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January 26, 2011 7:06 PM   Subscribe

Oscars take a pass on people of color.

Setting aside the more obscure, technical categories, when it comes to the best picture award along with the major nominations for acting, writing and directing, there are, ahem, zero people of color in the Oscar race this year.

Historical lists of Black/Asian/Hispanic Academy Award winners and nominees.
posted by Baby_Balrog (193 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
A black man has served on the Supreme Court, been a senator, an astronaut, a chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, won a Pulitzer Prize and - oh, yes - is currently serving as president of the United States.
Whoa, who is this amazing man??

But yeah this is shameful.
posted by amethysts at 7:13 PM on January 26, 2011 [8 favorites]


There are no studio chairmen or heads of production who are black or Latino. In fact, there are barely any people of color in any high-level positions at any major studio, talent agency or management firm.

In all fairness, wasn't most of Hollywood run by people of Jewish ancestry for most of its history?

Not trying to draw any equivalency there, but it's hardly a non-ethnic industry. Just not the ethnicities that stand out based on skin color.
posted by hippybear at 7:14 PM on January 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


Wow, did you see that list? The story here is how few there have ever been. Two black best directors nominated. That's it.

Check out Willie D. Burton, though. Guy's a superhero.
posted by tapesonthefloor at 7:15 PM on January 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Who would you suggest for this year?
posted by semmi at 7:16 PM on January 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


Hey, Osc, how come they ain't no brothas up on the wall here?
posted by Joe Beese at 7:16 PM on January 26, 2011 [5 favorites]


In all fairness, wasn't most of Hollywood run by people of Jewish ancestry for most of its history?

But Jews haven't been historically oppressed!
posted by John Cohen at 7:17 PM on January 26, 2011 [7 favorites]


There should be a quota.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:19 PM on January 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


Two black best directors nominated. That's it.

Out of curiosity, how many black directors can you name? Screenwriters?
posted by dobbs at 7:20 PM on January 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Isn't this more a result of a notable dearth of meaty, "serious" roles for non-white actors?
posted by Bromius at 7:21 PM on January 26, 2011 [4 favorites]


I kind of feel like this is a poorly-written article.
Black and Latino actors can get parts as soldiers in an action film or comic sidekicks in a comedy, but when it comes to the kind of dramatic roles that attract Oscar attention, they need a lucky break, like the one Mo'Nique got from having a black filmmaker making the casting choices. Or the one Jennifer Hudson got, with her role in "Dreamgirls" established on the stage. Or the one Morgan Freeman got, landing a Oscar nomination last year as Nelson Mandela in "Invictus," because he has a long track record of working with Clint Eastwood.

The examples is this paragraph are examples of black actors who got roles playing characters who were already specified as black as a plot point. That is a good point to make, but instead the author tries to say that Mo'Nique got the part because the casting director made the decision, which isn't true. Or that Morgan Freeman lucked out, even though it's highly unlikely that anyone else in would have been cast in that role. And almost the entire cast of Dreamgirls was also black.
posted by amethysts at 7:24 PM on January 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


You'd think that in all of 2010 there must have been at least one movie where an African-American character touchingly helped a white character overcome their problem.

You know... like Will Smith in that golf picture.
posted by Joe Beese at 7:25 PM on January 26, 2011 [22 favorites]


Wow, I'm sort of shocked at how badly this thread is going already. Let's not bring out the references to quotas and make people hash out the whole Jewish Hollywood thing. This isn't something that should be swept under the rug by making jokes when we're uncomfortable.
posted by stoneweaver at 7:26 PM on January 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


Isn't this more a result of a notable dearth of meaty, "serious" roles for non-white actors?

From the article:
The fault lies not with the academy, which has in recent years happily given out the occasional statuette to a black actor or actress lucky enough to get a big part in a serious film. Mo'Nique was on hand Tuesday morning because she won for supporting actress last year for her role in "Precious," a film made by Lee Daniels, an African-American filmmaker. Forest Whitaker won a lead actor Oscar in 2007 for "The Last King of Scotland," and Halle Berry won a lead actress Oscar in 2002 for "Monster's Ball" on the same night Denzel Washington won lead actor for "Training Day."

You can argue that some minorities have been snubbed, starting with Spike Lee, who's never been nominated for a directing award, not even for landmark films such as "Do the Right Thing" and "Malcolm X." But the Oscars reflect what's happening in the marketplace. And the cold truth is that black talent rarely receives Oscar opportunities because it works in one of the most minority-free industries in America.
posted by girih knot at 7:26 PM on January 26, 2011 [5 favorites]


You know, it's really sad, but I wasn't the least bit surprised...

Sigh.
posted by Askiba at 7:27 PM on January 26, 2011


Isn't this more a result of a notable dearth of meaty, "serious" roles for non-white actors?

Really? Seriously? It's been a long time since I've seen many roles that couldn't be played by an actor of any race. Sure, biopics and films set in the earlier decades in the US (True Grit, say) are going to require a certain amount of racial casting, but there are a lot of serious, meaty roles that could cast anyone of the right age, gender, and demeanor.
posted by Tomorrowful at 7:27 PM on January 26, 2011 [6 favorites]


This isn't something that should be swept under the rug by making jokes when we're uncomfortable.

This is a ridiculous comment. Who are you to tell people when they're allowed to make jokes? Or judge who's "uncomfortable" over the internet?
posted by John Cohen at 7:28 PM on January 26, 2011 [6 favorites]


Ugh. If it wasn't this it'd be something else.
posted by zombieApoc at 7:29 PM on January 26, 2011


Shouldn't the exclamation be more, "Wow, I wish more colored people would direct and act in movies! I'm sick of all these white folk." The Oscars are pretty much bullshit anyway, aren't they?
posted by fartknocker at 7:33 PM on January 26, 2011 [4 favorites]


Who cares about the Oscars anyway? The whole thing is embarrassing.
posted by rain at 7:35 PM on January 26, 2011 [7 favorites]


Wait.

Is the premise that there are great non-white actors in great roles of substance that are over-looked by the Academy because of a systemic and lingering racism

or,

Is the premise that there are great non-white actors but no great roles of substance are developed for them because of a systemic and linger racism

both of those are bad, I just was wondering which bad and I didn't really actually want to read the article.
posted by kbanas at 7:35 PM on January 26, 2011 [4 favorites]


We just need more nice, non-threatening black people on the screen, like that nice Mr Sidney Potterer, or Morgan Fairchild. It'd be nice if they could be rising up and overcoming something for which I can't be held personally responsible. That always makes me feel good.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 7:37 PM on January 26, 2011 [14 favorites]


Who cares about the Oscars anyway? The whole thing is embarrassing.

Lots and lots and lots and lots of people. Which is always the answer to a "who cares about" question. Good rule of thumb.

And plus, the Oscars are a sort of weird microcosm of the film industry as a whole, which is why this is disturbing. It's not so much the lack of nominations as it is the Hollywood environment as a whole.
posted by ORthey at 7:37 PM on January 26, 2011 [5 favorites]


the Hollywood environment as a whole...

Is a cesspool of vice and broken dreams, no?
posted by fartknocker at 7:40 PM on January 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's hard not to notice how few minorities had any visible roles in this year's most lauded films. "The Social Network" offers us a virtually lilywhite Harvard;
BUT WHAT ABOUT THE CRAZY ASIAN GIRLFRIEND!?
posted by delmoi at 7:43 PM on January 26, 2011 [7 favorites]


Morgan Fairchild?
posted by spilon at 7:44 PM on January 26, 2011 [7 favorites]


Is the premise that there are great non-white actors in great roles of substance that are over-looked by the Academy because of a systemic and lingering racism

or,

Is the premise that there are great non-white actors but no great roles of substance are developed for them because of a systemic and linger racism


Surely in this instance it must be the second one? To be fair, it doesn't seem as though many great roles of substance were developed for any actor of any race in 2010. I understand why what's discussed in the article sucks, but this isn't the best year to point out all the wonderful roles that could have gone to non-white actors. Then again, given The Social Network's iffy take on real life, sure, Mark Zuckerberg could've been black. Why not?
posted by kittens for breakfast at 7:44 PM on January 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


A black man has served on the Supreme Court, been a senator, an astronaut, a chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, won a Pulitzer Prize and - oh, yes - is currently serving as president of the United States.

Whoa, who is this amazing man??

I'm pretty sure it would have to be Billy Dee Williams.
posted by steambadger at 7:45 PM on January 26, 2011 [41 favorites]


Of the nominees for best picture, only Inception and possibly Black Swan strike me as movies that could've cast a person of color in one of the major roles. In fairness, I haven't seen The Kids Are All Right, Toy Story 3 or Winter's Bone and don't know much about them, so maybe they could too.

It's not really the Academy's fault that the best movies this year have been about white people. You could hardly turn Mark Zuckerberg or King George VI into Asians or something. That's not to say that I don't think there's plenty of room to make good films about people of color (I'd watch them), just that the Academy has to work with what's out there. If all the good movies are almost exclusively cast with white people, well, one can hardly be surprised when all the actor nominations go to whites. Point the finger at the people making the greenlighting decisions.
posted by axiom at 7:45 PM on January 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


Machete clearly should have been nominated in all categories.
posted by Artw at 7:46 PM on January 26, 2011 [37 favorites]


In all fairness, wasn't most of Hollywood run by people of Jewish ancestry for most of its history?

~ I've got horse-sense, goddamnit. Showmanship. And also, and I hope Lou told you this, I'm bigger and meaner than any other kike in this town. Did you tell him that, Lou? And I don't mean my dick's bigger than yours, it's not a sexual thing - although, you're the writer, you would know more about that. Coffee?~
posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:48 PM on January 26, 2011 [4 favorites]


In fairness, I haven't seen The Kids Are All Right...

I actually thought Annette Bening was black.
posted by fartknocker at 7:48 PM on January 26, 2011


so I'm not the only one disappointed by a lack of Danny Trejo in the list? I just kind of assumed they would use the intestine scene for the nominee clip scene.
posted by mannequito at 7:50 PM on January 26, 2011 [6 favorites]


Out of black actor nominations since 1989, 9 out of 13 were for portraying a real person. 3 (2 of which were real people) of the nominations were for Morgan Freeman, 3 (2 of which were real people) for Denzel Washington, and 2 (both were real people) for Will Smith, for a total of 8 out of 13.

So essentially, if you're a black actor and you want to win an Oscar, you can either act in a shitload of biopics or be Morgan Freeman.
posted by fryman at 7:51 PM on January 26, 2011 [19 favorites]


It's not really the Academy's fault that the best movies this year have been about white people.

It's not the fault of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences that the best movies have been about white people?

From their website:
Founded in 1927 by 36 of the most influential men and women in the motion picture industry at the time, the Academy is an honorary membership organization whose ranks now include more than 6,000 artists and professionals.

Dedicated to the advancement of the arts and sciences of motion pictures, the Academy’s corporate management and general policies are overseen by a Board of Governors, which includes representatives from each of the craft branches.


If the most powerful people in the industry - who constitute the Academy - decided it was a priority to make movies about people of color, there would soon be more movies about people of color.
posted by gingerest at 7:51 PM on January 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


Of the nominees for best picture, only Inception and possibly Black Swan strike me as movies that could've cast a person of color in one of the major roles.
I haven't seen Black Swan yet but Inception did have some secondary characters of color, the Japanese guy and the Indian guy. The Kids Are All Right could probably have had minority characters, why not?

