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Super Social Analysis: Gender, Race, Ethnicity, and LGBT in Movies

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2 hours ago, Bastet said:

Has anyone else watched Moxie?  It's a feel-good coming of age film that is ultimately frustrating because it not only centers the white character (seriously, imagine this film told from Lucy's or Claudia's perspective instead of Vivian's), but explicitly acknowledges the fact RiotGrrrl feminism largely failed to address intersectionality issues and includes BIPOC, LGBT, and disabled girls in this Gen Z tale ... while never once having Vivian examine the privileges her white, able-bodied, straight, cisgender self has when compared to those peers.

It was very frustrating. I liked it alright, but I wasn't wowed by it. I do feel like the message missed the mark. There was one moment when the long time BFF, who is Asian, made a comment to whiter than white Vivian, that touched on white privilege, but it was just mentioned that one time. It was equally infuriating that it was the arrival of the "sassy black girl" that triggered Whitey Mc Whiterson into actually giving a shit about the rampant sexism in her school.

I agree that it would have been a better movie had it focused on any of the characters other than the pretty, blonde haired blue eyed, straight, middle class, able bodied smart girl who isn't popular just because...reasons I can't figure out. Honestly, given that Lucy was the new girl in school, it should have been her story. If not, Claudia's story of the (I think first generation) Asian girl who is being pressured to be perfect but risks a whole lot more than White Privilege Vivian with the super open minded mom risked.

I felt with Vivian there was no risk. She had nothing to lose. If everything had blown up on her her mom would have supported her and helped fix things. 

I liked it for a bit of fluff but I think it was trying to be impowering and it fell flat on that front. Solid cast though.  

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I'm  wondering if  Alec Guinness' Dr. Narayan Godpole  a Brahman Hindu professor,  is  the last example of  a well known white actor portraying a different ethnicity(this case, Indian) in :  "A Passage to India" from  1984?   IIRC Dr. Godpole is not suppose to be a  mixed race character.

 

 

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In the upcoming series "Chad", executive producer Nasim Pedrad (who is a 39 year old woman) plays a 14 year old boy.

 

 

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47 minutes ago, caracas1914 said:

I'm  wondering if  Alec Guinness' Dr. Narayan Godpole  a Brahman Hindu professor,  is  the last example of  a well known white actor portraying a different ethnicity(this case, Indian) in :  "A Passage to India" from  1984?   IIRC Dr. Godpole is not suppose to be a  mixed race character.

 

 

If only. Fisher Stevens in Short Circuit is the most blatant example I can thing of after that.  Rob Schneider’s entire career was made up of playing different racist stereotypes. Then there’s Angelina Jolie in A Mighty Heart, Ben Affleck in Argo, Ralph Fiennes playing Michael Jackson and Johnny Depp in Lone Ranger as very recent examples. The list is very long.

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5 hours ago, Dani said:

If only. Fisher Stevens in Short Circuit is the most blatant example I can thing of after that.  Rob Schneider’s entire career was made up of playing different racist stereotypes. Then there’s Angelina Jolie in A Mighty Heart, Ben Affleck in Argo, Ralph Fiennes playing Michael Jackson and Johnny Depp in Lone Ranger as very recent examples. The list is very long.

Fisher Stevens basically plays proto-Apu in Short Circuit. As a kid I loved that character, and he did have a charming personality, but it's built up almost entirely of 'typical Indian' mannerisms and 'cute' misunderstandings of the English language.

His performance was very similar to that of Michael Bates, a white man (born in India to British parents) who played an Indian character in It Ain't Half Hot Mum, a British sitcom that aired in the 1970s. That's how little we progressed on this issue in ten to fifteen years. And Bates's character, Bearer Rangi, was often the voice of common sense on the show, in the face of the blithering idiocy of the British officers and, particularly, the oafish and bigoted Sergeant Major. He also represented the duality of Indian society at the time - a nascent Indian nationalism hidden under obsequious loyalty to the British crown.

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15 hours ago, Dani said:

If only. Fisher Stevens in Short Circuit is the most blatant example I can thing of after that.  Rob Schneider’s entire career was made up of playing different racist stereotypes. Then there’s Angelina Jolie in A Mighty Heart, Ben Affleck in Argo, Ralph Fiennes playing Michael Jackson and Johnny Depp in Lone Ranger as very recent examples. The list is very long.

