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Race & Ethnicity on TV

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18 hours ago, Neurochick said:

I'm still pissed that two British actors played Martin Luther King and Coretta Scott King in 'Selma.'  I can't believe they could not have found two African American actors to play those roles.

That's similar to Windtalkers, where Ojibwe Adam Beach played a Navajo (and learned the language for the role, an achievement in itself!) I knew some Navajos that were not happy about that, but I think it may had had to do with the place the Code Talkers have in Navajo culture and lack of opportunities for Navajo actors.

 

16 hours ago, Hiyo said:

Hey, Rami Malek is Egyptian/Arab American originally and won an Oscar for playing someone Parsi-Britsh, so...it can work sometimes?

Rami is also Coptic which adds another dimension.

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Yeah, these casting controversies aren't just about race per se but are also about nationality as well.  I think some of the controversies that come out of these casting decisions has to do with national pride, but most seem to be about access and opportunity. For instance, one argument is that roles for black people are scarce enough that roles written for African American character bypass AA actors for British or African.  The idea being that there is some elitism factor at play that somehow British actors are better trained.  etc. etc.  Or that AA actors have been toiling in the trenches in Hollywood waiting for a big break only for British actor to swan in and jump the line.  OTOH, I've heard British actors say that the opportunities for them are better in Hollywood than in British tv or cinema.

My personal feeling is that I am ok with casting across the black diaspora for a black character regardless of nationality.  I am not personally wedded to the idea of nationality pure roles.  But I can see that it has the potential to be really problematic if it becomes a systemic issue and, say,  American actors start become increasingly bypassed for American roles in favor of non-American actors.  Especially when it comes to visible minorities.  And it can also be situational depending on the depth of culture the actor is required to portray.

I think It is rare to get that level of controversy for white actors but Renee Zellweger did get quite a bit of pushback when she was cast for Bridget Jones, mainly by the Brits. 

Also J.Lo's casting of  Selena got a LOT of criticism by Tejanos and Mexicans.

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16 hours ago, Neurochick said:

I'm still pissed that two British actors played Martin Luther King and Coretta Scott King in 'Selma.'  I can't believe they could not have found two African American actors to play those roles.  

Do you feel the same way about Black Panther? Most of the actors in that movie were from the US including the actual Black Panther (except for the one American character played by a British guy). Now sure actors from Wakanda are very hard to find but would more of the main cast being African rather than African-American made it a better movie?

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1 hour ago, Kel Varnsen said:

Do you feel the same way about Black Panther? Most of the actors in that movie were from the US including the actual Black Panther (except for the one American character played by a British guy). Now sure actors from Wakanda are very hard to find but would more of the main cast being African rather than African-American made it a better movie?

Not sure if this is a genuine question or being sarcastic but I’ll answer literally. Black Panther is an American story about a fictional African country so if anyone is “entitled” to a role in it, it’s African Americans. 

On the other hand, I can see why Nigerian twitter got up in arms about Kenyan Lupita Nyongo taking the lead of Americanah, an adaptation of a Nigerian novel where her character is Nigerian. This is a good example of @DearEvette’s excellent point where the lack of access and opportunity makes the casting controversial even though Lupita looks the part, isn’t biracial, and/or has light skin privilege. 

In contrast, casting Thandie Newton, who’s light skinned and biracial (one parent White and one parent Zimbabwe Shona) to play the Nigerian Igbo lead in Half of a Yellow Sun, another  adaptation of a Chimamanda Adichie novel, is flat out offensive in a way that is not just about access and opportunity.

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Now sure actors from Wakanda are very hard to find but would more of the main cast being African rather than African-American made it a better movie?

When sarcasm comes across as lowkey racist. Hopefully unintentionally.

I'm pretty sure the point has already been made upthread that science fiction and fantasy characters are a special category. However, a White actor portraying, for example, a long-established Asian character from Japanese manga is problematic, IMO. Hollywood arguably has as much of a problem with the practice of "whitewashing" Asian characters as they do with colorism.

(This thread has begun veering away from TV-related discussion so I wouldn't be surprised if a chunk of recent comments get deleted and/or moved elsewhere.)

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One odd footnote was Miyoshi Umeki's role as the housekeeper/nanny known as 'Mrs. Livingston' on Courtship of Eddie's Father! The original movie role had the character played by the torch singer Roberta Sherwood as a family retainer who was supposedly   older than the title character's widowed father (and she called her employer by his actual name but her role was more broadly comic   than the later TV version's). In the TV version, she was also a dedicated de facto co-parent BUT even though she spoke/ understood English fairly well, she almost always addressed her employer as 'Mr. Eddie's Father' and, like the performer, was Japanese but roughly the same age as her employer (and she was conventionally pretty) yet there was nothing to indicate that they ever had more than a platonic bond . Oh, and oddly enough, it was explained that she was indeed married (not widowed or divorced)  to an unseen   Japanese husband  who still lived there (and evidently needed her income to support his education) but that 'Livingston' was supposed to be the English translation of their surname. One has to wonder if the idea of a married, pretty, same age live-in servant who somehow had only a platonic bond with a sexually active heterosexual widowed employer would have been attempted on a sitcom had the performer not been of a differing ethnicity than the employer or charge!

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(This thread has begun veering away from TV-related discussion so I wouldn't be surprised if a chunk of recent comments get deleted and/or moved elsewhere.)

Honestly, I kind of wish the TV thread and the Movie thread could be collapsed into one since this thread is more active and you kind of have to talk about movie roles, especially since a lot of actors work in both mediums.

