Melton: Whites… Camera… ACTION!

I’m so glad that we live in a world where movie castings are almost entirely color-blind and the actors hired are always the best and most suitable for the role. Wait.

In case you haven’t been to the movies lately, or ever, they are overwhelming white. This has been the case since the birth of movies and despite how far we have “advanced” as a society in terms of racism, we still allow this whitewashing to prevail.

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Children need role models; someone to look up to and strive to be like. With how little people of color are represented in movies, it leaves children of color very few role models to pick from. When young children are given no one that resembles them to relate to and admire, they are left with dashed dreams and low self esteem. How are young black girls supposed to view themselves when every Disney Princess is the same shade of vanilla? Leslie Jones commented on the effect of representation in her life, “The day I saw Whoopi Goldberg on television, I cried so hard because I kept looking at my daddy going, ‘Oh my God! There’s somebody on TV who looks like me! She looks like me! Daddy! I can be on TV. I can be on TV, I can do it. Look at her. Look at her. She looks just like me.” Without that representation, that little girl may have never believed she could even have dreams of being on TV, let alone accomplish those dreams.

Representation isn’t worth diddly squat if it isn’t accurate representation. The phrase “token black character” is prevalent in most TV shows and movies nowadays. Casting directors have an unspoken rule that they must cast a black actor in a minor role, you know, to make sure they aren’t being “racist”. The problem is that this character is either the stereotyped version of a black person, or they are the background color to the white show. Is that the message you want to be perpetuating to the young black children of our nation? That the “token black character” is all they can aspire to be?

Accurate representation is why is it is so screwed up for a white person to be playing an ethnic role. Some might say it’s “discriminatory” to not hire a white actor for a role simply because they are white. However, considering the atrocious job Emma Stone did at changing her heritage to star in Aloha as a Hawaiian, I think it is fair to say that they should have cast an actual Hawaiian actress for the part. Or how about the American born and raised, Rooney Mara (who did her very best at being Native American, I’m sure) playing Princess Tiger Lily in Pan? I will never be convinced that she did a better job than a Native American actress could have done, considering they would have the tremendous advantage of actually being Native American. White people need to quit playing ethnic characters because when they do they just perpetuate stereotypes about that culture. This is best modeled by Mickey Rooney’s portrayal of Holly Golightly’s Japanese neighbor, Mr. Yunoshi, in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Rooney faked a “Japanese” accent, temperament, and level of intelligence and proceeded to piss off all of Japan. These blatant disregards for accurate cultural and ethnic representation in the media just feed the institutionalized racism in our country.

So, to all the movie directors out there, next time you’re casting a movie just remember: there are other, better fitting options besides white actors. It’s a radical concept, I know. You can start small though. For example, if the movie is set in Egypt, maybe hire some African actors (I’m talking to you, Ridley Scott)!