Also The Social Network had the Winklevoss' Indian henchman.
posted by delmoi at 7:52 PM on January 26, 2011


Morgan Fairchild?
posted by spilon


It was a joke. He was joking.
posted by haveanicesummer at 7:55 PM on January 26, 2011


Morgan Fairchild?
posted by spilon

It was a joke. He was joking.


Did you completely miss Sydney Potterer?
posted by hippybear at 7:58 PM on January 26, 2011 [4 favorites]


I think having 20 nominees in every category would solve everything.
posted by mazola at 8:00 PM on January 26, 2011 [4 favorites]


Of the nominees for best picture, only Inception and possibly Black Swan strike me as movies that could've cast a person of color in one of the major roles.

This general attitude is why this problem persists. (Not accusing you of anything, axiom!) For example, many many things were changed in The Social Network. Casting any of the characters (probably besides Zuckerburg) as someone not lily white shouldn't be a problem. We keep singling out race as what makes an actor a believable representation. Instead, we should be focusing on the other things that make someone the right actor for the job. There are other things, otherwise we would have one white actor, one black actor and one asian actor and just cast them in every movie. There are other important things about actors besides their race. The sooner we can start casting movies based on those things, the better. With the possible exception of The King's Speech, there's no good reason for any of those movies to be so pervasively white.

For example, True Grit. Absolutely no reason that it should be so white. So what if it's a remake? There were plenty, and I mean plenty, of Hispanic, Native American and black people living in the west. It served absolutely no plot point for any of those people to be white. Nothing would have changed if they'd cast different actors. The West was a very different place than the rest of the country in those days.

America is very hung up on race being the determining factor in whether someone is believable in a role. Or whether it will disrupt the movie. Or it will HAVE to be a plot point that So-and-So is Not White. There was quite a bit of fan wankery over The Doctor having a black companion, but it's worth noting that Doctor Who as a show never mentioned it. There was one "We're hiding in Old Time England and you have to be a maid" episode, but even that was more about class than race. It is entirely possible to cast people who are not white and not say anything about it. TRUST THE AUDIENCE. Sure, there might be a bit of wank, but there's a bit of wank about every movie ever. Get over it, Hollywood.
posted by stoneweaver at 8:00 PM on January 26, 2011 [29 favorites]


No Fighting in the War Room!
posted by garlic at 8:02 PM on January 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


It's not the fault of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences that the best movies have been about white people?

Obviously, yes, the Academy membership has influence over what kind of movies get made, but I thought I clearly meant the Academy as an organization. It's the studios (as organizations) that make these decisions.
posted by axiom at 8:04 PM on January 26, 2011 [1 favorite]




I haven't seen Black Swan yet but Inception did have some secondary characters of color, the Japanese guy and the Indian guy.

Neither of which are going to get supporting actor nominations, and not because of their color. It's because their roles were so insignificant.
posted by axiom at 8:06 PM on January 26, 2011


Seconding what stoneweaver said. For an industry that prides itself on its creativity, it could stand to be more creative in certain respects.
posted by Capt. Renault at 8:06 PM on January 26, 2011


There was quite a bit of fan wankery over The Doctor having a black companion, but it's worth noting that Doctor Who as a show never mentioned it. There was one "We're hiding in Old Time England and you have to be a maid" episode

Uh, well...there was also the episode when Martha's mom literally became the Master's slave.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 8:07 PM on January 26, 2011 [4 favorites]


It served absolutely no plot point for any of those people to be white. Nothing would have changed if they'd cast different actors.

If nothing would have changed then what's the difference?
posted by condiments at 8:09 PM on January 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Of the nominees for best picture, only Inception and possibly Black Swan strike me as movies that could've cast a person of color in one of the major roles. In fairness, I haven't seen The Kids Are All Right, Toy Story 3 or Winter's Bone and don't know much about them, so maybe they could too.

Winter's Bone is about a close-knit tribe of Ozark hillbillies, so it probably would have strained credulity a bit to cast a black person in that. Toy Story, being the story of a bunch of toys, might have had a bit more flexibility in the area of race. Personally, I would have enjoyed watching Will Smith play King George VI. But that's just me.
posted by steambadger at 8:11 PM on January 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Uh, well...there was also the episode when Martha's mom literally became the Master's slave.

Very very true. And I honestly am so scarred by the whole Master arc that I tend to omit thinking about it when I think back over the New who episodes. Totally my bad.
posted by stoneweaver at 8:12 PM on January 26, 2011


Until I saw the movie, I never considered that Red in The Shawshank Rendemption could be black. I'm not saying to cast Morgan Freeman in every movie, but maybe every other? He can do voiceovers for the rest.

Also I never knew John Singleton directed 2 Fast 2 Furious.
posted by Ad hominem at 8:13 PM on January 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


It served absolutely no plot point for any of those people to be white. Nothing would have changed if they'd cast different actors.

If nothing would have changed then what's the difference?

I can't tell whether this is serious or not. If it's a joke, forgive me. If it's not a joke. Well. This sort of gets to the whole heart of the matter. It does matter if all the media we produce only depicts white people.
posted by stoneweaver at 8:14 PM on January 26, 2011


> I'm not saying to cast Morgan Freeman in every movie, but maybe every other?

Let me go ahead and say that Morgan Freeman should indeed be cast in every movie.
posted by vidur at 8:20 PM on January 26, 2011 [10 favorites]


This sort of gets to the whole heart of the matter. It does matter if all the media we produce only depicts white people.

Which is my point, come at sideways. If it matters, then there's a difference, and that means something important changes. Desiring to change something while saying nothing will change seems paradoxical.

Not trying to be obtuse; just mean to say that I think it would have changed something, and that's worth paying attention to. It doesn't seem worth doing it just for the sake of doing it. There's an end to those means.
posted by condiments at 8:23 PM on January 26, 2011


There are no studio chairmen or heads of production who are black or Latino. In fact, there are barely any people of color in any high-level positions at any major studio, talent agency or management firm.

That's really damning. Seriously.
posted by mediareport at 8:28 PM on January 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Not trying to be obtuse; just mean to say that I think it would have changed something, and that's worth paying attention to. It doesn't seem worth doing it just for the sake of doing it. There's an end to those means.

It's not doing it just for the sake of doing it. And I really just don't have the stomach for hashing that out tonight. Maybe someone else can pick up from here and explain why it's worth doing, but I am bowing out.
posted by stoneweaver at 8:31 PM on January 26, 2011


Out of curiosity, how many black directors can you name? Screenwriters?

Off the top of my head (I admit I looked them up on imdb just now to see what they are up to)

Spike Lee,The Hughes brothers, John Singleton, Antoine Fuqua, Mario Van Peebles, and I'll throw in Matty Rich even though he hasn't directed a film since The Inkwell just because of Straight Out of Brooklyn.

There are no studio chairmen or heads of production who are black or Latino. In fact, there are barely any people of color in any high-level positions at any major studio, talent agency or management firm.

Any stats on how many black or latino CEOs of fortune 500 companies there are?

This isn't just a problem for the movie industry.
posted by Ad hominem at 8:33 PM on January 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


The problem happens far earlier in the pipeline than at Oscar time.

Very few movies are even made that do not pander to some executive's idea of the lowest common denominator - not even the lowest common denominator, but what some other team of people imagines the lowest common denominator to be. In that way, studios are far, far, far more cowardly than actual audiences, writers, directors, casting directors, et al.
posted by Sticherbeast at 8:35 PM on January 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Not to derail, but there's no reason gender need always be the most important thing about an actor for casting purposes, any more than race should be. One of my favorite things about Streets of Fire is that the part written for an overweight male soldier was filled by the not-especially-large Amy Madigan, without rewriting the part.
posted by asperity at 8:35 PM on January 26, 2011 [4 favorites]


While I totally agree with the premise, I have to say that it's really hard to get a foothold in Hollywood. For every single "person of color" trying to get a gig in H-wood there are another 1000 hot chicks from the midwest trying to do the same thing. (Real talent aside, that's still tough competition.)

I guess what I'm really trying to say is that every Morgan Freeman, Denzel Washington and so on, if they really gave a shit about "people of color" they could use their standing to promote fellow colleagues, write and make their own films and create greater, broader footholds and platforms for expression in film for people of color.

Also, Harlem Knights.
posted by snsranch at 8:36 PM on January 26, 2011


It doesn't seem worth doing it just for the sake of doing it. There's an end to those means.
posted by condiments at 10:23 PM on January 26


Of course it's worth doing it just for the sake of doing it.

It may not change anything in a specific film to have characters who could be any colour actually be any colour instead of always defaulting to white, but it would make films in general better - both because they'd represent a wider reality, and because the best actors would get the spot (instead of the best white actors). Creating a fake world of mostly white people is pretty damn creepy, if nothing else.
posted by joannemerriam at 8:36 PM on January 26, 2011 [11 favorites]


On the one hand, I realize that this is a problem.

On the other, Patrick Goldstein was going to write this shitty article no matter how many people of color got nominated. It's the most predictable Oscar talking point.
posted by graventy at 8:46 PM on January 26, 2011 [5 favorites]


it would make films in general better - both because they'd represent a wider reality, and because the best actors would get the spot

I agree. That's all I'm trying to say--that there is a reason for doing it, and that it would make a difference, and that it would change something. Any change is significant, so saying it wouldn't change anything is an avenue best avoided, imho.

I'm agreeing it is a worthy goal. I'm disagreeing that it makes no difference.
posted by condiments at 8:53 PM on January 26, 2011


"'True Grit' takes us back to the Old West, where the only black faces I can remember seeing are that of a manservant and a stable boy."

The author must've slept through the scenes with Hailee Steinfeld, the youngest Actress of African-American descent to earn an Oscar nomination and the fourth actress of African-American descent to earn a nomination for a debut performance.
posted by prinado at 8:55 PM on January 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Always gotta love the logic: "Race doesn't matter, which is why we have to cast white people for white roles and white people for ethnic roles as well!"

20 years from now, when Mark Wahlberg gets his Oscar for starring in the Malcolm X remake telling the end of a long journey of freedom beginning with the Founding Fathers ending slavery, you'll be able to celebrate our post-racial society. Don't forget to get the soundtrack, which will include Eminem, Kid Rock, Beastie Boys and Insane Clown Posse doing covers of Public Enemy, KRS-ONE, NWA and X-Clan.
posted by yeloson at 8:56 PM on January 26, 2011 [4 favorites]


hollywood is racist.
film at eleven.
posted by liza at 8:57 PM on January 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


^Obviously, yes, the Academy membership has influence over what kind of movies get made, but I thought I clearly meant the Academy as an organization. It's the studios (as organizations) that make these decisions.

Yeah, and I meant both - if the members, who are Hollywood's elite, and if the organization, whose awards drive quite some box office, decided inclusiveness was a priority, many studios would listen.
posted by gingerest at 8:57 PM on January 26, 2011


He writes:
...adding that things were so white that in "127 Hours," when James Franco's hiker character cuts off his arm, it doesn't even turn black.

I'm sorry, this guy is trolling.