I don't want to say that we (Americans) are the best at racism. BIPOC experience racism in variety of ways in every country in the world. And people are free to take ownership of different aspects of the past that they feel are part of their identity and their heritage. But I think sometimes when stories are particularly significant or painful, people who are immersed in that lived experience at better representing it on screen. Like, if it's a sitcom about a group of friends, cast a British actor or a Canadian or a Kenyan or whoever to play an American, fine. When it's a story about slavery or civil rights era segregation or a specifically American experience of police brutality, maybe try harder to find an African American actor. 

We don't really tell these stories anyway. But similarly, I think, try to get a Japanese American actor if the movie is about Japanese internment. Try to get Japanese actors if the movie is about the aftermath of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. 

Yes, there is a level of pretense to all acting. But ideally, there's also a level of truth. Sometimes there are reasons to come together under a common umbrella. And sometimes we have to appreciate our differences. One doesn't invalidate the other. 

I do admit to some bias because I'm aware of the foolishness some actors have displayed on social media. Even if they can turn in a competent, professional performance, it's a little bothersome that they're playacting an experience they have no connection to and sometimes even look down on the culture they're representing.

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9 hours ago, Kel Varnsen said:

Do you feel the same way about Black Panther? Most of the actors in that movie were from the US including the actual Black Panther (except for the one American character played by a British guy). Now sure actors from Wakanda are very hard to find but would more of the main cast being African rather than African-American made it a better movie?

Well Wakanda isn't a real country so there is that.

But back to TV:

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In the TV version, she was also a dedicated child de facto co-parent BUT even though she spoke/ understood English fairly well, she almost always addressed her employer as 'Mr. Eddie's Father' and, like the performer, was Japanese but roughly the same age as her employer (and she was conventionally pretty) yet there was nothing to indicate that they ever had more than a platonic bond. Oh, and oddly enough, it was explained that she was indeed married (not widowed or divorce)  to an unseen husband who was a student AND a Japanese man but that 'Livingston' was supposed to be the English translation of their surname. One has to wonder if the idea of a married, pretty, same age live-in servant who somehow had only a platonic bond with a sexual active heterosexual widowed employer would have been attempted on a sitcom had the performer not been of a differing ethnicity than the employer or charge!

That is a very good point.  If the show were made today, it would probably be a different story. 

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Hey guys,

Let's get back on the topic of race and ethnicity in regards to television shows, please.

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On 7/30/2020 at 4:27 PM, Dani said:

It’s not like he is just angry he wasn’t given a backstory. The writers wanted to write him a backstory and they were forced to abandon it because of Leob. Also I wouldn’t call the Hand a secondary villain. Gao was being setup to be a huge factor of the Netflix shows and then it fizzled into nothing.  

Whether it was a direct quote or not the show’s no Asian stories shift was apparent in the writing as it went on. 

It’s not included in that clip but the other actors added that there were amazing ideas for Iron Fist being part Asian that were also blocked. 

Let's also remember that M. Raven Metzner from Sleepy Hollow (racist) infamy was also involved with Iron Fist and also completely dropped the canon lovestory between Iron Fist and Misty Knight.  And then was nasty and rude to fans who demanded to know why.  This is the same jerk who wrote racist trope after racist trope on Sleepy Hollow and thought black women leads couldn't be compelling.  

With a guy like that behind the scenes, I'm certain that set had a toxic culture - including Loeb.  I completely believe that's a direct quote.  These kinds of writers/showrunners tend to flock together.

And then when all the BLM stuff hit in June, Metzner had the nerve to use it to solicit from black writers, etc.. as though he'd actually help their careers.  Performative asshole.  

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On 7/31/2020 at 6:53 PM, Hiyo said:

Hey, Rami Malek is Egyptian/Arab American originally and won an Oscar for playing someone Parsi-Britsh, so...it can work sometimes?

For years we have seen lots of Arab characters played by non-Arabs (*cough*Saeed*cough*Lost*cough), though it does seem to be getting better these days.

Better in what sense?

For me I don't mind characters of the same race/ethnicity playing the role of a different nationality as long as they get the accent right and deliver a good performance. I mean, most people seem ok with Renée Zellweger as Bridget Jones, and can't picture anyone else but her in the role. Were the Brits ok with her accent? On the other hand, as much as I admire Kate Winslet as an actress, her American accent can be very grating to me at times.

What is the definition of "good" though?  There are cultural moments and nuances that black ADOS actors will get that black British actors won't.  Let's be real - during the Civil Rights era - known black foreigners were not subject to Jim Crow the way ADOS were.  My mother - in deep South Alabama - still talks about how foreign black students were allowed into whites only sections and generally treated well, while she sat her black ass in the colored section with all of the other "regular" black folk (ADOS).

There is a longstanding issue here that this casting thing completely exacerbates.  Like - I cannot see a black british actor being able to bring Mia Warren to life the way Kerry Washington did.

The black American experience is DIFFERENT than the black British experience.  There is a layer of depth that would just be lost if roles for black American historical figures and even fictional characters were played by black Brits.  Samuel L was 1000% correct.  It's also vexing for me, as an African American to see black brits who have said racist ish about black people in America being rewarded with roles playing our black american heroes - and then respond by missing the point every time they are called out on it - usually doubling down on the classism that helped them get the role over other ADOS actors.

I'm not saying that all black American roles should go to ADOS actors.  I'm saying the trend in casting is marginalizing ADOS actors and then piling a bunch of classist "british actors are better trained" on top of it.

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What is the definition of "good" though?  There are cultural moments and nuances that black ADOS actors will get that black British actors won't.  Let's be real - during the Civil Rights era - known black foreigners were not subject to Jim Crow the way ADOS were.  My mother - in deep South Alabama - still talks about how foreign black students were allowed into whites only sections and generally treated well, while she sat her black ass in the colored section with all of the other "regular" black folk (ADOS).

