Let’s get real about race in Hollywood filmmaking. We long for diversity but as soon as it is given to us people threaten to boycott the movie.
Racially motivated criticism of Hollywood films has been going on for quite some time. One side of the fence is embracing Hollywood’s quest for diversity. The other side however, seems to have a hard time accepting it. To the other side, you do realize that the world consists of more than just one race, right?
The highly anticipated “Star Wars: The Force Awakening” premiered a new trailer a few weeks ago and caused quite a commotion because the actor featured in the trailer was African- American.
The #BoycottStarWars was a trending topic on social media sites like Twitter and Instagram with people outpouring their hate for the casting of this character with one person tweeting, #BoycottStarWars because it will be ghetto garbage, according to msnbc.com.
The upcoming film features three characters of color including John Boyega, the African-American actor featured in the trailer.
The Hollywood film industry has been primarily a Caucasian-driven profession and still continues to be dominated by them. However many actors of color are beginning to break down those barriers and are proving minorities are just as capable of playing complex roles and not the typical roles they get typecasted in.
“Being a Persian actress in the industry can be difficult,” Tannaz Shastiri, an actress and a communication major with an emphasis in film, said. “People try and discourage me because I look different, I’m not the typical blonde hair, blue eyed girl that gets the guy in the film.”
It makes no sense why people get so upset over diverse casting. Films should reflect what people in the real world look like. All ethnicities go to watch movies and want to see themselves reflected in a big way on-screen and not just reduced down to small and a lot of times, stereotypical roles.
“Star Wars” is not the only big named film that received backlash over its casting. When the first “Hunger Games” film premiered, people were upset over the casting of Rue, Cinna and Thresh. African-American actors played all three characters and again people on social media responded with extreme disappointment.
According to an article on CNN, a fan of the book tweeted, “Awkward moment when Rue is some black girl and not the little innocent blonde you pictured.”
As a fan of both the book and the film, I was quite confused at the outrage because Suzanne Collins novel specifically describes both Rue and Thresh as having “dark brown skin.” The character of Cinna is the only one that probably could have been played by anyone because there was no description of his ethnicity.
The interesting part about the race controversy surrounding the “Hunger Games” is that there did not seem to be a problem with the casting of Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss. I’m a huge fan of hers but in the novel Katniss is described as having “olive skin” and “straight black hair” both of which Lawrence does not have.
I mean, if we are going to question race in casting decisions why not question all of it and not just the ones that feature minorities. If we are staying true to the description given in the book then a Native American or even a Persian woman should have been cast as Katniss.
“It is all about connections in Hollywood so you are going to get typecasted a lot,” Shastiri said. “For minorities in the industry, the roles are limited for us but I do believe it is getting more diverse.”
It seems we are still stuck in a time in which people have a hard time evolving with the change. Being an actor or actress is a profession just like being a doctor or teacher and I don’t know how many people question the ability of their teacher or doctor based on the color of their skin.
Boycotting a film because a character does not look the way you want is pretty extreme.
I hope Hollywood films continue to feature more actors and actresses of ethnically diverse backgrounds.
People who have an issue with diversity are just going to have to get used to it as “Star Wars” actor, Boyega simply put it in his response to his critics.
Published November 4th, 2015