Hollywood only sees one color: Green.
posted by CarlRossi at 9:00 PM on January 26, 2011


For example, True Grit. Absolutely no reason that it should be so white. So what if it's a remake? There were plenty, and I mean plenty, of Hispanic, Native American and black people living in the west. It served absolutely no plot point for any of those people to be white. Nothing would have changed if they'd cast different actors.

I saw the first True Grit so long ago that I have no strong memory of it. But the current version felt very much in love with original novelist Charles Portis's unique take on the English language, particularly the oh-so proper English grammar and attempted enunciations employed by some of the rougher, meaner backwoods types. In fact, this was my single favorite part of movie; so delicately incongruous that you instinctively felt that must've been how folks spoke back then.

So I have to disagree with the above statement. Because I can't help but feel that much of this quality would have been lost if the Coen Bros had taken an essentially color-blind approach to casting. It would've been too incongruous. It would've been a different movie.

I agree that it's an absurdity and a shame on Hollywood that the current dearth of decent roles for non-white actors (and jobs for non-white directors) exists, and that there are so few non-white execs. But True Grit is NOT the film to take to task in this regard. Bad call.
posted by philip-random at 9:03 PM on January 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


That's sort of the point. It would have thrown you so out of the movie for anyone but very white people to talk like that? I'm not casting any sort of aspersions on you, but a hefty portion of America seems to say that about every movie, not just something like True Grit. It's just too incongruous. And that's the coward's way out for the studios.
posted by stoneweaver at 9:06 PM on January 26, 2011 [5 favorites]


AMPAS does not do well by people of color. This is pretty much not a debate. Let's not turn this into Racefail 2011.

A big part of the problem is that it's not any one person or group's particular fault. Take The Kids are Alright, for example. There's no reason the family had to be all white. The kids could've been half-black and as good as Mark Ruffalo is (and he's amazing) there are black actors who could have done an equally good job. However, this was clearly an intimate story, driven by the screenplay, told with an uncommon level of honesty. To tell that story in a mixed family would necessitate adding in new themes that the storytellers weren't trying to deal with there and which they probably wouldn't have been able to handle with the same deftness that they did with the same-sex marriage issue. Who are we to say that they shouldn't have made the movie they planned to make?

On the other side of the coin, we have Morgan Freeman, one of the greatest actors living today. He is also, unfortunately, the embodiment of "happens to be black." He can play Lucius in the Batman movies. He can play Sommerset in Seven. Hell, he can play God. It doesn't matter, because these rolls are always supporting, and always racially neutral. A white actor could have played any of these without a single thing being changed in the production process. And while I agree with the sentiment of casting Morgan Freeman in everything he can possibly schedule, and like that progress is being made here, I don't think it says a hell of a lot that a handful of revered black actors and actresses are permitted to play supporting roles in predominantly white movies. It's tokenism.

As for black writers and directors, well, there are too few of them getting work, and it's not like there's not a market for the films they could be making. Tyler Perry movies are absolute dreck, but when it's all you've got, I imagine it looks like gold (I'll also happily admit that sense of humor should carry no judgment, and that there are cultural factors at play where that's concerned.) Also, it's a travesty that Spike Lee has never been nominated.

But occasionally Hollywood let's something through which shows what things could be like. Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle, for instance, is an intentionally dumb stoner comedy that becomes kind of transcendent in that the races of the lead characters aren't the point, but they are still kinda sorta the point. It's not "about" the Asian-American experience, but it still couldn't work if the leads weren't Chinese and Indian. There are some people who know how to make it work.

But mostly, you've got whites writing and directing and producing the movies, without giving it much thought, and to our detriment. Dicaprio was good in Inception, but how cool would it have been to see someone like Dule Hill in that role?

Hopefully someday soon we'll know.
posted by Navelgazer at 9:06 PM on January 26, 2011 [6 favorites]


You'd think that in all of 2010 there must have been at least one movie where an African-American character touchingly helped a white character overcome their problem.

The sassy black friends are all sassy gay friends now.

In fairness, I haven't seen The Kids Are All Right

Oh, but you should! It's a heartwarming tale about how every lesbian needs a man and every bisexual is an adulterer.

Sigh.

They really ought to just merge the Oscars and the Razzies already.
posted by Sys Rq at 9:06 PM on January 26, 2011 [9 favorites]


They really ought to just merge the Oscars and the Razzies already.

I'd start watching again.
posted by philip-random at 9:11 PM on January 26, 2011


"For Colored Girls" was a deeply flawed movie but it contained at least three performances worthy of a Best Supporting nominee.
posted by hermitosis at 9:12 PM on January 26, 2011


I agree. That's all I'm trying to say--that there is a reason for doing it, and that it would make a difference, and that it would change something. Any change is significant, so saying it wouldn't change anything is an avenue best avoided, imho.

I think the way to think about it is this:

1. Casting a minority actor in a part that is non-racial/ethnic specific does not change matters related to the film itself.

2. Casting a minority actor in a part that is non-racial/ethnic specific does, overall, change non-film related matters.

I understood the original comment you referred to to be saying that proposition 1 is not affected and you seem to be focusing on proposition 2.
posted by Falconetti at 9:13 PM on January 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Out of curiosity, how many black directors can you name? Screenwriters?

I'll leave directors as an exercise for the reader, but in screenwriters probably the best known is John Ridley, who wrote the original script for THREE KINGS although it was changed so much subsequently that he only received a story credit.

Having rewritten an original Ridley script I'd venture to say it's unlikely that he (or I) will be nominated for an Oscar anytime soon.

Look, you can get your hate on for Hollywood all you want but, fuck man, screenwriting is the ultimate equal opportunity profession. Nobody gives the slightest vestige of a fuck about what the race of the guy who wrote the script is when they take it home for the weekend read. All they care about is if you can make money for them. To assume anything else is to radically, fantastically misunderstand the industry.
posted by unSane at 9:15 PM on January 26, 2011 [5 favorites]


This isn't something that should be swept under the rug by making jokes when we're uncomfortable.

Someone better tell Chris Rock he's been inadvertently sweeping it under the rug this whole time.
posted by doublehappy at 9:17 PM on January 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Oh, but you should! It's a heartwarming tale about how every lesbian needs a man and every bisexual is an adulterer.

You should give Lisa Cholodenko a little more credit, I think she has earned it. She is a lesbian herself (not to say that it is impossible for a lesbian to make a film that reiterates problematic tropes relating to lesbians). However, the film read to me as being about those specific people and that the leads were not intended to stand in for all lesbians and bisexuals. Boiling the film down to your statement seems to me a cramped and ungenerous interpretation.
posted by Falconetti at 9:19 PM on January 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


20 years from now, when Mark Wahlberg gets his Oscar for starring in the Malcolm X remake telling the end of a long journey of freedom beginning with the Founding Fathers ending slavery, you'll be able to celebrate our post-racial society. Don't forget to get the soundtrack, which will include Eminem, Kid Rock, Beastie Boys and Insane Clown Posse doing covers of Public Enemy, KRS-ONE, NWA and X-Clan.

You joke, but Linda Hunt has already won an Oscar for playing an Asian MAN for chrissakes. And Mickey Fucking Rourke is slated to play GENGHIS KHAN. GENGHIS KHAN!!!!
posted by emeiji at 9:29 PM on January 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


The Kids Are All Right

Have you noticed how every indie comedy ever is about infidelity? Seriously, I now watch these things idly wondering when the infidelity will happen, when the inevitable discovery will happen, etc... etc...

You can tell if you are leaning into more serious indie drama teritoty because someone gets cancer too.
posted by Artw at 9:33 PM on January 26, 2011 [5 favorites]


It seems more an issue about the studio heads and producers and the like who actually greenlight the films than with the Oscar crowd who are simply deciding what the best finished products are. Although I suppose a fair percentage are one in the same...
posted by zardoz at 9:34 PM on January 26, 2011


Have you noticed how every indie comedy ever is about infidelity?

Some friends and I have an inside joke about short story markets being glutted with "sub-Granta twaddle - airy stories about cheating professors smoking cigarettes at cafes." Indie movies are falling into the same (boring) trope.

More loathsome - and, I think, technically, common - still is the "artsy misfit guy with a sad past creepily pursuing a Manic Pixie Dream girl who also has a sad past."
posted by Sticherbeast at 9:37 PM on January 26, 2011 [4 favorites]


Machete clearly should have been nominated in all categories.

Danny Trejo should get a lifetime achievement award for best MexiCAN in film.
posted by birdherder at 9:39 PM on January 26, 2011 [4 favorites]


The problem happens far earlier in the pipeline than at Oscar time.

Pretty much. As far the 10 best pictures nominations go, they were pretty much going to be those movies. I think maybe Blue Valentine not being on the list is the only real suprise. Those were the Oscar movies this year, given what anybody knows about the oscars and the movies that there were to pick from.
posted by Artw at 9:43 PM on January 26, 2011


but it still couldn't work if the leads weren't Chinese and Indian.

So, since one of the leads is Korean, it didn't work?
posted by LionIndex at 9:44 PM on January 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


^Look, you can get your hate on for Hollywood all you want but, fuck man, screenwriting is the ultimate equal opportunity profession. Nobody gives the slightest vestige of a fuck about what the race of the guy who wrote the script is when they take it home for the weekend read.

That's not what the Writers Guild Reports say:

...the minority share of film employment has remained flat at 6 percent since 2003. In fact, previous Hollywood Writers Reports show that this 6-percent share has remained unchanged since at least 1999. Minorities remain underrepresented by a factor of more than 5 to 1 among employed film writers. (p.4, 2009 Writers Guild Report Executive Summary pdf)

Since 2005 -- the final year analyzed in the 2007 Hollywood Writers Report – women writers’ share of overall employment has remained unchanged at 25 percent. In the television sector, 28 percent of the writers in 2006 and 2007 were women, up one percentage point from the group’s 27-percent share in 2005. The group’s share of film employment actually decreased a percentage point since the last report, from 19 percent in 2005 to 18 percent in 2007. (p.1-2, ibid)

(Even the Black List is pretty much a sausagefest.)
posted by gingerest at 9:45 PM on January 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


LionIndex: sorry. Of course you're right.
posted by Navelgazer at 9:47 PM on January 26, 2011


Endhiran AKA The Indian Terminator AKA Robot clearly should have been in the running - look at this fucking thing, I'd give it all kinds of awards just off of the trailer (Oscar for Most Crazy Thing Since That Dude Jumped a Jeep into a Helicopter, for one)
posted by Artw at 9:51 PM on January 26, 2011 [5 favorites]


Morgan Fairchild?

Yes. You remember - he played the butler in Benson.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 9:52 PM on January 26, 2011




The author must've slept through the scenes with Hailee Steinfeld, the youngest Actress of African-American descent to earn an Oscar nomination and the fourth actress of African-American descent to earn a nomination for a debut performance.

I guess she does count under the Keano Reeves rule. Still, here's hoping she gets it, though I'd argue she was more of a lead than a support. Hell, I'd say she was THE lead of that movie, and she carried it well.
posted by Artw at 10:06 PM on January 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Kenneth Branagh has made a habit of casting black actors in roles that aren't written expressly as black characters: David Oyelowo in As You Like It, Denzel Washington in Much Ado About Nothing, Adrian Lester in Love's Labour's Lost, and now Idris Elba in Thor.

