Posts contrassegnato dai tag ‘actor's discrimination’

In the past, Hollywood didn’t consider an actor’s skin color when casting for historical films. Elizabeth Taylor played Cleopatra, Richard Burton played Mark Antony, Sylvia Sidney became Madame Butterfly, and Yul Brynner played the King of Siam. It was no longer the era when African Americans were openly discriminated against and portrayed by white actors in blackface. Instead, these casting choices were based on artistic and commercial decisions, hiring the biggest stars of the moment regardless of their ethnicity or skin color. However, this choice was rightfully criticized for reinforcing the monopoly of white, preferably Anglo-Saxon, actors in the film and entertainment industry. Other actors, including people of color, were only offered minor roles such as the Egyptian slave, the “Indian” who war-cries while attacking the stagecoach, the Japanese kamikaze, or the black plantation worker.

Despite the common stereotypes about “other” ethnic groups, some wonder whether Hollywood was actually racist or if discrimination was limited to the star system, excluding non-white actors from major roles. However, it’s possible that the history of domination and the belief in white superiority was hidden in the assumption that white actors could play any role while Native Americans could only portray “Indians,” African Americans were limited to “black” roles, and so on.

The great revolution of our times, which however often generates incredulous or condemning comments, is that black, Asian, and Latin American actors are beginning to play roles that historically do not belong to their ancestors, emancipating themselves from the subordinate roles that have been assigned to them in the past. They work and are chosen only because they are talented actors and actresses. This is the case with Queen Charlotte played by Afro-British actress India Ria Amarteifio or the masterful Arsène Lupin played by french-senegal actor Omar Sy. Undoubtedly, the sensitivity of the public has changed, and billions of non-white viewers have entered the film and TV market, but it is also worth considering that more and more talented actors and actresses of every origin are graduating from the theater and acting schools of multi-ethnic metropolises in Europe and America, capable of acting well regardless of their family or ethnic background.

It is a changing world, but one that is still divided between young and old. The former find nothing strange in seeing the same society they live in represented, even in the media; the latter are scandalized by the fact that Queen Charlotte is played by a colored actress, but they are the same people who were fine with Liz Taylor’s Cleopatra and Sylvia Sidney’s Madama Butterfly. And perhaps here there is a residue of past racist ideologies, in thinking that not all actors are allowed the freedom to represent any character, regardless of skin color. It will take time for this prejudice to disappear, but the rapid economic and political growth of once marginalized peoples, now involved in globalization, will certainly accelerate the disappearance of this legacy of a not-so-edifying history.