Because it's called acting.

I dunno, for me, acting ability triumphs everything else, including background. I realize that might not be the most PC attitude to have, but that's how I feel.

Either you can act the role, or you can't.

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6 hours ago, phoenics said:

Let's be real - during the Civil Rights era - known black foreigners were not subject to Jim Crow the way ADOS were.  My mother - in deep South Alabama - still talks about how foreign black students were allowed into whites only sections and generally treated well, while she sat her black ass in the colored section with all of the other "regular" black folk (ADOS).

Thank you for mentioning it, a lot of people don't realize that happened. 

6 hours ago, phoenics said:

The black American experience is DIFFERENT than the black British experience.  There is a layer of depth that would just be lost if roles for black American historical figures and even fictional characters were played by black Brits.  Samuel L was 1000% correct.  It's also vexing for me, as an African American to see black brits who have said racist ish about black people in America being rewarded with roles playing our black american heroes - and then respond by missing the point every time they are called out on it - usually doubling down on the classism that helped them get the role over other ADOS actors.

That is very, very true.  A lot of foreign black people have said a lot of nasty things about ADOS people.  Some of them have said negative things about black Americans are like what happened on this show.

ADOS people had to deal with Slavery/Reconstruction/Jim Crow/Lynching/Domestic Terrorism.  So a lot of these foreign black people can miss me with their negative attitudes about black Americans. 

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Been watching the second season of The Umbrella Academy on Netflix.  I am up to episode 8 and so far I am loving it.  I liked last season, but last season was about the dysfunctional family dynamics. And even though three of the siblings are POC, Allison (black), Ben (Asian)and Diego (Latino) their race is pretty much a nonentity in the story.

This season it is different because the siblings have all been dropped into the early 60s (ranging from 1960-1963) and have been separated by a time travel fluke (long story). Unlike last season, Allison's race at least, takes center stage.  She become involved in the civil rights movement.  There is a lot of screen space given to her storyline in this aspect. 

Also an addition is an LGBTQ storyline for another character, Vanya, played by Ellen Paige.  This is also a new development this season and her more intimate struggle with being able to love another woman openly kinda mirrors Allison's more visible involvement with the movement.

They have also cast another major character of color, a SE Asian woman named Lila.

Even outside of what seems like a more intentional inclusion of the racial issues, I am enjoying this season more than last maybe because the story is more engaging, the siblings feels more developed as characters and there is more humor.

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13 minutes ago, DearEvette said:

Been watching the second season of The Umbrella Academy on Netflix.  I am up to episode 8 and so far I am loving it.  I liked last season, but last season was about the dysfunctional family dynamics. And even though three of the siblings are POC, Allison (black), Ben (Asian)and Diego (Latino) their race is pretty much a nonentity in the story.

This season it is different because the siblings have all been dropped into the early 60s (ranging from 1960-1963) and have been separated by a time travel fluke (long story). Unlike last season, Allison's race at least, takes center stage.  She become involved in the civil rights movement.  There is a lot of screen space given to her storyline in this aspect. 

Also an addition is an LGBTQ storyline for another character, Vanya, played by Ellen Paige.  This is also a new development this season and her more intimate struggle with being able to love another woman openly kinda mirrors Allison's more visible involvement with the movement.

They have also cast another major character of color, a SE Asian woman named Lila.

Even outside of what seems like a more intentional inclusion of the racial issues, I am enjoying this season more than last maybe because the story is more engaging, the siblings feels more developed as characters and there is more humor.

That sounds like a really interesting show. I'm going to have to check it out.

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15 hours ago, DearEvette said:

They have also cast another major character of color, a SE Asian woman named Lila.

Oh, is she SE Asian? The people on the UA board seem to think she's Mexican. Either way though, yes, they added another POC to the cast, which is good.

ETA: Looked up the actress and she is Indian.

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38 minutes ago, peachmangosteen said:

Oh, is she SE Asian? The people on the UA board seem to think she's Mexican. Either way though, yes, they added another POC to the cast, which is good.

ETA: Looked up the actress and she is Indian.

Yeah, I think it wasn't so much assuming the actress was Mexican as to wondering why the character of Lila was able to be in public white only spaces with no censure whereas Allison was immediately met with hostility whenever she tried to to enter.  The question being why was Lila not assumed to be, say, Mexican (given her complexion and this is Dallas in 1963).  Were Mexicans allowed to sit down and play bingo in a white bingo hall like she was?

I do think that is a good question.  It just may be the lighting, but Emmy Raver-Lampman who plays Allison actually looks lighter skinned on the show than Ritu Arya, the actress who plays Lila.

I do know that the segregation laws were written mainly for blacks and that non-black POC were sometimes given a 'favored nations' status as being near white.   For instance Hispanic players regardless of complexion were allowed to cross the color line and join the major league baseball teams even while black players were still banned.  There were one or two cases where they tried to pass a black player off as Cuban but were found out before he could play. 

And of the 41 states that had Anti-Miscegenation laws on the books, all of them banned black-white marriage, but 21 of them banned only black-white marriage, other races where allowed to intermarry with whites.  And NONE of the states banned Mexican-white marriages.

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53 minutes ago, ursula said:

https://www.cheatsheet.com/entertainment/full-house-changed-uncle-jesse-last-name-after-the-first-season.html/

 

News article discussing how John Stamos requested that the name of his character (Uncle Jesse in Full House) be changed to reflect his Greek heritage.

Interesting- and yet despite him being black haired, with very dark brown eyes and his wife with light brown hair, somehow Uncle Jesse not only was the uncle of three blonde haired/blue eyed girls but also the father of twin blond haired/blue eyed sons. Yep, genetics sure proved funny on Full House!