If we can have a black Norse god, surely we can have some black cowboys, Harvard students, ballerinas, and dream invaders.

Wait, what about Buzz Lightyear's "Spanish Mode"? That counts, right?
posted by straight at 10:19 PM on January 26, 2011 [4 favorites]


So I have to disagree with the above statement. Because I can't help but feel that much of this quality would have been lost if the Coen Bros had taken an essentially color-blind approach to casting. It would've been too incongruous. It would've been a different movie.
Yeah, would have been totally weird to see non-whites pronounce things properly. It'd take you right out of the movie.
posted by delmoi at 10:20 PM on January 26, 2011 [11 favorites]


DANNY TREJO RULES!
posted by clavdivs at 10:37 PM on January 26, 2011


Yeah, would have been totally weird to see non-whites pronounce things properly. It'd take you right out of the movie.

I don't know. I keep hearing about how some of these minorities are surprisingly "articulate."
posted by straight at 11:05 PM on January 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's not really the Academy's fault that the best movies this year have been about white people. You could hardly turn Mark Zuckerberg or King George VI into Asians or something. That's not to say that I don't think there's plenty of room to make good films about people of color (I'd watch them), just that the Academy has to work with what's out there.

So, now that you've identified some obvious exceptions...what's the justification for pretty much every non-biographical character being white?
posted by desuetude at 11:20 PM on January 26, 2011


Morgan Fairchild?

My wife.
posted by maxwelton at 11:27 PM on January 26, 2011 [6 favorites]


no one's reading anymore, but --
Setting aside the more obscure, technical categories, when it comes to the best picture award along with the major nominations for acting, writing and directing, there are, ahem, zero people of color in the Oscar race this year.
How did I never notice that Javier Bardem, nominated for Best Actor, is white?

Or that Hailee Steinfeld, nominated for Best Supporting Actress, whose mother is part African-American and part Filipino, is white?

(I am 100% on the side of the argument the writer makes, but come on.)

(Aside re: why is Steinfeld nominated for Supporting rather than Best Actress: she wouldn't stand a chance in the Best Actress category, so the studio campaigned for her as Supporting, to give her a shot at winning. Has nothing to do with the Academy, and it happens all the time.)
posted by tzikeh at 11:29 PM on January 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


tzikeh, I was about to give the same answer re: Steinfeld, but in this case it's still a little ridiculous considering that it's her movie and that the guy she hires, who shows up over a half-hour into it to assist her in her mission for justice, is in the running for Best Actor.
posted by Navelgazer at 11:51 PM on January 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'm pretty sure that Javier Bardem is white.
posted by creasy boy at 12:09 AM on January 27, 2011


He's from some ridiculously long line of Spanish actors.
posted by Artw at 12:19 AM on January 27, 2011


He's Spanish. Like, as in, from Spain. So, yeah, imperial baggage. But he's Hispanic and swarthy, which is plenty non-white by American standards.
posted by Sys Rq at 12:19 AM on January 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


Well, look, let me put it this way. Racial categories are an overly simplistic fiction, and Mediterranean countries are a good example of why. And the white/Hispanic dichotomy doesn't really make any sense. Nonetheless: 1) when Americans talk about "Hispanic" people they don't really mean pale-skinned Europeans, and 2) if he's your example of a non-white person you're really reaching.
posted by creasy boy at 12:44 AM on January 27, 2011


Empire Magazine says it better than I re: Steinfeld and Bridges:
Why is Hailee Steinfeld up for Best Supporting Actress for True Grit instead of Best Actress?
Hailee Steinfeld may have been just 13 when she starred in True Grit for the Coen Brothers, having had basically no previous big screen experience, but she carries the film. The story is told from her eyes, the title refers at least as much to her Mattie Ross as it does to Jeff Bridges' Rooster Cogburn, and she's in virtually every scene. So why is she a "Supporting" Actress? Easy: someone is playing the odds.

The chances of a gifted teenager taking home Best Actress are virtually nil (particularly in a strong year like this one); the chances of her actually winning Best Supporting Actress are considerably better. Often, actresses with leading or joint lead roles sort of carve up the categories: hence Natalie Portman was nominated for Best Supporting for Closer rather than lead (where she's onscreen as much as Julia Roberts); and Kate Hudson got Best Supporting for Almost Famous when she had the principal female role.

Equally, why is Jeff Bridges up for Best Actor for True Grit instead of Best Supporting Actor?
Same deal again, with a wrinkle. It's very hard to argue, actually, that Jeff Bridges' role is a Supporting one: he's clearly the male lead in the film, so in that sense this nomination is OK. And while he supports Steinfeld, that doesn't necessarily equate to this being a Supporting role: Reece Witherspoon supported Joaquin Phoenix in Walk The Line and was called a Lead, after all. However, we suspect that part of the reason here is that Bridges won Best Actor last year and couldn't exactly take a demotion right out of the gate, so that the company involved pitched him for Best Actor. It may also have been to do with a carve-up of categories as well, allowing Matt Damon to be put forward for Best Supporting, even if he didn't end up getting the nod.
creasy boy, Bardem is not "my example" of a non-white person, but he is *an* example, as far as the messy notion of People of Color goes in the U.S. As I said above, I am 100% behind the author's argument. I find myself explaining this more and more to people around me as I become more involved with race and gender issues. Any role for which whiteness is not intrinsic to the character can be played by anyone of any ethnicity, but the Hollywood default is white actors--just as any time being male isn't intrinsic to the character, that character can be played by a woman, but Hollywood defaults to male actors. It's long-entrenched, it's a reflection of society, and it sucks.
posted by tzikeh at 12:58 AM on January 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


I kind of wondered about that too, first the author said that Javier Bardem is Spanish, as if that doesn't qualify, and then he asks about "Black or Latino" people in film?
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 12:59 AM on January 27, 2011


Also, this?

Tyler Perry had two films in the Top 100 box-office grossers domestically, but like most films with African-American casts, they made virtually no money overseas, which is where Hollywood increasingly looks for its profits.

Tyler Perry's movies didn't make little money overseas because they had African-American casts, it's because they're absolute, utter shit. None of his movies seem to be able to rate above 4.5 on IMDB, which is way into "horrible" territory.

Actually, I'd like for someone to explain to me why Tyler Perry's movies are considered successes at all. I know the budgets are really, really low, but still, making $50M in the US market, and in one case $90M, isn't a flop by any stretch.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 1:05 AM on January 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


That came out confused. I meant to say, why are his movies doing so well, not why are they considered successes.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 1:07 AM on January 27, 2011


"People of color"? Do you mean black people?
posted by salmacis at 1:22 AM on January 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


Well, look, let me put it this way. Racial categories are an overly simplistic fiction, and Mediterranean countries are a good example of why. And the white/Hispanic dichotomy doesn't really make any sense. Nonetheless: 1) when Americans talk about "Hispanic" people they don't really mean pale-skinned Europeans, and 2) if he's your example of a non-white person you're really reaching.

I totally agree. (Except for the "pale-skinned" part. Javier Bardem is not pale. They have sunlight in Spain; Ireland, say, not so much. Though, of course, even the glow-in-the-dark Irish were once considered non-white, so, um, huh.)

I'm just saying, if there's a box for "Hispanic," which there all to often is, that's the one to tick for a Spaniard, because that's what Hispanic means; Hispania is the Iberian peninsula, i.e. Spain ("España"--sound familiar?) and Portugal. Latinos of exclusively European descent are more accurately described as Hispanic than are those with purely Mayan backgrounds, for example.

Those are just the facts. Whether the facts are just is another matter.
posted by Sys Rq at 1:23 AM on January 27, 2011


"People of color"? Do you mean black people?

Visible minorities.

Or, in this context, invisible.

(A whole lot of them aren't black.)
posted by Sys Rq at 1:28 AM on January 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


People of color"? Do you mean black people?

I don;t know who this comment is responding to, but since I've used the phrase, I will say that I meant it to refer to all non-white cultures absent (hopefully) of a referent that they were being compared to whites.
posted by Navelgazer at 2:01 AM on January 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


tzikeh, what I meant is just: if the Oscar people wished to defend themselves by pointing to Bardem, that'd be pretty weak. Hence I disagree with you that not counting Bardem as Hispanic is any kind of significant ommission on the author's part. Despite his tan, he's hardly a "person of color". He's hardly a counter-example to the author's point.

I'm just saying, if there's a box for "Hispanic," which there all to often is, that's the one to tick for a Spaniard

In America nowadays are you allowed to check off several boxes at once, or do you have to chose just one?
posted by creasy boy at 2:11 AM on January 27, 2011


In America nowadays are you allowed to check off several boxes at once, or do you have to chose just one?

That really all depends on how hypothetical the boxes are.
posted by Sys Rq at 2:18 AM on January 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


And if you're wondering about lead actor nominee Javier Bardem, he's from Spain.

What does this mean? He's not (Spanish) American, so he cannot be considered a person of colour? Is it because Bardem's performance is in Spanish? As Spanish is his native language, surely this makes his nomination at an American ceremony even more significant?

I'm genuinely perplexed by this. Is it because the film itself is foreign? Reading some of the comments here makes me think that he isn't a person of colour enough which seems like a really bizarre thing to say. Where do you draw the line when it comes to people of Hispanic decent? Latin America?

(Fwiw, I do think there is a deplorable lack of roles/nominations for people of colour, I just think dismissing a Spanish man's nomination because he is from another country seems like weird cognitive dissonance to prove a point.)
posted by slimepuppy at 2:53 AM on January 27, 2011


"Despite his tan, he's hardly a 'person of color'."

...right. Just to be clear, you're denying that he is a part of the Hispanic community on the basis of his skin colour being insufficiently dark for you? This is mighty thin ice you are skating on, you might want to reconsider where you are going with this.
posted by jaduncan at 3:05 AM on January 27, 2011


Fuck we need to sort our shit out re: talking about race.1 I wish I knew how. I'll start by saying that I think we2 tend to use the terms "white" and "black" differently.3 When we talk about "white" people, we mean the aggregation of white individuals in a population. When we talk about "black" people, we mean the tribe, a semi-organised cohesive unit (with intra-tribal conflict a black rite of passage) who think much the same way and want the same things. This has improved in the last fifty years, but probably only insofar as we now recognize a black middle class (vis. "When I say blacks, I'm not talking about those hard-working middle-class blacks who want the best for their family, they're great, I'm talking about ..."). White people are distinguished by their jobs and hobbies and sexuality and looks. Black people are distinguished by their skin colour. White is standard, default, representative, normal, and, most importantly, invisible. Black is black. When my Mother describes my girlfriend to people, she lists the following attributes: Asian, so obviously really driven to succeed, so tiny, gorgeous, really lovely, &c. When she talked about my ex-girlfriend, it was: Tiny, gorgeous, really lovely, really driven to succeed, &c.4 And it doesn't matter if it's positive stuff she's saying - it's that she sees Asian and she doesn't see white. It's that we see black and we don't see white. Denzel Washington is a black actor, the second black actor to win an Academy Award for Best Actor, you know, the guy that played that black guy who did the speeches... not Martin Luther King, the other one. Southern Democrats in the '60s still aren't labelled white, and Barack Obama will always be the first black President.

