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Klavan On The Culture

Thousands Protest Anti-Racist Casting

March 23rd, 2014 - 8:09 am

No one to my knowledge raised a fuss when the terrific actor Idris Elba, a black guy, was cast as the Norse god Heimdall in the 2011 movie Thor. No one said a word when the delightful Will Smith starred as the once-white cowboy Jim West in Wild Wild West. And, of course, we Shakespeare fans were only too delighted to have the mighty Denzel Washington portray Don Pedro in the genius 1993 film Much Ado About Nothing, even though Pedro’s half brother Don John was played by Keanu Reeves.

On occasion what is called color-blind casting can be a little distracting, but for the most part, we’re so thrilled to be entertained by talent like Elba, Smith and Washington that we couldn’t care less.

Why then have the folks at Warner Bros been hit with a petition signed by 4,000 people protesting the casting of the powerhouse white actress Rooney Mara as Tiger Lily in the origin story of Peter Pan titled Pan?

“The casting choice is particularly shameful for a children’s movie. Telling children their role models must all be white is unacceptable,” the petition reads, according to the show biz trade paper Hollywood Reporter. “Tell Warner Bros. to stop casting white actors to play characters originally written as people of color!”

Really??? Is casting top talent like Rooney Mara to play a Native American “telling children their role models must all be white?” Isn’t it telling them that ANY performer of talent can play a part, no matter what color he or she is? Should we stop casting black actors to play characters originally written as white?

Seems to me the lesson of color-blind casting is: the movie or play is about the characters not the actors so — assuming the casting doesn’t distract too much from the story — let the best actor win the part.

Or is this just color-blindness for me but not for thee?

Comments are closed.

Top Rated Comments   
I agree with this sentiment. I have not looked it up on the Internet but I am positive these same four thousand signatures could be found written in rage at the non-Mormon actors in The Book of Mormon.

And that these four thousand people formed a human protest fortress outside of every performance of The Wiz.

Lou Gossett Jr most certainly is not Egyptian, so this affront should have been part of Obama's apology tour speech in Cairo.

Shakespeare should be played only by persons of full British lineage. Straight actors should never be allowed to play gay characters...and vice versa.

And never....never...should a brain dead leftist play a conservative, a businessman, a military officer or courageous soldier or a faith-based believer, or any alpha male. THAT, however, would eliminate 99% of the American theater and film production.
21 weeks ago
21 weeks ago Link To Comment
Actually people did complain about Thor. With me it's the difference between what I perceive as affirmative action/political correctness - which I despise - or mere casting - like Much Ado About Nothing - which bothered me not at all; it's my favorite Shakespeare film.

That's my principle: racialist vs. artistic decisions.

Where the problem comes in on the other side of this divide is that the PC racialists have no principles. They say absolutely nothing about the casting of the Human Torch, Thor, Nick Fury, Will Smith in 3 science fiction films, etc. (I don't like the first 3, didn't care about Smith.)

When it came to Airbender, Khan in the last Star Trek, Reeves in Ronin, any Cleopatra, suddenly they make formal protests, have web sites devoted to racebending. They are hypocrites and naked race advocates. There is no right and wrong other than white - wrong, non-white, right.

At the end of the day the whole thing is moronic. No one's going to create a United Nations initiative to protect such a thing nor is it healthy to encourage paying attention only to the Jew, the black, the white, the woman, the gay. If your self-esteem and motivation to follow your dream depends on seeing only white people score baskets in the NBA or black folks as scientists, you have problems that go far beyond entertainment mediums.
21 weeks ago
21 weeks ago Link To Comment
It seems to me that if casting were to be of the same race or ethnicity as the original character, the protestors would lose more roles than they have now. I think I would STFU.
21 weeks ago
21 weeks ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (37)
All Comments   (37)
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I'da thought the whole portrayal of First Americans in Peter Pan would seem so degrading that no one would go there any more.
21 weeks ago
21 weeks ago Link To Comment
Here I thought they would complain that Robert Downey Jr. played a black guy in Tropic Thunder and Johnny Depp was Tonto.
21 weeks ago
21 weeks ago Link To Comment
Don't forget that MSG Nick Fury was white in the comic books.
21 weeks ago
21 weeks ago Link To Comment
Actually, he was both. In the Marvel Ultimate Universe comics he's black. This is the version that Samual Jackson plays in the movies.
21 weeks ago
21 weeks ago Link To Comment
"No one said a word when the delightful Will Smith starred as the once-white cowboy Jim West in Wild Wild West.'

Huh? Lots of people panned that.
21 weeks ago
21 weeks ago Link To Comment
I did. The back story -- that Jim West had run away as a slave, then lived among Indians -- reminds us that during Grant's presidency, there were virtually no blacks in jobs like federal law enforcement. And few or no blacks had ever been commissioned by the Union Army.
If you're going to play the former slave line, you should be consistent with the character.
21 weeks ago
21 weeks ago Link To Comment
"No one to my knowledge raised a fuss when the terrific actor Idris Elba, a black guy, was cast as the Norse god Heimdall in the 2011 movie Thor."

Then you weren't paying attention. Lots of fan sites were more than a little miffed.
21 weeks ago
21 weeks ago Link To Comment
Why was a Latino A. Quinn playing a Bedouin in L. of Arabia, or a Greek? Why was an Egyptian playing a Russian in Dr. Zhivago? With CGI we could retro-censor Zhivago and have an albino Morlock do the role.
21 weeks ago
21 weeks ago Link To Comment
Gees, why can't she play the role? My husband has a full-blooded grandmother and look whiter than white bread.
21 weeks ago
21 weeks ago Link To Comment
The other complaint and petition started up a few weeks ago is about the perceived lack of African American access to Hollywood and Emmy awards.
21 weeks ago
21 weeks ago Link To Comment
Actually no Native American (Indian) would have the word Tiger in their name. An actual Indian from India might have it but even then I don't think it is a custom on the subcontinent.
21 weeks ago
21 weeks ago Link To Comment
Well, to be fair, the Tiger Lily is a native North American plant, and local tribes probably had their own word for it - so, with a bit of creative license, you could just say that she was named after the flower in her own language, and translated into English for the purposes of the story.

OK, it's a bit of a reach. But no more so than a kid who can fly, anyway.
21 weeks ago
21 weeks ago Link To Comment
Especially since "tiger" is an English word.
21 weeks ago
21 weeks ago Link To Comment
I agree with this sentiment. I have not looked it up on the Internet but I am positive these same four thousand signatures could be found written in rage at the non-Mormon actors in The Book of Mormon.

And that these four thousand people formed a human protest fortress outside of every performance of The Wiz.

Lou Gossett Jr most certainly is not Egyptian, so this affront should have been part of Obama's apology tour speech in Cairo.

Shakespeare should be played only by persons of full British lineage. Straight actors should never be allowed to play gay characters...and vice versa.

And never....never...should a brain dead leftist play a conservative, a businessman, a military officer or courageous soldier or a faith-based believer, or any alpha male. THAT, however, would eliminate 99% of the American theater and film production.
21 weeks ago
21 weeks ago Link To Comment
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