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17 minutes ago, Blergh said:

Interesting- and yet despite him being black haired, with very dark brown eyes and his wife with light brown hair, somehow Uncle Jesse not only was the uncle of three blonde haired/blue eyed girls but also the father of twin blond haired/blue eyed sons. Yep, genetics sure proved funny on Full House!

Those combinations are not at all unrealistic. Genetics are funny in real life. 

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1 hour ago, Dani said:

Those combinations are not at all unrealistic. Genetics are funny in real life. 

But it would have somewhat been MORE realistic on Full House had there been even ONE blond haired/blue eyed ancestor depicted (or a picture displayed of) but that didn't happen. 

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8 minutes ago, Blergh said:

But it would have somewhat been MORE realistic on Full House had there been even ONE blond haired/blue eyed ancestor depicted (or a picture displayed of) but that didn't happen. 

Jesse’s sister, Danny’s mother and sister and Rebecca’s mother were all blonde. I have no clue if any of them had blue eyes. 

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2 minutes ago, Dani said:

Jesse’s sister, Danny’s mother and sister and Rebecca’s mother were all blonde. I have no clue if any of them had blue eyes. 

I stand corrected. Thanks!

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10 hours ago, DearEvette said:

I do know that the segregation laws were written mainly for blacks and that non-black POC were sometimes given a 'favored nations' status as being near white.  

Mexican Americans were technically considered white by the US govt, but were still discriminated against. There were segregated schools, restaurants etc, The case Hernandez v. Texas stated that Mexican Americans were a "special class" and deserved equal protection under the 14th Amendment since being labeled as white was not protecting them from discrimination. The case was  a landmark for Hispanic civil rights.

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Zoe Saldana has done a 180° and is now apologizing for her portrayal of Nina Simone. 

https://www.bbc.com/news/entertainment-arts-53676550

From the linked article:

In a new interview, originally broadcast live on Instagram, Saldana said: "I should have never played Nina.

"I should have done everything in my power with the leverage that I had 10 years ago, which was a different leverage, but it was leverage nonetheless.

"I should have done everything in my power to cast a black woman to play an exceptionally perfect black woman."

<snip>

"I thought back then that I had the permission [to play her] because I was a black woman," Saldana said.

"And I am. But it was Nina Simone. And Nina had a life and she had a journey that should have been - and should be - honoured to the most specific detail because she was a specifically detailed individual."

<snip>

Saldana's regret at the role marks a departure from her previous comments defending her part in the film.

In 2013, she told Latina magazine: "Let me tell you, if Elizabeth Taylor can be Cleopatra, I can be Nina - I'm sorry. It doesn't matter how much backlash I will get for it. I will honour and respect my black community because that's who I am."

In another interview with Allure in 2016, she said: "There's no one way to be black. You have no idea who I am. I am black. I'm raising black men. Don't you ever think you can look at me and address me with such disdain."

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On 8/2/2020 at 10:59 AM, Hiyo said:

Because it's called acting.

I dunno, for me, acting ability triumphs everything else, including background. I realize that might not be the most PC attitude to have, but that's how I feel.

Either you can act the role, or you can't.

Our main point is that regardless of how good the actor is, there is a certain level of nuance and depth that you get from people who have experiences they can draw upon that add to what's written.  Not all shows are written by people who have the full depth of experience, so they are in some ways relying on 2nd hand information.  Add an actor who is also relying on 2nd hand information and some depth and nuance is lost.

It doesn't mean the resulting product is necessarily bad, but it does make me wonder - what beautiful and rich nuance was missed that say, an ADOS actor could have brought to it?

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Moesha dropped on Netflix. It's funny to read about all the people couldn't stand how spoiled she is. It's nice though in a sense that Moesha was not treated like a token model minority. She was allowed to be as spoiled, shallow, and entitled as any lead white upper middle class girl you saw on a 90's sitcom.

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3 hours ago, phoenics said:

Our main point is that regardless of how good the actor is, there is a certain level of nuance and depth that you get from people who have experiences they can draw upon that add to what's written.  Not all shows are written by people who have the full depth of experience, so they are in some ways relying on 2nd hand information.  Add an actor who is also relying on 2nd hand information and some depth and nuance is lost.

Exactly; white female actors have long been elevating the material written for their characters by white men, using the experience they live (and the writers don't) to make what comes through on screen far more real than what was on the page (often having to flat-out tell the writers/producers/directors - and hope they're collaborative, not defensive, diminishing just go say the lines, sweetie types - my character wouldn't say/do this; it's not how women experience it).

The same is true with male characters of color, and especially female characters of color -- it's always beneficial for the actor and character to "match" in the ways we're talking about, and that's heightened where the starting point is often that the character and writer don't match.

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Our main point is that regardless of how good the actor is, there is a certain level of nuance and depth that you get from people who have experiences they can draw upon that add to what's written.  Not all shows are written by people who have the full depth of experience, so they are in some ways relying on 2nd hand information.  Add an actor who is also relying on 2nd hand information and some depth and nuance is lost.

 

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The same is true with male characters of color, and especially female characters of color -- it's always beneficial for the actor and character to "match" in the ways we're talking about, and that's heightened where the starting point is often that the character and writer don't match.

Again, I have to disagree. The fault then lies in the writers or director, and the failing comes from not having people behind the camera offer the correct input. Plus actors can do their own research if they have to.

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14 hours ago, methodwriter85 said:

Moesha dropped on Netflix. It's funny to read about all the people couldn't stand how spoiled she is. It's nice though in a sense that Moesha was not treated like a token model minority. She was allowed to be as spoiled, shallow, and entitled as any lead white upper middle class girl you saw on a 90's sitcom.