I don't imagine these are new observations and I know that many people don't think or talk this way - that they mean black purely as a descriptive term to distinguish from white in the context of this discussion, or at least they think they do. I'm also not convinced that there's any way I can change the way I see other races. My best friend is Indian, and it's a shame that's what I just typed because my best friend is actually awesome, and that should be the first word that comes to mind.

Which, okay, fine, but what's my point? Well, I'm not sure yet. This might have just been my own little stab at contrition on the MetafAltar5 or maybe I'm saying the exact opposite of what I started this post wanting to say, which is stop worrying about the words and start talking about the issues, but I think more likely I want to say this: (tl;dr:) black should be invisible like white is, and there are two ways to get there in Hollywood. The first is to shut up completely and acknowledge that every time you count black actors you elevate the word "black" to adjective number one and make selecting a black actor a political statement, rather than a casting decision. The second is, obviously, to do the opposite: make a lot of noise and make people feel guilty for racist casting (consciously or subconsciously - and I believe both are clearly in play here, i.e. Hollywood) and identify and shame those who don't have the guts to make a political statement (i.e. pretty much everyone it seems, this year).

As a white guy with guilt, I'm more comfortable with the former, but it won't make me change a whole lot. I can only name about seven black actors (some of whom are the Wayan brothers) and half as many black actresses6, and I never fucking noticed until now.

Now I just need a three day edit window so I can delete it when I read it in the morning.


1. And all the other words we mean when we say "race". I have no coherent position on whether "race" is real, or a thing, or whatever.
2. "We" being reasonable right-thinking people in general, I guess.
3. Bear with me if I refer only to "black" and "white" and not every other colornym in the zeitgeist. I'll probably also stop surrounding these terms with inverted commas because I'm lazy. Sorry to get all David Foster Wallace with the footnotes here, but that's what the fucking language does to you when you're discussing race see 1, supra..
4. I clicked that FIND LILLIPUTIAN GIRLS IN YOUR AREA TONIGHT ad on the sidebar.
5. Needed a footnote for aesthetic reasons, visual balance, &c.
6. Yeah, that's right, 3.5. Rashida Jones, motherfucker. Notable firstly, of course, for being a halfy, not for being a good actor/actress/whatever the appropriate term is now...

posted by doublehappy at 3:32 AM on January 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


If "person of color" just means non-white, then yes, Bardem's not a person of color. My wife is Spanish and she's as pale as I am, and so is her whole family. I think it'd be news to all of them that they're not white. They definitely see themselves as white, and the fact that they speak Spanish has nothing to do with it. The author's contention is not that no Hispanic people were nominated but rather that no "people of color" were nominated.
posted by creasy boy at 3:49 AM on January 27, 2011


Javier Bardem isn't merely Spanish; he's Canarian. That's practically African!
posted by Sys Rq at 4:08 AM on January 27, 2011


Sure, biopics and films set in the earlier decades in the US (True Grit, say) are going to require a certain amount of racial casting

Historical accuracy be damned. There's absolutely no good reason why you should do this. And it's not going to stop happening 'til people stop doing it.

This is what I had to say on the issue, last time it came up. I think it bears repeating so Ima gonna post it again.

Fuck that shit. I don't care if the book describes a character as the whitest person in white land. I don't care if the film is an adaptation of a fancy-pants Jane Austin novel. I don't care if you're casting for Jane Eyre or John Lennon or Abraham Lincoln or Claudius.

People need to start looking past colour when they give roles to actors. I don't give a shit about historical accuracy. As far as I can tell, not casting some P.O.C. because "it's Noel Coward, Darling" is racism.

This is something close to my heart. I've seen two young girls constantly turned down from major roles in School Plays because they aren't the right colour. They don't get to be Snow White or Mary because they're black. They don't even get to be considered. Even to the point where they've been told that they aren't the right *look* for the role. That's utter, utter, utter corrosive, wrong sided, bullshit.

You want a fun evening? You try sitting down with an eight year old who's come back from school crying because she's been told (in so many words) she's the wrong colour to get the good part.

posted by seanyboy at 4:44 AM on January 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


As I walk the streets of Hollywood Boulevard
Thinkin' how hard it was to those that starred
In the movies portrayin' the roles
Of butlers and maids, slaves and hoes
Many intelligent Black men seemed to look uncivilized
When on the screen
Like a guess I figure you to play some jigaboo
On the plantation, what else can a nigger do
And Black women in this profession
As for playing a lawyer, out of the question
For what they play Aunt Jemima is the perfect term
Even if now she got a perm
So let's make our own movies like Spike Lee
Cause the roles being offered don't strike me
There's nothing that the Black man could use to earn
Burn Hollywood burn

-Big Daddy Kane
posted by jeremias at 5:01 AM on January 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


Burn Hollywood Burn. Still relevant.
posted by anansi at 5:24 AM on January 27, 2011


Hey, yo, check it out, man, I got Black Caesar at the crib, man, y'all wanna go check that out?
posted by box at 5:33 AM on January 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


doublehippy, uhh.. I don't think it's white guy guilt so much as post-modern DFW fanboy guilt ;)
posted by ReeMonster at 5:34 AM on January 27, 2011


Machete clearly should have been nominated in all categories.

I can see it winning the "Best Use of Vagina as Mobile Phone Storage Compartment" certainly.
posted by longbaugh at 5:36 AM on January 27, 2011


For example, True Grit. Absolutely no reason that it should be so white. So what if it's a remake? There were plenty, and I mean plenty, of Hispanic, Native American and black people living in the west. It served absolutely no plot point for any of those people to be white. Nothing would have changed if they'd cast different actors.

Gotta disagree with you here. A black man traveling with a small white female child would turned heads and emotions, probably resulting in lynching.

It is entirely possible to cast people who are not white and not say anything about it

Lovely thought, but that's not realistic. I prefer how Will Smith's character was treated in "Wild Wild West". The movie was remimaging of a tv show and in the show, Smith's character was white, while in the movie it was obviously black. The movie did a good job of quietly noting racism, you know, existed, particularly in an America in the aftermath of the Civil War. But it didn't make a big deal out having a black male in a heroic, commanding role or having white people work with the character and not have an issue with. I know the movie was generally disliked, but its handling of race always impressed me. That and the giant steam punk spider.

People need to start looking past colour when they give roles to actors. I don't give a shit about historical accuracy.

I agree with the thought, but that statement is silly in terms of historical movie. Having a Chinese actor play Martin Luther King, or a black woman play FDR is too unbelievable to do.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:39 AM on January 27, 2011 [3 favorites]


It's true about movies are way LESS likely to use certain actors for certain roles and whitewashing is pretty blatant as far as I'm concerned, but then there are movies like Memoirs of a Geisha where they used a Chinese chick to play the Japanese geisha and some people were up in arms. What if they had used Halle Berry? I mean, I'd believe her as a geisha in no time at all! But like, if you go to your average high school musical in the South Bronx or something, I can guarantee you that the racial mixup for the roles is all over the map and it doesn't matter at all. I was playing at a high school's production of "Crazy For You" where the male lead is supposed to be a suave generic show business White Guy with a capital WHITE.. but in the Bronx production he was a black kid with a definite Billy Dee Williams vibe, and it worked SO well! I guess my point is, I agree with the characterization of this year's Oscars as "WhiteyFest 2011".. but then again I don't give two fucks about the Oscars anyway so whatever. Hope True Grit sweeps (including Hailee and Jeff) and I hope someone secretly slips Natalie some beef carpaccio in her salad.
posted by ReeMonster at 5:45 AM on January 27, 2011


Fuck that shit. I don't care if the book describes a character as the whitest person in white land. I don't care if the film is an adaptation of a fancy-pants Jane Austin novel. I don't care if you're casting for Jane Eyre or John Lennon or Abraham Lincoln or Claudius.

People need to start looking past colour when they give roles to actors. I don't give a shit about historical accuracy. As far as I can tell, not casting some P.O.C. because "it's Noel Coward, Darling" is racism.


Look, I'm going to be devil's advocate here, but I'll say it: I'll totally be on your side with this viewpoint when all across the country light-skinned Hispanics get cast as Othello. Please do not furiously Google and link to an article about a single high school doing this now as if that actually proves your point and not mine. Jesus Christ, MetaFilter had, and rightly so, a shit fit when white kids were all cast as the clearly dark-skinned fictional characters in a terrible movie based on a cartoon. As I joked back in the Thor thread, how come Charleze Theron wasn't cast as Storm in X-Men, I mean after all she's really African. Pretending we don't know why this isn't even considered is an insult to all sides.

I would completely support the "accuracy be damned" argument if it wasn't one-sided. And pretending it isn't ignores the problem. Hollywood vastly ignores non-fictional and historical narrative from a non-white perspective, and leans heavily toward whites in race-neutral roles. I've seen more commercials for mobile phones with a biracial family than any award-caliber film.

Especially when it comes to history, where ignoring that, holy shit guys, we treated non-whites like shit for a couple of centuries and at best are treating them less shitty in modern times, whitewashing (pun unintended) that is again insulting. It's not healthy for our cultural awareness to pretend that minorities existed in a more favorable manner than they were treated. But it's also unhealthy that there's a painful lack of minority-based fictional narrative. And there are by and large too many films that place the story of minorities in the perspective of how a white person aided them-- The Blind Side, Glory, Avatar, Last Samurai, Dances with Wolves, and so on.

Casting a black person as Abraham Lincoln solves none of that. It just allows Hollywood to continue to pretend that black people grew in this country differently than they did. And it also means that instead say, a movie about Harriet Tubman, or Rosa Parks, or even fictional characters like John Henry, we are still talking about a white person.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 5:49 AM on January 27, 2011 [8 favorites]


What you're essentially saying is you're unwilling to suspend disbelief for the sake of a bit more racial integration.

I'll accept if the movie is about racial issues, it may make more sense to cast roles according to skin colour. I can see that.

But films that aren't about race shouldn't cast according to race. It's not going to harm the story, and apart from the odd "WTFBBQ?" while people get used to the idea, it's not going to harm the film experience.

I don't see why people have a problem with this as an idea. It's a complete no-brainer and it boggles me that people would conceptually have a problem with it.

/disclaimer.
I'm not saying here that black roles (othello anyone) should also be cast to anyone regardless of race. I know there's a double standard here and I wish there wasn't, but my desire is to increase the availability of acting roles for P.O.C at the cost of a small amount of cognitive dissonance.
posted by seanyboy at 6:23 AM on January 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


XQUZYPHYR: I get your point, and agree that "Casting a black person as Abraham Lincoln solves none of that.". I'm not sure that it does harm though. The history would still be there outside of the movies.
posted by seanyboy at 6:29 AM on January 27, 2011


Of the nominees for best picture, only Inception and possibly Black Swan strike me as movies that could've cast a person of color in one of the major roles.

So Watanabe is secretly Caucasian?
posted by juiceCake at 6:32 AM on January 27, 2011


What you're essentially saying is you're unwilling to suspend disbelief for the sake of a bit more racial integration.

Yes, I am saying that I am not willing to pretend there is racial harmony in American history for the sake of pretending there is racial harmony in American history.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 6:34 AM on January 27, 2011


Machete don't give acceptance speeches.
posted by Joe Beese at 6:36 AM on January 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


Machete don't give acceptance speeches.

