerns about the decisions made in this production.


  •  Thanks Dee (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Denise Oliver Velez

    The radical Republican party is the party of oppression, fear, loathing and above all more money and power for the people who robbed us.

    by a2nite on Mon Aug 06, 2012 at 01:05:33 PM PDT

  •  The question is always "Why?" (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    As an actor, this is always a touchy subject as it runs both ways.  Yes, it's not nearly as often, but there are examples:

    In 1994, a Broadway revival of Rodgers and Hammerstein's Carousel was mounted with Audra McDonald as Carrie and Duane Boutte as Enoch Snow.  McDonald and Boutte were an interracial couple and the setting of Carousel is turn-of-the-century Maine.  There's no way that would be the case.

    And yet, McDonald won the Tony award that year for her work in Carousel.  Was that the right thing to do?

    Let's not forget Linda Hunt, a white woman playing an Asian man in The Year of Living Dangerously for which she won the Oscar.

    The question, as always, is "Why?"  Why are you casting the show the way that you are?  Some contexts justify certain decisions while other contexts don't.  I saw a production of Romeo and Juliet at the Old Vic in London that had it set in pre-revolutionary Cuba where the Montagues were black farmers and the Capulets were Hispanic military.  And it worked.

    But that's because the "why" explained the casting:  The director was using the story of R&J to explore the history of Cuba and thus, of course you're going to have black and Hispanic actors.

    A few years later, I saw Richard II at the Royal National starring Fiona Shaw (Aunt Petunia from the Harry Potter movies for those who don't know) as Richard.  It worked, too.  But again, the "why" made sense:  Shaw is a great performer and Richard is a great role, so why not see what she can bring to the role?

    I, myself, have donned blackface for a production of Lend Me a Tenor.  I was Max while our Tito was Hispanic...both of us donned blackface and wigs to portray Othello.  Since the play itself is set in the 30s, being accurate to the time would require white actors donning blackface to play Othello.  And from the play's structure, it is almost imperative to do so as the comedy of the second half stems from Max having to pretend he's Tito and the only real way to do that is to have them both in heavy makeup so that they might not be recognized directly.  Is that wrong?

    But on the flip side, I auditioned for the part of Orin in Children of a Lesser God knowing that as a hearing actor, I am not the ideal choice.  In fact, I put down on my audition form, "I will accept this part only if there are no hearing-impaired actors available."  That's because for this production, there wasn't any sort of context for a hearing actor in that role unless there literally were no deaf actors around who could do the part.  Fortunately, there were and the production was wonderful.

    In and of itself, every role should be available to every actor out there with appropriate costuming and makeup.  It's called "acting" for a reason.  There's a big part of me that rises up when I hear people complain that Chinese actors portraying Japanese characters is racist to point out that if that's racist, why do we not think anything of Scottish actors playing Norwegians (How to Train Your Dragon)?  If it's racially insensitive to think "all Asians look alike," then it's just as bad to think "All Europeans look alike."  And yet, I...a dark-haired, dark-eyed white guy, was recently cast to play a blond-haried, blue-eyed white guy.  "We'll just dye your hair and can you get some contacts?"  Colin Farrell as Alexander the Great?  He's Irish, not Greek.

    But, I realize that we don't live in an ideal world.  We don't treat the various white ethnicities the same way we treat those that aren't white.  And because of that, there will be a double-standard which is not nearly as problematic as the that of non-white roles played by white actors.  I want directors to have the artistic freedom to cast their shows however they'd like, but I want them to be able to answer the question of "Why?"  I don't quite buy any explanation that at the level of the La Jolla Playhouse (right in my own backyard), they couldn't find Asian actors who were up to these roles.

    My final thought is that the actors who were cast should all rise up to say, "We are miscast and we respectfully withdraw from the production."

    •  It gets messy (0+ / 0-)

      particularly when you start talking about Scots and Norwegians. They're far more closely related than most people think - a lot of "Highland" culture is more Norse than Celtic, due to the Norsemen controlling (and frequently invading) large swaths of the territory.

      Moreover, it went both ways: Norse men had a taste for Celtic women, to the extent that there is still a lot of Celt in Icelanders, and the 11th century "Norse" Jarl of Orkney (then a Norwegian possession) was three-fourths Celt (Scottish mother, Irish paternal grandmother).

      At that point it becomes more a question of "Can they do the accent?" than "Do they look the part?"

      PS: Alexander was light-skinned and fair-haired but had mismatched eyes (one blue, one dark - it is unclear whether this was true heterochromia or a David Bowie-like permanently dilated iris).

      If it's
      Not your body,
      Then it's
      Not your choice
      And it's
      None of your damn business!

      by TheOtherMaven on Mon Aug 06, 2012 at 07:55:32 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Excellent (0+ / 0-)

    diary and comments. I can hear my husband in some comments. He was so proud when a guy like him was elected president he even created a chocolate named Obama. He can always dream for that to happen in France. (He is from French Guyana)

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