Was it Moesha or push back on Brandy Norwood back in the day?

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6 hours ago, Hiyo said:

 

Again, I have to disagree. The fault then lies in the writers or director, and the failing comes from not having people behind the camera offer the correct input. Plus actors can do their own research if they have to.

I would tend to agree with this. It doesn't seem to me that actors should have firsthand experience with what they're portraying. It reminds me of that Laurence Olivier quote when Dustin Hoffman was being too Method: "Why don't you just try acting?" I'd say an actor's job is to draw on whatever they need to to portray what they are required to portray, and that the writer's and/or director's job is to ensure that what the actors are portraying is accurate/appropriate.

(That's not to say I don't think that actors should have any input -- I just don't think that it's a requirement.)

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4 hours ago, Raja said:

Was it Moesha or push back on Brandy Norwood back in the day?

It's a modern reaction to Moesha on Twitter. Type in "Moesha spoiled." The car episode especially seems to piss people off. Lol.

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1 hour ago, methodwriter85 said:

It's a modern reaction to Moesha on Twitter. Type in "Moesha spoiled." The car episode especially seems to piss people off. Lol.

People always get upset when black people, especially Black women, aren’t “humble”.

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Our main point is that regardless of how good the actor is, there is a certain level of nuance and depth that you get from people who have experiences they can draw upon that add to what's written.  Not all shows are written by people who have the full depth of experience, so they are in some ways relying on 2nd hand information.  Add an actor who is also relying on 2nd hand information and some depth and nuance is lost.

It doesn't mean the resulting product is necessarily bad, but it does make me wonder - what beautiful and rich nuance was missed that say, an ADOS actor could have brought to it?

It think there are always complicated questions of "authenticity" in acting. To take it away from race & ethnicity for a second, when you're casting a romantic film, I think you hope that the actors have onscreen chemistry and understanding each other's timing and whatnot. Is the movie worse if the actors are professionals who can fake that chemistry and you find out later that they hated each other in real life and fought all the time? Is it valid to just act the feeling of happy, sad, angry, etc.? Is it more meaningful to be method and channel your own emotions through what the character is feeling? Is it even more valid if you specifically live the life of the character and try to relate to this person by eating what they ate or adopting physical mannerisms? It's something to debate. Personally, when it comes to race and ethnicity, I do think it makes a difference. All human experiences are not universal. Yes, blackface and yellowface and brownface are extreme examples. But they reflect the fact that when you just assume that you can playact someone else's lived experience, a lot of times what you are acting is your preconceived notions of what that experience is and what "those people" are like.

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Exactly; white female actors have long been elevating the material written for their characters by white men, using the experience they live (and the writers don't) to make what comes through on screen far more real than what was on the page (often having to flat-out tell the writers/producers/directors - and hope they're collaborative, not defensive, diminishing just go say the lines, sweetie types - my character wouldn't say/do this; it's not how women experience it).

I mean... see Meryl Streep's experience with Kramer vs. Kramer.

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Meryl marched into the hotel suite where Hoffman, Benton, and Jaffe sat side by side. She had read Corman’s novel and found Joanna to be “an ogre, a princess, an ass,” as she put it soon after to American Film. When Dustin asked her what she thought of the story, she told him in no uncertain terms. They had the character all wrong, she insisted. Her reasons for leaving Ted are too hazy. We should understand why she comes back for custody. When she gives up Billy in the final scene, it should be for the boy’s sake, not hers. Joanna isn’t a villain; she’s a reflection of a real struggle that women are going through across the country, and the audience should feel some sympathy for her. If they wanted Meryl, they’d need to do re-writes, she later told Ms. magazine.

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Wouldn’t it be better, Meryl asked on set, if Joanna made the “somebody’s wife” speech before revealing her intention to take Billy? That way, Joanna could present her quest for selfhood as a legitimate pursuit, at least as the character saw it. She could say it calmly, not in a defensive crouch. Benton agreed that re-structuring the scene gave it more of a dramatic build.

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Benton wasn’t happy with it. At the end of the second day of shooting—right after Dustin slapped her and goaded her in the elevator—the director had taken Meryl aside. “There’s a speech you give in the courtroom,” he told her, “but I don’t think it’s a woman’s speech. I think it’s a man trying to write a woman’s speech.” Would she take a crack at it? Meryl said yes. Then Benton walked home and promptly forgot he’d asked her.

Now, several weeks and many frayed nerves later, Meryl was handing the director a legal pad with her handwriting scrawled on it and telling him brightly, “I have the speech you told me to write.” She had written it on the way back from Indiana, where she had been visiting Don Gummer’s parents.

https://www.vanityfair.com/hollywood/2016/03/meryl-streep-kramer-vs-kramer-oscar

We know about this because it's Meryl Streep and it was an "important" movie. I don't doubt that women and BIPOC actors make plenty of suggestions that never get catalogued or simply find a way of portraying their characters that brings out charm and humanity that isn't there on the page. A great black actress can make a "sassy" stereotype more than a joke and a caricature. A great Asian actress can take a quiet character and give her a rich interior life. A good actor and a good performance can elevate what's in the script.

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I just feel like going out of your way to cast someone who's obviously not representative of the character being portrayed, is like saying you couldn't find anyone in the matching demo who could act. And it's kind of a pattern, you know? I think it's an excuse to say "we just liked so and so better". Whether any particular actor is capable of doing a good job is kind of beside the point, at least to me. There's this bizarre way that "the best person" somehow follows an illogical pattern, one which lines up with a discriminatory bias, implicit or otherwise.