Don’t remind me of Fisher Stevens,

The Angeline Jolie/Marianne Pearl casting: here it gets complicated:

https://www.seattletimes.com/entertainment/mighty-heart-casting-stirs-debate-over-race/

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Pearl says it’s is a nonissue. “This is the story of a group of individuals,” she wrote in an e-mail, “and how they chose to behave as opposed to a group of people seen through the prism of race, color or religion.

“I chose Angie for who she is not what she looks like.”


 

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In the book upon which the film is based, Pearl writes that Daniel lovingly dubbed her “my mulatta.” Of her Cuban-born mother, Marita Van Neyenhoff, she writes: “She was colored, and she had a Chinese grandfather. Clearly there was Spanish and African blood in her, and who knew what else. I felt like history had worked really hard for me to enjoy being a bit of everything.” (Her father was Dutch.)

Says “A Mighty Heart” director Michael Winterbottom: “To try and find a French actress who’s half-Cuban, quarter-Chinese, half-Dutch who speaks great English and could do that part better — I mean, if there had been some more choices, I might have thought, ‘Why don’t we use that person?’ … I don’t think there would have been anyone better.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Edited by caracas1914

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23 minutes ago, caracas1914 said:

half-Cuban, quarter-Chinese, half-Dutch

What on earth???? That doesn’t add up at all.

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He's talking about the nationality of her parents.  One parent is Cuban nationality, one parent is Dutch nationality.  The ethnicity is more complicated.

Mariane van Neyenhoff was born in Clichy, Hauts-de-Seine, France, to a Cuban mother of Afro-Chinese-Cuban descent and a Dutch Jewish father. Her paternal grandfather was a diamond merchant in the Netherlands.[4][5][6][7]

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Again, complicated.   Ben Afleck portraying Tony Mendez in “Argo.”

https://web.archive.org/web/20130406233958/http://showbizcafe.com/en/interviews/exclusive-argos-real-tony-mendez-im-not-hispanic/2992#

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JR: A lot of Hispanic moviegoers when they found out that the name of Ben’s character was Tony Mendez they immediately thought -  “why is Ben playing a Hispanic character?” Ben is obviously not Hispanic. No one has been able to get a legitimate answer on the matter, until now. Were there ever discussions at any point, maybe even from Ben, to have a Hispanic actor play you and maybe just have himself concentrate in directing?

TM: Never heard of it.

JR: Did you feel okay with Ben Affleck playing you as opposed to maybe somebody else?

TM: Yeah, but I don’t think of myself as a Hispanic. I think of myself as a person who grew up in the desert. If I had been in a different family circumstance, I might have felt that way. But, mostly, my family was at odds with each other in a playful way, they weren’t talking about heritage in that regard. 

JR: In the Hispanic film community, there is much debate surrounding this topic. Many Hispanic actors feel they’re progress halts when Hollywood decides to place an anglo star name in a Hispanic role. When you see Ben portray you on screen, do you feel he represented you with integrity? The right way? Did you see yourself in him?

TM: What I already knew about Ben was that he was a real diligent creator down to the fine nobs in the clumps of dirt and so forth, that he was real. What I found about him when he’s acting is that he does the same kind of due diligence on the part he’s playing. A lot of things I kind of discovered about myself he had already up picked on and was portraying them on the screen. 

 

 

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On 3/23/2021 at 12:02 PM, caracas1914 said:

The Angeline Jolie/Marianne Pearl casting: here it gets complicated:

It’s not complicated for me. If a role requires darkening the actor’s skin to make them appear more ethnic it crosses a line I’m not comfortable with. Angelina Jolie was made up to look like a person of color and that is the heart of my problem with it. 

On 3/23/2021 at 3:10 PM, caracas1914 said:

Again, complicated.   Ben Afleck portraying Tony Mendez in “Argo.”

Again, not for me. Of course, the people involved are excited to see Jolie or Affleck play them in a movie because there are no bigger actors but that’s the heart of the problem for me. Hollywood is extremely racist and these issues are symptomatic of the larger problem. 

Edited by Dani
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1 hour ago, Dani said:

It’s not complicated for me. If a role requires darkening the actor’s skin to make the appear more ethnic it crosses a line I’m not comfortable with. Angelina Jolie was made up to look like a person of color and that is the heart of my problem with it. 

