Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Race Relations

I apologise for the continuing river of rant that appears to be running through my blogs at the moment. I would love nothing more than to write about me spectacularly falling over in front of an audition panel or coming a cropper up against a fiendishly mean director. I love telling you about how I’m forced to crawl around on the floor scrabbling for stale bread or running around a church hall in a swimming costume all in the name of work but sadly I have none of those tales at the moment. The world of auditioning is eerily quiet for me at the moment so until someone asks me to partake in a pointless improvisation or the kind of drama game that pulls on all your cringe muscles, you’ll just have to put up with my whinges.

Now, I’ve talked about race issues in the world of acting before. It was an issue I hadn’t planned on revisiting for a while but after seeing the new Spider Man film, I felt it needed addressing again. The film, if you haven’t seen it, is actually pretty good. The scripting is dodgier than Made In Chelsea and it doesn’t credit the audience with even a teaspoonful of intelligence but the acting is bloody wonderful. If you’ve seen Andrew Garfield before then you’re probably already aware that he’s damn good and he therefore plays a very fine lead. And it’s not just him, pretty much everyone in the cast is very strong and extremely watchable. 

But, it’s safe to say that when it comes to race, the casting of the film is more limited than my patience during an amateur production of Romeo and Juliet. A quick look at the featured roles  in this film and you’ll quickly see that Caucasian is very much the order of the day. Apart from a couple of couple of black actors who play a taxi driver and a crane operator and have been granted perhaps one line each, there is only one other person that I spotted within the film that wasn’t Caucasian, That character was the bad guy’s equally evil helper type person (sorry if my technical jargon leaves you feeling lost and confused) who was played, sadly not particularly well, by an Asian actor. And that, my friends, was it. A New York taxi driver, a construction worker and a villain. It’s the type of casting even the Village People would steer clear of. Well done, Hollywood. Let’s get the bunting out, you’ve excelled yourself again.

This raises two very obvious points. Firstly, although I’m the first person to complain about obvious ‘box-ticking’, the lack of characters portrayed by ethnic minority actors is quite alarming. As I said, I’m not saying that every single film should be employ some sort of skewed Noah’s Ark where they ensure there’s one of every race, but a bit of diversity wouldn’t have gone amiss. And hey, maybe include at least one actress of an ethnic minority? Sorry, just a thought. I realise my lady views are pretty extreme.

But then there are also the small issue of the roles they’ve been given. The only person of any authority also happens to be evil. That’s some real nice work there, Hollywood. I’m not saying you’ve done it deliberately but still, c’mon. I’ve often mentioned the hair-tearing stereotypes when it comes to ethnic casting. If there’s a character who’s Middle Eastern then you can pretty much guarantee they’ll have terrorist tendencies or they’re in an arranged marriage. That’s it. That’s your choice. I’ve auditioned for a lot of Middle Eastern roles and not one of them has just been your normal, everyday kinda gal who gets crisps in her hair and falls over in shop doorways. Oh no. They’ve all either been terrorists or married to one or are somewhere in the chain of an arranged marriage where they’re either being forced into one, living through one or are suffering the after-effects of escaping for one. (I had to audition for such a role in a branch of McDonalds. It makes for quite the Happy Meal atmosphere when you’ve got an actress wailing about being burnt alive…) And the problem doesn’t seem to be any easier for Asian and Middle Eastern men because as far as I can tell, you often play a villain or a geek. Again, no regular roles for you my ethnic friend.

Much like the problem with the lack of diverse roles for women, I think that there’s such a lack of diversity at the top that this then trickles down into the work that is then produces. So far this year I’ve seen Prometheus, Spider Man and The Avengers at the cinema and, as far as I can remember, not one of these contained a part (excluding extras) played by an actress from an ethnic minority and they had very few parts played by men who weren’t white. I’ve also had a quick look over the blockbuster-type films I haven’t seen this year such as Men In Black 3, Snow White and The Huntsman, 21 Jump Street and Wrath of the Titans and there’s an alarming lack of ethnic actors, especially of the variety that possess boobs. The only film that has an extensive list of ethnic performers is, unsurprisingly, The Dictator, which is a film that essentially mocks the Middle East. However, for women the roles are still pretty poor. I haven’t seen it but the two main actresses within the film appear to be Megan Fox and Anna Faris and, well yeah, you know what I’m going to say…Other than that, there appear to be a small army of ‘Virgin Guards’ played by Middle Eastern looking actresses who seem to essentially play ‘sexy’ guards. As roles go, they’re not the ones that dreams are built on. 

As with every single other blog I write, I don’t have a solution to the problem that I’ve just carelessly launched into the air. And, as I’ve said countless times before, I don’t want castings to change just because everyone feels like they have to be seen ticking the right boxes. Creating a more diverse cast should be instinctive and shouldn’t need someone like me to keep wittering on about it. I don’t want to seem like an actress with a racial, sexist chip on my shoulder but if you give a girl a racist, sexist, shoulder-shaped deep-fat fryer and, apart from the sore, burnt shoulder, then the results are obvious. So please, Hollywood, do something quick because I’ve got very weak shoulders…

1 comment:

  1. Very well said. As you quite rightly put, diverse casts shouldn't be there to tick boxes, they should be there because the world has a diverse cast.