Oh great, now we're denying inanimate objects to right to speak?! WTF PEOPLE?!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:40 AM on January 27, 2011


If Javier Bardem is a POC, then so am I. And so is the entirety of Southern Europe. Are you people kidding me?
posted by lydhre at 6:53 AM on January 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


What movies does he recommend that the Acadamy overlooked? I can look through the year of 2010 Movies and see if Hollywood could have cast differently, but at the end of the day I thought the Oscars were on finished products.
posted by brent at 6:56 AM on January 27, 2011


What movies does he recommend that the Acadamy overlooked?

Oh yeah, that lack of the author noting specific movies that the Academy ignored is a sign that this piece is poorly written filler, probably designed to stir up controversy and links.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:58 AM on January 27, 2011


Oh, come on, Hollywood is well known for substituting white people for people who aren't, historical accuracy be damned.
posted by Comrade_robot at 6:59 AM on January 27, 2011 [6 favorites]


B..b.b...b..but what about Crash?! I thought that had cured racism in Hollywood?
posted by longbaugh at 6:59 AM on January 27, 2011 [4 favorites]


I don't think you can have it both ways on colorblind casting. Either the experience of minorities is distinctively different from that of whites, or it isn't.

If it is, then you can't just cast blindly without making other changes which reflect the reality of the experience (for example, reactions to a mixed-race couple in a period film).

If it isn't, then the whole discussion is moot anyway.
posted by unSane at 7:00 AM on January 27, 2011


It's true about movies are way LESS likely to use certain actors for certain roles and whitewashing is pretty blatant as far as I'm concerned, but then there are movies like Memoirs of a Geisha where they used a Chinese chick to play the Japanese geisha and some people were up in arms. What if they had used Halle Berry? I mean, I'd believe her as a geisha in no time at all!

I get that, but I think the uproar would have been similar. It's hard enough to get non-white actors in substantial, non-cliche roles that to have to compete not only against your own but other minorities just seems cruel. It's like fighting over a tiny slice of cake when the simplest solution would be to have more cake for all.

It would've been nice to have a Japanese actress play a geisha. It's not like Chinese and Japanese people are interchangeable.

But like, if you go to your average high school musical in the South Bronx or something, I can guarantee you that the racial mixup for the roles is all over the map and it doesn't matter at all.

Which is why the news about Will Smith and Jay-Z remaking Annie is really intriguing and potentially awesome.
posted by zix at 7:08 AM on January 27, 2011


Yes, I am saying that I am not willing to pretend there is racial harmony in American history for the sake of pretending there is racial harmony in American history.

Or, to rephrase..." Here is what you said in italics, and now this is what you meant. Obviously I know what you were thinking more than you did."

:)
posted by seanyboy at 7:22 AM on January 27, 2011


This is something close to my heart. I've seen two young girls constantly turned down from major roles in School Plays because they aren't the right colour. They don't get to be Snow White or Mary because they're black. They don't even get to be considered. Even to the point where they've been told that they aren't the right *look* for the role. That's utter, utter, utter corrosive, wrong sided, bullshit.

This happened to me in high school. It's not fun.

School plays are not dedicated to realism, or at least they shouldn't be. Schools are about education and opportunity, and if you're not going to put on a show in which you can potentially cast everyone who wants to audition, then you should adopt colourblind casting. If kids can't be idealists in schools, then where can they be?

People need to start looking past colour when they give roles to actors. I don't give a shit about historical accuracy. As far as I can tell, not casting some P.O.C. because "it's Noel Coward, Darling" is racism.

Yet, I disagree with this point. If you're a professional, making a story about a specific time, place and culture, and you cast caucasians because the characters are caucasians, that is not racism (IMO). That's just being true to your story/accurate. Filmic language and convention permits a very low threshold for suspension of disbelief - the tendency is towards realism. That doesn't allow for colourblind casting, unless you are creating a piece that is quite stylised.

The racism, in my view, lies in the perception on the part of studios that audiences will not watch stories that are not about white people (both in terms of scripts and casting). Or in the common practice of only casting other ethnicities as villains (e.g., The Last Airbender). Or, my personal peeve, the assumption that every non-white character can only date someone of the same ethnicity.

But films that aren't about race shouldn't cast according to race. It's not going to harm the story, and apart from the odd "WTFBBQ?" while people get used to the idea, it's not going to harm the film experience.

This. This. This.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 7:31 AM on January 27, 2011 [4 favorites]


As aside, 'person of colour' is the worst euphemism ever. Is everyone else in Hollywood transparent? It's a ludicrous dichotomy - 'white' people (a nebulous concept at best)' vs. the REST OF THE GLOBAL POPULATION OF DIFFERENT SHADES AND STRIPES BUT DEFINITELY NOT WHITE NOSIREEBOB.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 7:36 AM on January 27, 2011


I love Tyler Perry movies!

No one else does funny heartwarming soap operas like he does.

People look at me like I'm insane when I say that I go to his movies but they totally accept people going to Harry Potter and Tron and any number of iffy quality movies. Okay then.
posted by the young rope-rider at 7:49 AM on January 27, 2011


delmoi: " "The Social Network" offers us a virtually lilywhite Harvard; "

Yeah, they should have pulled a Thor and cast Sidney Poitier as one of the Winklevoss brothers.
posted by Plutor at 7:51 AM on January 27, 2011


As aside, 'person of colour' is the worst euphemism ever.

I like it, means I'm colorful and most of ya'll aren't, so yay me!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:58 AM on January 27, 2011


#1. WTF is a "person of color"? A non-albino?

#2. Historical casting/old west/True Grit:
I submit to you: Lord Bowler.

#3. If Michael Steele can be appointed chair of the RNC, you can find a white enough black person for any role as it's written.

#4. Relevant comment
posted by Eideteker at 8:00 AM on January 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's hard enough to get non-white actors in substantial, non-cliche roles

Woah there, we're talking about Hollywood--they're all cliche roles
posted by Hoopo at 8:21 AM on January 27, 2011


#1. WTF is a "person of color"? A non-albino?

Yeah - I don't have a good word for non-white which doesn't sound utterly horrible. That's my bad.
posted by seanyboy at 8:24 AM on January 27, 2011


True Grit is set in Arkansas and the Indian Territory shortly after the Civil War1 during the Redemption era when the former Confederate states started disenfranchising black people and encoding Jim Crow laws and during what's sometimes called the nadir of American race relations. Arkansas was a Confederate state during the Civil War, and Rooster Cogburn was a former Confederate bushwhacker (along with Frank James and Cole Younger, who appear briefly at the end of the film).

True Grit's plot has a young woman, Deputy U.S. Marshal Rooster Cogburn, and Texas Ranger LaBoeuf pursuing a fugitive into Indian Territory. The first African-American Deputy U.S. Marshal (Bass Reeves2) was appointed in 1875 [PDF]. (Reeves and Cogburn would've been colleagues; both were based in Fort Smith, Arkansas, and their jurisdictions included the Indian Territory.) The first African-American U.S. Marshal (Frederick Douglass [!]) was appointed in 1877. No African-Americans were appointed as full U.S. Marshals for another 85 years. The first black Texas Ranger was appointed in 1988.

That covers Mattie's party and leaves Tom Chaney and the Pepper gang. Making the father-murdering fugitive a person of color might've been problematic. I'm not familiar with racially-integrated gangs in the late 1800s, but making the gang racially mixed might've been odd (and wasn't Pepper a former bushwhacker colleague of Cogburn's?), plus then you'd get complaints about the only non-white people being bad guys.

There could've been more Indians in a movie set in the Indian Territory, but the gang was hiding out in remote areas of a sparsely-populated region.

1According to the IMDB FAQ the movie's set in 1880. The James-Younger gang's Northfield, Minnesota raid was in September 1876 and Buffalo Bill's Wild West Shows ran from 1883 to 1913 (there were other Wild West Shows, but they peaked in the early 1890s).

2 A movie about Bass Reeves would be cool. According to Wikiedia he was a great shot, spoke several Indian languages, and had his hat and belt shot off on separate occasions. Sure, it might've been cool to have Bass Reeves be the marshal in True Grit, but the movie's not about the marshal, it's about the girl.

posted by kirkaracha at 8:27 AM on January 27, 2011 [5 favorites]


Look, ethnically Spanish people are white. They're Europeans. I say this as someone who is half Spanish. Just because I tan nicely and when I don't shave for a few days I look like a cross between a terrorist and someone who's coming for your women doesn't mean shit.

To address the point of this post, I think Liza said it best.
posted by ob at 8:29 AM on January 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


delmoi: " "The Social Network" offers us a virtually lilywhite Harvard; "
Uh, what? I didn't write that
posted by delmoi at 8:56 AM on January 27, 2011


The swan was black.
posted by pardonyou? at 8:57 AM on January 27, 2011 [5 favorites]


But like, if you go to your average high school musical in the South Bronx or something, I can guarantee you that the racial mixup for the roles is all over the map and it doesn't matter at all.

Which is why the news about Will Smith and Jay-Z remaking Annie is really intriguing and potentially awesome.


Also intruiguing... Beyonce is slated to star in Clint Eastwood's remake of A Star is Born. Short list for the male lead includes Will Smith, Sean "Diddy" Combs, Eddie Murphy, Robert Downey Jr., and Jon Hamm. Although I have a feeling this will help make the Razzies, rather than the Oscars, more racially diverse.
posted by Kabanos at 9:03 AM on January 27, 2011


The films that seem the better ones for the year did not have an important role played by a Black man, A Hispanic, A Jew, an Oriental...so we will have to put aside our feelings of equal representation and perhaps not even try to re-imagine these films with a replacement of an ethnic representation instead of what was done.
posted by Postroad at 9:17 AM on January 27, 2011


#1. WTF is a "person of color"? A non-albino?

hyuck hyuck white people are people of color too! We're pink!

If you honestly cannot apply your mind to teasing out the historical differences between white people and people of color then I can only slowly shake my head in your general direction. Get off of your couch, put your shoes on, wander over to the university up the road and crash a couple of survey courses in history and sociology. Seriously.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 9:29 AM on January 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


All this talk about Billy Dee Williams makes me think the time is ripe for a remake of Mahogany.
posted by Ad hominem at 9:47 AM on January 27, 2011


I submit to you: Lord Bowler.

R.I.P, Sho-nuff.
posted by electroboy at 10:04 AM on January 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


#1. WTF is a "person of color"? A non-albino?

Wikipedia is very difficult to use, I hear.
posted by yeloson at 10:07 AM on January 27, 2011


Interesting discussion here which has definitely got me thinking. To clarify my earlier comment, I probably should've just said, a TRUE GRIT with a non-Northern-European-appearing-descendant in one (or more) of the key roles was NOT the movie the Coen Bros wanted to make, and good on them for that. I have no interest in second-guessing maybe the best filmmaking team the western world has seen over the the past three decades.

But that said, an entirely credible TRUE GRIT could have been made with a non-Northern-European-appearing-descendant in the role of Rooster Cogburn. It would altered a few things (ie: modifying the Civil War references), but the basic story could easily have unfurled pretty much as-is with very little changing in regard to the personal/emotional stakes for the key characters.