Again, not for me. Of course, the people involved are excited to see Jolie or Affleck play them in a movie because their are no bigger actors but that’s the heart of the problem for me. Hollywood is extremely racist and these issues are symptomatic of the larger problem. 

Of course it's uncomfortable to many.     Is it simply not just about  skin color or non resemblance to the character portrayed, though.   My point about Alec Guinness was that not that long a ago, a white prestigious actor would not be questioned portraying an ethnic role, even if it didn't require darkening makeup, so it's not as simple as that.   There are even ethnic  actors who have been used to portray other ethnicities, such as  Max Minghella, a Chinese/Italian actor who was used to portray an Indian character in "Network".  

 

Hollywood is racist, but it doesn't mean there aren't complications/nuances in every  different scenario to others. 

 

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I don't get why something that used to happen should continue to happen. It was wrong then, too, but it takes pressure to change things. Just because it is challenging for people to change the way they think and thus the way the behave, doesn't mean that it shouldn't happen or that people shouldn't point it out and apply the pressure.

Edited by possibilities
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3 hours ago, Dani said:

Again, not for me. Of course, the people involved are excited to see Jolie or Affleck play them in a movie because their are no bigger actors but that’s the heart of the problem for me. Hollywood is extremely racist and these issues are symptomatic of the larger problem. 

Regarding Affleck playing Tony Mendez, I think it is more complicated. Because Mendez's mother was of French, Italian and Irish heritage, not Hispanic at all. And Mendez didn't identify as Hispanic because his father died when he was young so he was brought up by his mother. 

I fully appreciate the idea that appropriating a character or real person is stealing them from a culture that would value a positive media portrayal, but are we to ignore his mother's heritage (and Mendez's own self-identification) in favour of his father's?

Of course, Affleck didn't have makeup to darken his skin, like Jolie did. If that had been required, I'd like to think he wouldn't have taken the role.

Edited by Danny Franks
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1 hour ago, Danny Franks said:

I fully appreciate the idea that appropriating a character or real person is stealing them from a culture that would value a positive media portrayal, but are we to ignore his mother's heritage (and Mendez's own self-identification) in favour of his father's?

Why does it have to be ignoring one part of his heritage or another? The Argo situation highlights the complete lack of big name BIPOC actors who could take the role. The fact that the default is white is the main problem. 

2 hours ago, caracas1914 said:

Of course it's uncomfortable to many.     Is it simply not just about  skin color or non resemblance to the character portrayed, though.   My point about Alec Guinness was that not that long a ago, a white prestigious actor would not be questioned portraying an ethnic role, even if it didn't require darkening makeup, so it's not as simple as that.   There are even ethnic  actors who have been used to portray other ethnicities, such as  Max Minghella, a Chinese/Italian actor who was used to portray an Indian character in "Network".  

 

Hollywood is racist, but it doesn't mean there aren't complications/nuances in every  different scenario to others. 

 

I never said or meant to imply that the situations are simple. My point is that those complications matter very little in the end. The history is exactly why I now draw such a hard line on the subject. To me, there are no reasons or excuses left that are good enough. One example may be logical or understandable on its own but these situations are not happening in a vacuum. Each new example builds on the history of minority characters being erased or minimized which continually magnifies the issue. 

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52 minutes ago, Dani said:

Why does it have to be ignoring one part of his heritage or another? The Argo situation highlights the complete lack of big name BIPOC actors who could take the role. The fact that the default is white is the main problem. 

I agree that there's a lack of BIPOC stars. There should be a lot more, and they should be big enough to open any movie, but I don't think this example fits the argument. Because what mix of heritage would be acceptable? A Mexican actor? Someone who is half Mexican, half white? Someone who is half Hispanic, half white? Or would he need to have the exact mix that Mendez had to be suitable for the role? 

If he'd taken his mother's name - Tognoli - would we instead be arguing that an Italian-American should have played him?

This is why a lot of these issues are far from clear cut. But if you're going to ignore part of someone's heritage, I'd say it's more forgiveable to ignore the part that the man himself ignored. He had no obligation to be a representative for Mexican-Americans, and he apparently chose not to be.