Speaking from the disability perspective, when you see an able-bodied person portraying a disabled character, you might think they did a good job (Daniel Day Lewis in "My Left Foot" is execrable, but people think he was a genius).

But then, on the rare occasion when you get to see the same role played by an actual person with a disability 99% of the time your mind is blown by the comparison.

But most of the time we never get to even examine the skills of the person more qualified, because there's a tendency to assume no such brilliance exists, and thus the belief that "we went with the more impressive actor" persists and doesn't get tested in reality.

Louie Anderson is a male actor playing a female role in Christine Baskets and I will say he's fanfuckingtastic. He says he based it on his mother. The whole show (Baskets) changed focus and tone dramatically so that Christine was kind of the central character once she was introduced, because he was that good. But no one thinks "we couldn't find a qualified woman to play this character, so we went with the man, who happened to be the best." It was a stunt, originally, and it paid off. Kudos to Anderson.

But, in general, when the role is cast based on "we just couldn't find/didn't look for/didn't like anyone in the proper demo" it is not about brilliance or a joke that suddenly showed itself to be inspired, it's simply implicit bias causing the casting team to lean towards people who are less qualified, just because that's the assumption they operate out of and it makes them more comfortable to go that way without really examining whether it's the best idea.

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There's this bizarre way that "the best person" somehow follows an illogical pattern, one which lines up with a discriminatory bias, implicit or otherwise.

Speaking from the disability perspective, when you see an able-bodied person portraying a disabled character, you might think they did a good job (Daniel Day Lewis in "My Left Foot" is execrable, but people think he was a genius).

But then, on the rare occasion when you get to see the same role played by an actual person with a disability 99% of the time your mind is blown by the comparison.

I can't exactly remember where it's from but I think the following point was made in the documentary Disclosure. If you cast Eddie Redmayne in The Danish Girl, yes, he's playing the character. But he's mostly playing a man acting the experience of a transwoman. He has this initial hurdle of an acting challenge to clear before he can even get to portraying the character. Whereas if you cast an actual trans actress, then she is free to just play the character.

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But by that logic, Alisa and 24 should have only hired actors who had previous experience working as spies, counter-terrorist agents, and actual terrorists, Prison Break and Orange is the New Black should have only hired actors who had served actual time in Prison, and Mad Men should have only hired actors who had worked for advertising agencies in New York during the 1960s.

Some actors do research and invest themselves in their roles and we do see the results pay off (see the many actors who play alcoholics and drug addicts). In the Meryl Streep example listed above, it sucks that she had to do all of that work when there should have been more people behind the camera helping her out and supporting her, and also taking a more balanced look at the issue. Not saying she should have had to do it all herself, it definitely should have been more of a collaborative effort from all involved.

The same for Eddie Redmayne in The Danish Girl; him learning about what it is to be a transgendered woman is just one other acting hurdle, and it isn't like that is the only acting hurdle to deal with. If there is enough support from the writers, directors, producers, etc - if they have done the correct research as well - then there shouldn't be any problems with the nuance of their performance.

Which for me, goes back to the issue of non-American non-white actors playing roles of the same ethnicity but as Americans (or the other way around). If they and the people behind the camera put in the right amount of effort into researching the role and what is required for the role, then I'm ok with it.

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Yea being able to make me believe an actor is playing the character they are playing is generally more important to me than the fact that they actually are that character. The best recent example of that for me was probably Chernobyl. Jared Harris is British not Russian, and as far as I know he is not a brilliant physicist nor did he grow up in a communist regime. But I totally bought him as that character. Sure they could have found a Russian physicist actor who grew up under Communism, but even then I am not sure it would have been as good. Hell I totally bought Cuba Gooding Jr as OJ even though he looks nothing like him and is as far as I know not a hall of fame level football player. Because it was a fictional account not a crime stoppers reenactment.

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On 8/7/2020 at 5:49 AM, Hiyo said:

 

Again, I have to disagree. The fault then lies in the writers or director, and the failing comes from not having people behind the camera offer the correct input. Plus actors can do their own research if they have to.

 

On 8/7/2020 at 1:03 PM, janie jones said:

I would tend to agree with this. It doesn't seem to me that actors should have firsthand experience with what they're portraying. It reminds me of that Laurence Olivier quote when Dustin Hoffman was being too Method: "Why don't you just try acting?" I'd say an actor's job is to draw on whatever they need to to portray what they are required to portray, and that the writer's and/or director's job is to ensure that what the actors are portraying is accurate/appropriate.

(That's not to say I don't think that actors should have any input -- I just don't think that it's a requirement.)

It's a problem if Hollywood overwhelmingly decides that Black British actors are preferable to African American performers because the former are supposedly more "classically trained" or "refined" or something, but IMO an actor and character having different nationalities shouldn't be an automatic impediment to getting a role. It's a bonus when an actor can add their own experience to a character/performance, but that's not guaranteed to happen even if the actor and character share the same race or are from the same country. Talent and suitability for the role are still important factors in whether a performance will be effective (though that can be highly subjective). Some actors need to identify with or like the person they're playing in order to connect with the material, some do a lot of research to get into character, and others aren't as reflective about their work and just go with what's on the page. 

Before Carmen Ejogo was Coretta Scott King in Selma, she played her in the TV movie Boycott, with Jeffrey Wright as Martin Luther King. He's 8 years older than Carmen and by 2014 he might have been considered too old to reprise the role (also, David Oyelowo had worked with Ava DuVernay before). In 2016, there was a TV adaptation of the play about Lyndon Johnson, All The Way, where Anthony Mackie played MLK. He's American. Was he better in the role than someone British? I don’t think either particularly resembled MLK physically. 