But that's NOT the movie the Coens chose to make. And it honestly scares the hell out of me to hear discussions where it is even hinted that artists should do things certain ways. Yes, the box office (the industry, the culture) forces these kinds issues all the time. But that doesn't make it any more right. In fact it just makes it all kinds of wrong, the politics of the issue rising up to smother any and all other concerns.

In this light, my favorite few words of this thread thus far:

So let's make our own movies like Spike Lee
Cause the roles being offered don't strike me
There's nothing that the Black man could use to earn
Burn Hollywood burn


Thanks for that Big Daddy Kane, and jeremias for posting it. The fact is, at a basic level, movies are now far easier (cheaper) to make than they've ever been. Yes, 3D and CG and bloated means of production and promotion continue to conspire to force costs up. But so what! All film making artists don't have to play the game that way. And (forgive me for contradicting myself) THEY SHOULDN'T. Hollywood isn't going to change its draconian attitudes toward this-that-other-things because we complain about it, and it will fight a damned nasty fight if we try to force the issue via political avenues. So I say, if you're not seeing the movies you want to see, do what Big Daddy Kane urges: make your own movies, or help someone else make theirs.

Seriously.

A series of successful movies made off-the-mainstream (by hook, by crook, by any means necessary) will in time change the mainstream. Whereas standing at the sidelines complaining that the status quo is not fair just reinforces the status quo, because it gives it all the power. I mean, if I've learned anything in my professional life, it's that you tend to get nowhere, and fast, if you try to enter a business through the front door. Make your own doors and forget about what is and isn't fair. Of course the movie biz isn't fair. It's a fucking business.
posted by philip-random at 10:13 AM on January 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


The article is factually deficient:
"The Fighter" is set in a oh-so-white, blue-collar Boston neighborhood...
No, it is not. The City of Lowell is not by any stretch of the imagination a "Boston neighborhood." It is (and was) also far from "oh-so-white." There were lots of Hispanic, Cambodian, and Black people living there when Mickey Ward was active. It would be appropriate to ask why none of them were represented by important characters in the movie, but the author didn't do that.

And Mickey Fucking Rourke is slated to play GENGHIS KHAN. GENGHIS KHAN!!!!

It's a remake. Of a John Wayne movie.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 10:18 AM on January 27, 2011


I think Blue Valentine would have actually benefitted from having an African American cast. It was great as is but I think the story it was trying to tell could have had an additonal dimension given the gender asymetry in educational attainment in the African American community.

There is definitely a hunger for serious, ambitious, and excellent films that tell the stories of minorities. You can see it with all the fuss that was made about the poorly crafted and imagined Precious. That wasn't a good movie! It was sloppily written and directed (but had some good performances) but the response to it was very strong.
posted by I Foody at 10:22 AM on January 27, 2011


Movies are cheaper to make, to a certain extent, but they're harder to fund and harder to profitably distribute. If your movie is anything except a true volunteer operation, then it could still easily cost a few million dollars. It's not easy raising that kind of money if there is no guarantee - or worse, only a slim chance - that investors will get their money back at all.

Money is tighter nowadays, there are almost no true independent distributors yet, and there isn't (yet) a set system for non-genre movies to make money nowadays. Sadly this impedes people living out what Big Daddy Kane asked for.

The digital revolution helps shave off a few dollars here and there, but even if you get your super-duper HD camera for free, you're still going to have to pay for camera people, sound people, crew, editors, actors, catering, locations, other equipment, etc. I'm aware that the great independent directors figured this stuff out, but there's a reason why there are many more dreamers than there are practitioners.
posted by Sticherbeast at 10:29 AM on January 27, 2011


And it honestly scares the hell out of me to hear discussions where it is even hinted that artists should do things certain ways

To be fair, most movies aren't made by the Coen brothers and most of what the directors of Hollywood movies actually create could scarcely be called art. Not trying to be too harsh, but implying the casting choices of Transformers 2 were necessary to maintain artistic integrity seems a bit of a stretch.

It's a fucking business.

which makes me wonder why the answer isn't to not go to movies that don't have the type of casting you want. It's easy to do. I love movies, but I rarely ever go to see them in the theater. For completely unrelated reasons mind you (I don't like the experience), but it seems if casting choices are something that offends you then you should consider not going to the films that you feel could have done better, and only support those that make casting choices you agree with.
posted by Hoopo at 10:56 AM on January 27, 2011


It's a remake. Of a John Wayne movie.

And directed by John Milius, described as "an infamously bombastic right-winger with an obsession with all things militaristic". Knowing Milius, it's probably an intentionally un-PC homage to John Wayne more than anything else.

But he also directed Conan the Barbarian and was the inspiration for the character of Walter, from the Big Lebowski, so he can't be all bad.
posted by electroboy at 11:09 AM on January 27, 2011


This could make for an Onion headline.

"Minorities demand greater role in greed-inspired, vacuous American movies"
posted by storybored at 11:25 AM on January 27, 2011 [3 favorites]


So I say, if you're not seeing the movies you want to see, do what Big Daddy Kane urges: make your own movies, or help someone else make theirs.

Seriously.


I understand where both you and Mr. Kane are coming from, but I think the actual outcome of that would be problematic: see, for example, Race records, the Negro Leagues, separate but equal.

Or see how well Tyler Perry moves are received outside of the African-American community. For reasons I can't fathom, Perry is nearly always a target of ridicule, disdain and scorn -- in particular from white males -- even though I would wager that at least 99% of his critics have never seen more than 2 minutes of one of his films.

I'll put it this way: if when attractive young white women complain about the roles available to them on both sides of the camera, I don't think I've ever seen the same folks who tell black people to make their own movies tell that group they need to make their own films. When older white women complain about the roles available to them on either side of the camera, I don't think I've seen anyone say "Well, rather than complain, they should make their own movies." And when they do make their own, for whatever reason, they're nowhere near the targets of venom and amusement that a Tyler Perry is.

Another thing to think about: we'll never know the full extent of what we missed by consigning folks to the likes of race record companies and the Negro leagues. Who might we be talking today if they'd had a chance to be play to a much larger audience? How might their contributions have changed the way things developed if we'd been able to build on what they created?

That's the major, major problem I have with telling any disadvantaged group to just go make their own. It comes at a huge cost to them and the rest of us even if it feels like a good -- and logical -- solution or compromise.
posted by lord_wolf at 11:35 AM on January 27, 2011 [3 favorites]


If Hollywood isn't giving you the right opportunities to flex your muscles, then making your own luck is a realistic alternative, whether the root problem is racism or something else. (This even applies outside of Hollywood.) Making your own luck is especially great in Hollywood, because the whole place is a temple of Mammon - if you, like Spike Lee or Antoine Fuqua or whomever, can prove that your movies make money, then you'll get funding, even if it's not necessarily for the movies that you want. Making your luck is a springboard into getting funding from the big guys, even though it will always be a longshot.

I'm not sure what else you're supposed to do - picket the studio heads' offices? Write bitter articles? Stomp around gloomily in the unemployment line?

I'm asking non-rhetorically - since Hollywood is generally not giving minority actors enough acceptable opportunities, what else would you suggest be done, realistically speaking?

Another solution I'll throw out there: lobby for more state funding of the arts and design well-managed non-profit opportunities to fund and facilitate independent filmmakers.
posted by Sticherbeast at 11:55 AM on January 27, 2011


"If you honestly cannot apply your mind to teasing out the historical differences between white people and people of color then I can only slowly shake my head in your general direction. Get off of your couch, put your shoes on, wander over to the university up the road and crash a couple of survey courses in history and sociology. Seriously."

Sorry, but as a "person of color," I cannot abide this sort of lazy, P.C. terminology. If you want to say the Oscars are too white, just say so. I'm of mixed decent, and I don't refer to half of my relatives as "my family of color."
posted by Eideteker at 11:58 AM on January 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


For reasons I can't fathom, Perry is nearly always a target of ridicule, disdain and scorn

Probably because he a.) makes pretty mediocre films and b.) insists on prominently attaching his name to said films (i.e. Tyler Perry's House of Pain, Tyler Perry's Diary of a Mad Black Woman, Tyler Perry's One Dimensional Homophobic Morality Play). I don't know that it's necessarily a racial thing; Michael Bay and Uwe Boll films are similarly eye-roll inducing.
posted by electroboy at 12:19 PM on January 27, 2011


Perry's mixture of broad comedy and melodrama is a distinctive style. Also, his movies come from a particular slice of African-American culture. People with distinctive styles, especially when they're from a different culture, often face ridicule. Consider how many "lol @ Bollywood" or "lol @ Japan" YouTube clips there are.

He's also a better promoter than he is a director, but I can think of many worse directors, so...something.
posted by Sticherbeast at 12:26 PM on January 27, 2011


Perry's mixture of broad comedy and melodrama is a distinctive style.

Perry was originally a playwright (who often don't make good screenwriters *cough* David Mamet *cough* *cough*), so that probably explains some of the melodrama. But I think it's more particularly his background in the black gospel play tradition that influences his work, Gospel plays are basically straight-up morality plays with a lot of common themes (i.e. "strong" female lead that has to be redeemed by a man, stereotypical gay characters played for laughs, etc).

Perry has been hugely popular in the black community (with some crossover success), but he's also been pretty harshly criticized for the image of the black community he projects through his films.

Also interesting, Tyler Perry's production company was responsible for Hot Tub Time Machine. I don't know whether that's good or bad.
posted by electroboy at 12:57 PM on January 27, 2011


B..b.b...b..but what about Crash?! I thought that had cured racism in Hollywood?

Fuckin' Crash, man. Fucking Brokeback Mountain should have won. I hate Crash and I also hate Gladiator because it won when Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon should have won.

I love Ang Lee a lot.
posted by spec80 at 1:06 PM on January 27, 2011


> For example, many many things were changed in The Social Network. Casting any of the characters (probably besides Zuckerburg) as someone not lily white shouldn't be a problem. We keep singling out race as what makes an actor a believable representation.

You could seriously buy the Winklevoss twins as black guys? It would have been incredibly distracting. When I watch a movie I want to forget it's a movie; the insertion of people of color can make you suddenly aware that "Oh yeah, this is fake." I expect to see a lot of white people in a movie about rich Harvard computer geeks. Unexplained deviation from that expectation would have taken focus away from the story.
posted by hjo3 at 1:23 PM on January 27, 2011


I don't know whether that's good or bad.

It's good. Everything about Hot Tub Time Machine is good.
posted by Hoopo at 1:27 PM on January 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


You could seriously buy the Winklevoss twins as black guys?

Change the name maybe, but sure, why not?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:38 PM on January 27, 2011


I expect to see a lot of white people in a movie about rich Harvard computer geeks. Unexplained deviation from that expectation would have taken focus away from the story.

Well, isn't that the problem? I mean, you EXPECT to see that, but it isn't really how the world is. Harvard's student body is only 42% white. But you expect the movie to be 100% white. That's a pretty large disconnect.
posted by hippybear at 1:44 PM on January 27, 2011 [3 favorites]


Making your own luck is especially great in Hollywood, because the whole place is a temple of Mammon - if you, like Spike Lee or Antoine Fuqua or whomever, can prove that your movies make money, then you'll get funding, even if it's not necessarily for the movies that you want.