Edited by Danny Franks
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9 hours ago, Danny Franks said:

I agree that there's a lack of BIPOC stars, but I don't think this example is helpful to the argument. Because what mix of heritage would be acceptable? A Mexican actor? Someone who is half Mexican, half white? Someone who is half Hispanic, half white? Or would he need to have the exact mix that Mendez had to be suitable for the role? 

Affleck has said that he had to play the role to even get the movie made so I think it is an perfect example for the argument. Hollywood defaults to white. I find the discussion about what exact mix would be acceptable irrelevant when you consider how Hollywood handles race. Realistically there was only one option happening and it is what we got rather than any you listed. 

9 hours ago, Danny Franks said:

This is why a lot of these issues are far from clear cut. But if you're going to ignore part of someone's heritage, I'd say it's more forgiveable to ignore the part that the man himself ignored.

Personally, I’d rather they accurately portray the person in all aspects. That doesn’t mean they have to be exactly the same but it should feel like a roughly accurate representation and Ben just didn’t in that role. It felt like the hair and beard was an attempt to obscure the differences and make him appear somewhat Hispanic. 

Affleck didn’t help my opinion when he was asked about it:

Quote

“That’s a good question. You know, I obviously went to Tony and sought his approval…was the first thing. And Tony does not have, I don’t know what you would say, a Latin/Spanish accent, of any kind really, and… you know you wouldn’t necessarily select him out of a line of ten people and go ‘This guy’s Latino.’ So I didn’t feel as though I was violating some thing, where, here’s this guy who’s clearly ethnic in some way and it’s sort of being whitewashed by Ben Affleck the actor. I felt very comfortable that if Tony was cool with it, I was cool with it.” Chris Terrio then added, “He’s fourth generation. Which was another interesting thing for me... to say that there are Latinos in this country… who... he was here long before my family was, certainly, being Italian-American and Irish-American. It’s funny that, at least in my mind, you hear the name Mendez and you think New American… at least I do living in New York. But, in fact, Tony has American creds that go much deeper into American history than I do.”

The sentiment that Tony is an American without an accent so it’s okay to have a white actor play him highlights a big issue. There is a tendency to other minorities which is very dangerous. 

Edited by Dani
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Worth mentioning here, THR article about Ray Fisher and Warner Bros, etc: https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/features/ray-fisher-opens-up-about-justice-league-joss-whedon-and-warners-i-dont-believe-some-of-these-people-are-fit-for-leadership

There are other issues brought up, but what stood out to me was how people who are - at best - cluelessly insensitive about people of color and portrayals of POC are in charge of projects involving POC.

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Deadline's article on SAG-AFTRA’s panel on disability inclusion in Hollywood: https://deadline.com/2021/04/sag-aftra-panel-disability-hollywood-actors-gains-1234735412/

excerpt:

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“There are just too few opportunities for performers with disabilities,” said Camryn Manheim, SAG-AFTRA’s national secretary-treasurer, in her opening remarks. “In fact, people with disabilities make up less than 3.5% of all onscreen characters. And when we do see characters with disabilities, they are often played by non-disabled actors. It’s a fact, the number of people with disabilities onscreen and working on set and behind the camera is just dismally low, and that must be addressed by our industry.”

Even so, the panelists agreed that things are getting better, both in the casting of disabled performers and with on-screen depictions of persons with disabilities.

Jay Ruderman, whose Ruderman Family Foundation is one of the nation’s leading advocates for the disabled – and for many years one of Hollywood’s harshest critics – noted that white papers the foundation has issued found that “A couple of years back, only 5% of characters with disabilities were authentically portrayed; then it jumped up to 22% a few years ago. We also did a marketing study showing that 25% of the United States population, the world population has a disability and there’s billions of dollars that the industry can make by authentic portrayal. And most people in this survey said they want to see authentic portrayal.”

But Hollywood has been slow to catch on. “In the last 30 years, half of the men that have won the Best Actor Oscar won for playing a disability when they themselves did not have a disability,” Ruderman said. “There is a mind-set that playing disability by an able-bodied actor is great acting.”

Hollander, who is an amputee, quoted Christine Bruno, her counterpart on the SAG-AFTRA New York local’s Performers with Disabilities Committee, who said that “disabled performers are often not allowed to play ourselves because disability is often seen in the industry as a technical skill or a bag of tricks, and many fellow actors get awarded for their performances.” Hollander added that “We’re here to tell you that disability is not a technical skill: it is a lived experience. So where do we go from here?”