People can share a racial identity or skin color and nationality, but still have vastly different cultural experiences, even if we're just limiting it to American Descendants of Slavery, brought up by Black people, and stepping outside of that... What if, when In Living Color was being cast, Tommy Davidson was told, "You're great at sketch comedy, but you were adopted by a white family and this is a black show, so can you really represent the culture?" ABC got a lot of publicity for announcing their first Black Bachelor, Matt James. The internet sleuthing started and his state voter registration was looked up to determine political affiliation, his dating history seems exclusively white and he's biracial, actually, so that's led to some, "Well, when we said we wanted a Black Bachelor, what we meant was..." sentiment from fans of color. Tyler Perry definitely brings a distinctive cultural experience to his work, but not all Black people like it. Performers and creators can share all the demographics with you, but will their perspective on the world align with yours? Will you enjoy their work? Maybe. Maybe not. 

Edited by Dejana
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14 hours ago, Hiyo said:

But by that logic, Alisa and 24 should have only hired actors who had previous experience working as spies, counter-terrorist agents, and actual terrorists, Prison Break and Orange is the New Black should have only hired actors who had served actual time in Prison, and Mad Men should have only hired actors who had worked for advertising agencies in New York during the 1960s.

Some actors do research and invest themselves in their roles and we do see the results pay off (see the many actors who play alcoholics and drug addicts). In the Meryl Streep example listed above, it sucks that she had to do all of that work when there should have been more people behind the camera helping her out and supporting her, and also taking a more balanced look at the issue. Not saying she should have had to do it all herself, it definitely should have been more of a collaborative effort from all involved.

The same for Eddie Redmayne in The Danish Girl; him learning about what it is to be a transgendered woman is just one other acting hurdle, and it isn't like that is the only acting hurdle to deal with. If there is enough support from the writers, directors, producers, etc - if they have done the correct research as well - then there shouldn't be any problems with the nuance of their performance.

Which for me, goes back to the issue of non-American non-white actors playing roles of the same ethnicity but as Americans (or the other way around). If they and the people behind the camera put in the right amount of effort into researching the role and what is required for the role, then I'm ok with it.

I really don’t think you can equate jobs or life experiences with race and gender. Personally I don’t have a issue African Americans being played by non-Americans but I also know that I can’t even begin to understand the complexities at play. I would argue that a performance that feels off to the group being represented means that actor missed the mark regardless of what everyone else thinks. 

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Otoh, we have Nina Simone, whose looks was such a critical part of her biography.  And yet we get an actor like Zoe Saldana cast.  It is an immediate fail because viewers couldn't see past the fact that Zoe Saldana who has silky hair and Euro-sharp features was cast in a role of a woman's who life was characterized by industry rejection because she didn't have silky hair and Euro-sharp features.  And then to add insult to injury they put Zoe in black-face make up and give her facial prosthetics to make her look more 'African.'  Her ability to act the role was immediately the last thing on anyone's mind at that point.  So yeah that believably has to come from the audience, not just the actor.

Tangent. I read her autobiography a while back. A movie is neater but the temptation to Hollywood-ize it would probably be too great. But a full series, or at least a miniseries that tracked her childhood and her marriages/relationships and her experience with the civil rights movement and her mental breakdown would be incredible. Like, that show would definitely get someone an Emmy. Like every autobiography, she makes excuses and prevaricates and tries to make herself sympathetic. But she also doesn't shy away from being unlikable. She cares more about being understood as a whole person than being liked. It's a great read. 

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20 hours ago, possibilities said:

I just feel like going out of your way to cast someone who's obviously not representative of the character being portrayed, is like saying you couldn't find anyone in the matching demo who could act. And it's kind of a pattern, you know? I think it's an excuse to say "we just liked so and so better". Whether any particular actor is capable of doing a good job is kind of beside the point, at least to me. There's this bizarre way that "the best person" somehow follows an illogical pattern, one which lines up with a discriminatory bias, implicit or otherwise.

Speaking from the disability perspective, when you see an able-bodied person portraying a disabled character, you might think they did a good job (Daniel Day Lewis in "My Left Foot" is execrable, but people think he was a genius).

But then, on the rare occasion when you get to see the same role played by an actual person with a disability 99% of the time your mind is blown by the comparison.

But most of the time we never get to even examine the skills of the person more qualified, because there's a tendency to assume no such brilliance exists, and thus the belief that "we went with the more impressive actor" persists and doesn't get tested in reality.

Louie Anderson is a male actor playing a female role in Christine Baskets and I will say he's fanfuckingtastic. He says he based it on his mother. The whole show (Baskets) changed focus and tone dramatically so that Christine was kind of the central character once she was introduced, because he was that good. But no one thinks "we couldn't find a qualified woman to play this character, so we went with the man, who happened to be the best." It was a stunt, originally, and it paid off. Kudos to Anderson.

But, in general, when the role is cast based on "we just couldn't find/didn't look for/didn't like anyone in the proper demo" it is not about brilliance or a joke that suddenly showed itself to be inspired, it's simply implicit bias causing the casting team to lean towards people who are less qualified, just because that's the assumption they operate out of and it makes them more comfortable to go that way without really examining whether it's the best idea.

I agree with all of this. A while back, I made a conscious decision to stop saying So-and-So was "perfect" in a particular role or "no one but So-and-So" could've played that role, because the fact of the matter is that I have no idea who would've been amazing but wasn't given the opportunity to audition. So I can flat-out adore whatever performances I want to, but I can't unequivocally say that they were "the best person" for the role.