This movie is awesome and deals with just that. It also didn't get nominated for squat at the Oscars or make much money despite being well-acted and produced, funny, stylish, and poignant.
posted by Hoopo at 2:01 PM on January 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


I was born and raised in the Ozarks where Winter's Bone (nominated in Picture, Actress and Supporting Actor categories) takes place. It is one of the most shockingly white places in America. It hits me every time I go home. The Ozarks weren't always like that; there was a mass exodus of blacks from the Ozarks following a lynching on the town square of Springfield, MO in 1906. But while some minorities have returned to the cities of the Ozarks- Springfield, Branson and West Plains, where Winter's Bone author Daniel Woodrell resides- the hills are still virtually monochromatic. I honestly don't know if a single minority family lives in the hollers.
posted by joechip at 2:15 PM on January 27, 2011


If you honestly cannot apply your mind to teasing out the historical differences between white people and people of color then I can only slowly shake my head in your general direction. Get off of your couch, put your shoes on, wander over to the university up the road and crash a couple of survey courses in history and sociology. Seriously.

Eh. It seems like quite the opposite of teasing out or apart. To vanish disparate histories and ethnicities behind a magical, monolithic color seems like such an act of building around ergonomic ease, a selling of theory as luxury car. Easy to smooth away all the gradations, easy to think of power in neat dichromes than in its bizarre intersections, easy to treat Whiteness and Color as circular incarnates of ingroup and outgroup, monoculture v monoculture, and easiest of all in feigning a kind of political solidarity that exists only in roving, ten-foot spheres around certain websites and books. Oh come on, I meant Livejournal.

If Fate herself (say Clotho, trading the spindle for a spreadsheet) were to visit you before your making and offer the choice between Indian- or Native- American, it would mean such radical alterations to the entire tapestry of you, beginning in utero with the health of your mother, her geographic moorings, her literacy and the books she will or will not read for you; the nearness of institutional aid in a frankly institutional world; and ending in the spelling out of your horizons as projected SATs, projected income, projected mortality; it seems that Fate might just as well be asking Earth, or Mars?

That you probably won't be happy with your representation in the media is a law of nature that holds for every possible value of you. Even gods cannot help here. Clash of the Titans 3d was an act of sodomy against a combined pantheon.
posted by kid ichorous at 2:19 PM on January 27, 2011


I like the term "people of color" much more than "non-whites" or "minorities".

(I'm mixed too, as a data point, and I don't have a "family of color", they're from specific tribes and/or kinda Mexican)
posted by the young rope-rider at 2:20 PM on January 27, 2011



Eh. It seems like quite the opposite of teasing out or apart. To vanish disparate histories and ethnicities behind a magical, monolithic color seems like such an act of building around ergonomic ease, a selling of theory as luxury car. Easy to smooth away all the gradations, easy to think of power in neat dichromes than in its bizarre intersections, easy to treat Whiteness and Color as circular incarnates of ingroup and outgroup, monoculture v monoculture, and easiest of all in feigning a kind of political solidarity that exists only in roving, ten-foot spheres around certain websites and books. Oh come on, I meant Livejournal.


Eloquently said, kid ichorous.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 2:29 PM on January 27, 2011


Change the name maybe, but sure, why not?

The whole essence of the twins is that they are aristocratic, privileged, querulous, whiny "Harvard gentlemen" who make Zuckerberg feel like a poor nobody, and also whom Zuckerberg more or less screw on his way to the top. Making them black would have added a bevy of cultural baggage that the movie did not need.

There are plenty of opportunities to "cross-cast" or do colorblind casting, but I don't think the lily-white Social Network was the project for that, even in how it depicted Harvard as a place of all white people and a few Asian girls.
posted by Sticherbeast at 2:55 PM on January 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


I heart the article on Asian Oscar nominees and winners. Yul Brynner, Mr. Miyagi, a white Indian-born British actress and M. Night Shyamalan are just a few of the illustrious Asian names gracing the list.
posted by superquail at 2:57 PM on January 27, 2011


The whole essence of the twins is that they are aristocratic, privileged, querulous, whiny "Harvard gentlemen" who make Zuckerberg feel like a poor nobody, and also whom Zuckerberg more or less screw on his way to the top. Making them black would have added a bevy of cultural baggage that the movie did not need.

Eh, I think prickish, self entitled rich assholes cross color bounds.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 3:23 PM on January 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


To vanish disparate histories and ethnicities behind a magical, monolithic color seems like such an act of building around ergonomic ease, a selling of theory as luxury car.

Oh give me a freaking break. Fine, with the mods blessing, I would like to re-title my post. Instead of borrowing from the newspaper headline, let's have it say,
"Oscars take a pass on U.S. born Hispanics, African-Americans, Puerto Ricans, First Nations People, Native Hawaiians and/or Pacific Islanders, Japanese/Chinese/Korean/Vietnamese-Americans, as well as first and second generation Philippine Americans and Caribbean Americans."
posted by Baby_Balrog at 3:50 PM on January 27, 2011


Eh, I think prickish, self entitled rich assholes cross color bounds.

I agree, although I think that Fincher and Sorkin are making a statement about the kind of place Harvard is just as much as Winter's Bone is w/r/t the Ozarks, and that the same statement would not necessarily come through if it seemed like a more diverse campus. That said, I have no real idea how much of what the movie says about Harvard is...well...true; the film's relationship to reality is an extremely problematic one on so many levels it's kind of staggering. Even so, while the bare-bones story of The Social Network is a universal one that would be unchanged no matter what the race of the actors, this specific story is about a place that is exclusive in very specific ways, and if that's a thing we think is important enough to the story to preserve, we have to consider it. Like: The Social Network is saying something about people, places and things that are here right now, and if we care about it as a kind of journalistic document, we should allow it to be as directly representational of those people, places and things as it can be. I mean, yeah, this is all very complicated because of how fictionalized huge parts of the movie seem to be, so perhaps this is not the best example, but...

But. It's also a very, very strong story that would speak to people, I think, completely removed from its context. I don't know that we could really separate it from its context right now because we're still in its context, and may be for a little while. But when the real Zuckerberg, et al are old and gray and Facebook is either something people drink in via cyber-nipples implanted in their eyeballs or a cultural moment as distant and cobwebby and kitschy as "Keep On Truckin'!" posters and bellbottoms are to us now, the story itself will be something that can easily be recast from the floor up, because its themes will still mean something to people. Shakespeare probably couldn't have gotten away with a black Richard III, an Asian Antony, a Latino Henry V, but now? No one would bat an eye, because once all the baggage of those people as people is dispensed with, it doesn't matter who plays them, because the characters speak to everyone.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 4:11 PM on January 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


Or alternately ...

Oscars take a pass on non Northern-European-appearing folks

As for the Social Network, I'm thinking given its genuine across-the-board financial and artistic success, David Fincher made a whole lotta correct calls in putting that package together. All aspects of it.
posted by philip-random at 4:16 PM on January 27, 2011


Heh. Sorry about the tone, Balrog, but it wasn't the title. It was the part where a preference in terms of art turned into a not-half-joking invitation to take a stroll Chaucerian pilgrimage in search of 2.5 credits worth of remedial fuck-off. That's why I excised that particular quote and embossed it in italics. It's true that I am a philistine and less familiar with the Mortal Kombat Quintilogy than other men of science but I'm still fairly sure it is impossible to commit Fatalities with a diploma.
posted by kid ichorous at 4:26 PM on January 27, 2011


In the book True Grit, Rooster Cogburn's cat is named after Confederate General Sterling Price.
posted by kirkaracha at 5:40 PM on January 27, 2011


But that's NOT the movie the Coens chose to make. And it honestly scares the hell out of me to hear discussions where it is even hinted that artists should do things certain ways.

Yeah, these multimillion dollar business ventures are all about art baby. Downright terrifying to suggest otherwise.
Fuckin' Crash, man. Fucking Brokeback Mountain should have won.
Crash sucked.
You could seriously buy the Winklevoss twins as black guys?
Would it have had a bigger impact on the story then removing Zuckerburg's girlfriend, who is Chinese?

Actually I think The Social Network is fine, they were trying to be realistic. But it is kind of an ironic (in terms of this thread) fact that by far the biggest change to the story also involved removing a minority, Zuckerburg's girlfriend.
The whole essence of the twins is that they are aristocratic, privileged, querulous, whiny "Harvard gentlemen" who make Zuckerberg feel like a poor nobody, and also whom Zuckerberg more or less screw on his way to the top. Making them black would have added a bevy of cultural baggage that the movie did not need.
Actually, in real life Zuckerberg made fun of them for being "privileged", "Aryans" and "WASP-y"

Actually the whole thing is pretty funny:
At one point during the summer of 2004, according to documents viewed by Business Insider, Mark told friends he had exploited a flaw in ConnectU’s account verification process to create a fake Cameron Winklevoss account with a fake Harvard.edu email address.

Zuckerberg showed off the new, fake profile, he said he created.

Hometown: “I’m f—-ing privileged…where do you think I’m from?”
High School: You’re not even allowed to speak its name. Personal info.
I’m looking for: Women.
Interested in: Action tonight.
Ethnicity: Better than you.
Height: 7′4″.
Body type: Athletic.
Hair color: Aryan Blond.
Eye Color: Sky blue.
Smoke: No.
Drink: Socially.
Favorite music: The sound of myself masturbating.
Favorite Movie: The Adventures of Baron Munchausen.
Favorite quote: “Homeless people are worth their weight in paper clips – I hate black people.”
Athletics: I can pull a 2K in 2 minutes and 36 seconds.
Languages: WASP-y.
Instruments: Music gets in the way of hearing my voice.
Clubs: My dad got me into the porcelain.
Interests: Trying to find my penis. Squandering my father’s money. Looking like a douchebag.
About me: Gotta love my shit-eating grin.
posted by delmoi at 11:18 PM on January 27, 2011


I don't care if the film is an adaptation of a fancy-pants Jane Austin novel.

Tangent: As a huge fan of Jane Austen's novels, I think they're old enough now that people should start re-imagining them the way theatre groups do with Shakespeare's plays. Emma is about snobbery and high-handed charity; Pride and Prejudice is about class; Persuasion is about merit vs money, or new vs old. People put Shakespeare's tales into contexts that allow them to get to the point of the story instead of worrying about pantaloons and iambic pentameter; I think Austen's stories are ripe for being re-set somewhere other than 19th century England. So far we've had Clueless as a modern take on Emma (with a black girl cast in the ex-governess analogue role), and Bride and Prejudice (Bollywood-lite take on cultural authenticity). You can easily have an all-black cast, or a mixed cast, or whatever would work for your particular thoughts on the issue the story brings up.
posted by harriet vane at 5:51 AM on January 28, 2011 [4 favorites]


Is Clueless seriously a take on Emma? Is it intentional?
posted by flatluigi at 10:15 AM on January 28, 2011


Is Clueless seriously a take on Emma? Is it intentional?

Yes and yes. Also, Bridget Jone's Diary is Pride and Prejudice.
posted by stoneweaver at 11:13 AM on January 28, 2011


And From Prada to Nada is going to be a "Latina spin on 'Sense and Sensibility".
posted by mindless progress at 11:16 AM on January 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


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