 

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Actors with disabilities should absolutely have more opportunities beyond being limited to characters specifically written as having a disability. But even if Hollywood couldn't get its act together to do that, it could nurture so much talent JUST by committing to casting characters with disability authentically. Actors with disabilities could clean up in genre films/shows - how many sci-fi or superhero shows feature a character who has an amputation, uses a wheelchair, or is blind? If Hollywood could at least start there and stop casting able-bodied actors in these roles, it could make such a huge difference.

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I remember watching a documentary about disability and film.  One commenter gave an example of casting a scene of a guy running into an ex-girlfriend in a bar.   Casting defaults to white, slim, cisgender, and not disabled.  The ex-girlfriend is a blank slate and could be played by anyone.  There many roles that on paper are blank slates where the casting could go a variety of ways but people in the industry default to the same type over and over.

When casting Lethal Weapon,  when Danny Glover’s name came up the director Richard Donner initially said no because Murtaugh was white.  Luckily the casting director pushed back and asked where in the script it said Murtaugh was white.  The script said nothing about the race of the characters and Donner said it made him realize he defaulted to white.  He said the situation made him realize he had some subconscious biases that he needed to be aware of.  He was someone who had marched in support of civil rights and it never occurred to him that he could have that kind of bias.  It’s good that Donner reevaluated rather than get defensive and double down on the insistence that Murtaugh was white.

There’s this idea that the script must specify that the character is disabled, non-white, not straight, etc... in order to cast more diversely.   But it should be that if the character isn’t specifically labeled then casting should be wide open to a variety of people.

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48 minutes ago, Luckylyn said:

When casting Lethal Weapon,  when Danny Glover’s name came up the director Richard Donner initially said no because Murtaugh was white.  Luckily the casting director pushed back and asked where in the script it said Murtaugh was white.  The script said nothing about the race of the characters and Donner said it made him realize he defaulted to white.  He said the situation made him realize he had some subconscious biases that he needed to be aware of.  He was someone who had marched in support of civil rights and it never occurred to him that he could have that kind of bias.  It’s good that Donner reevaluated rather than get defensive and double down on the insistence that Murtaugh was white.

That's interesting, because all the tropes of Glover's character are things that would be considered to be the purview of a white man, in 1980s LA - He's a successful police detective with the respect of all his peers, he lives in an extremely nice suburban house with his lovely family of stay-at-home wife and high achieving kids, he's considering early retirement without ever having to worry about the financial aspect of giving up work. Not that black people couldn't live this existence but, outside of The Cosby Show, it wasn't the sort of portrayal people were used to on the screen. I can definitely see why Donner assumed he would be a white guy.

Lethal Weapon ended up portraying a relatively progressive image of African-Americans and, while they do delve into the racism of South Africa and then the gang violence of early 90s LA, I don't recall there being any 'racial issues' in the first movie. I guess, because the script was already written before Glover was cast.

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Kevin Feige admits mistake in casting Tilda Swinton as The Ancient One in Doctor Strange.

Quote

"We’re not going to do the cliché of the wizened, old, wise Asian man. But it was a wake-up call to say, ‘Well, wait a minute, is there any other way to figure it out? Is there any other way to both not fall into the cliché and cast an Asian actor?’ And the answer to that, of course, is yes."

 

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As Ryan Coogler and Winston Duke handily demonstrated with M'Baku in Black Panther (who was cringingly known as "Man-Ape" in the comics) and as I'm sure Destin Daniel Cretton and Tony Leung Chiu-wai will demonstrate just as handily with Wenwu in Shang-Chi. "Offensive POC stereotype" or "3-dimensional white character" are not the only options.

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I have mentioned before the problematic issue of casting in Hollywood defaulting to white in situations where the character has not been described as a particular ethnicity.   I just watched this video about how the default to white bias being such an issue that even in situations where the characters were described in a way that shows they were intended to be a person of color there are people who still default to white.  She specifically focuses on the racist reaction to the casting for the character Rue in Hunger Games.  I only saw the movies but my sister read the books was confused about why people were surprised Rue was black because she felt the book made it clear.  Part of the problem is Hollywood’s horrible pattern of casting white actors in roles that were originally written to be a person of color.

The Day Rue “Became” Black

 

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