And OMG, yes with able-bodied actors playing disabled characters. I still remember a scene in Glee where Artie was supposed to be wheelchair dancing, and every time he did something even the tiniest, slightest bit complicated, it was transparently-obvious that the camera had to disguise the fact that it wasn't him doing it. (And don't get me started on The Shape of Water. I love Sally Hawkins too, but whenever she had to string more than two or three signs together, my soul died a little as I thought, "She got nominated for an Oscar for this.") On a related note, while I don't necessarily think it's a must that gay roles are played by gay actors, I find that it often enhances the performance for me. Andrew Rannells has played a ton of what you'd call "stereotypically gay" characters, but I love how, when he plays them, 1) they always feel like characters rather than stereotypes, even at their most outrageous, and 2) he can play the same "type" multiple times but still have each one feel like a distinct character.

By and large, my thoughts on ethnicity align with my thoughts on gay vs. straight actors playing gay roles: it's not a dealbreaker for me, but there's often something special that an actor can bring to the role when they have that cultural background and can breathe that authenticity into it, especially when the character is written by someone who's much more removed from that character's identity (as a small example, like Candice Patton pointing out to the white writers on The Flash that "no one's Black grandma has a 'famous sushirrito' recipe.") And in both cases, it becomes more of an issue if there's a pattern of people of that background specifically being passed over the roles in question, whether it's gay actors not given the chance to audition for roles that straight actors go on to win Oscars for or a prevailing perception that Black British actors are "better trained" than Black American actors.

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4 hours ago, Dejana said:

It's a problem if Hollywood overwhelmingly decides that Black British actors are preferable to African American performers because the former are supposedly more "classically trained" or "refined" or something, but IMO an actor and character having different nationalities shouldn't be an automatic impediment to getting a role.

I don't believe that's a race base preference. The Wire had Idris Elba, but it also had Dominic West. And you have Damien Lewis, Hugh Laurie, Andrew Lincoln etc. Hell, they cast Finn Jones as Iron Fist.

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15 hours ago, xaxat said:

I don't believe that's a race base preference. The Wire had Idris Elba, but it also had Dominic West. And you have Damien Lewis, Hugh Laurie, Andrew Lincoln etc. Hell, they cast Finn Jones as Iron Fist.

My understanding is the Brits (regardless of race) usually are cheaper to hire than Americans, so TBTB like the fact they are budget friendly despite being classically trained/having an extensive theater background. So, yes, they're seen as great actors (and many of them are for sure), but the real draw is the price tag. Basically, hiring Brits is seen as a way to help the bottom line without sacrificing quality. 

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Zoe Kravitz Calls Out Hulu’s Lack of Diversity in Programming

Huh? As someone who plans to cancel hulu again at the end of the month, I think they have a lack of programming in general. Does she mean only their original content? Granted, it's pretty difficult to figure out WTF is on hulu at any given moment but I feel like they're doing a decent-ish job of programming content for women and LGBT audiences. But of the top streaming services, they seem like one of the least competitive. Disney+ and Netflix can pay for Beyonce. Apple TV can throw money at A-listers. I get that she's salty that her show got cancelled, but Hulu doesn't seem like a big player in original content and doesn't seem notably bad at programming diverse content to the extent that it can program any content. Sure, they could be doing better. The original horror movies and documentaries usually have white leads or subjects (and look boring af). But they have the rights to some good TV shows and movies. 

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9 hours ago, Zella said:

My understanding is the Brits (regardless of race) usually are cheaper to hire than Americans, so TBTB like the fact they are budget friendly despite being classically trained/having an extensive theater background. So, yes, they're seen as great actors (and many of them are for sure), but the real draw is the price tag. Basically, hiring Brits is seen as a way to help the bottom line without sacrificing quality. 

The Vulture linked on the last page (about Black British vs. Black American actors) pointed out that not all the British actors who cross over to Hollywood, regardless of race, are theater trained, while many American actors are. And any time decisions in the industry come down to money, actors of color will generally be even more affected than their white counterparts.

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On 8/9/2020 at 7:35 PM, xaxat said:

I don't believe that's a race base preference. The Wire had Idris Elba, but it also had Dominic West. And you have Damien Lewis, Hugh Laurie, Andrew Lincoln etc. Hell, they cast Finn Jones as Iron Fist.

Even still, I wonder if when you look at black roles in the US and who is filling them (ADOS vs Black British), is it the same proportionality to white roles in the US (American white vs British white)?

If it's the same propotionally then I agree - I just am not sure it is.  

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On 8/10/2020 at 7:12 PM, aradia22 said:

Huh? As someone who plans to cancel hulu again at the end of the month, I think they have a lack of programming in general. Does she mean only their original content? Granted, it's pretty difficult to figure out WTF is on hulu at any given moment but I feel like they're doing a decent-ish job of programming content for women and LGBT audiences. But of the top streaming services, they seem like one of the least competitive. Disney+ and Netflix can pay for Beyonce. Apple TV can throw money at A-listers. I get that she's salty that her show got cancelled, but Hulu doesn't seem like a big player in original content and doesn't seem notably bad at programming diverse content to the extent that it can program any content. Sure, they could be doing better. The original horror movies and documentaries usually have white leads or subjects (and look boring af). But they have the rights to some good TV shows and movies. 

Giving Zoe the benefit of the doubt - how many shows on Hulu have black women leads?  Right now off the top of my head I can only think of one show with a black female lead (co-lead)... Little Fires Everywhere.  Maybe there are others?

This was her comment:  “It’s cool. At least Hulu has a ton of other shows starring women of color we can watch. Oh wait.”

She's specifically asking about shows that star women of color, not token "diversity".  

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Giant Misfit

Keep your comments to race and ethnicity as they relate to TELEVISION SHOWS.  If you would like to discuss social issues without TV context, please visit the Social Justice topic in Everything Else. 

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