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-   -   Switching the Race of Characters (https://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?t=877093)

armedmonkey 06-12-2019 09:53 PM

Switching the Race of Characters
 
First off, I know anything involving race is touchy, so to start with I just want everybody to try to stay chill. So here we go.

As much as I hate the racist trolls who lose there minds when something like a black Spiderman comes out, I am similarly annoyed when people on the other side of the coin panic about "white-washing". So, in this thread I want to examine which characters can be racially switched while it still makes sense to the story line, and which ones can't.

I'm going to start with those that can't. First, pretty much any historical figure because, well, come on. That one's easy. It gets more complicated in fiction. There are some that just HAVE to be played by a specific race due to their iconic nature. I can't imagine Thor played by anybody else than a big blond white guy and I can't imagine Black Panther played by anybody else but an athletic black guy. But how far does "iconic" go?

Superman, I would argue, is iconic enough that he needs to be played by a white guy with dark hair (preferably with the little "s" curl on his forehead). James Bond is iconic, but it's a bit different because his iconic nature is more just Britishness. Idris Elba would make a phenomenal James Bond, but as bad ass as he is, I can't see him as Superman. Batman, though....?

Idris Elba is a good example for what I want to get into, because while on the surface it would seem like he's a great choice to play The Gunslinger, it get's a bit problematic when you start thinking about Susana in "The Drawing of the Three". She absolutely HAS to be black, no question there, and I would argue that Eddie has to be white and the gunslinger does too just for the storyline.

Now, to touch on whitewashing, the accusations of that can annoy me. Take Charlize Theron as The Major in "Ghost in the Shell". Why did anybody care? The characther herslelf inhabits an artificial body. What difference does race make in something like that? And as far as Japanese culture is going to be damaged by "white washing", I'm going to have to laugh at that a bit. I seriously doubt anybody in Japan was bothered by it.

Anyway, um... discuss?

Walken After Midnight 06-12-2019 10:19 PM

I think Idris Elba would be fine for James Bond. If James Bond is meant to be a single person, then he'd be about 90 years old now, so the film series has already jumped the shark in that sense. If one thinks of "James Bond" as a service name assigned to various British secret agents over the years, then there's no reason it couldn't be a black man in 2019. I guess the next question would be: could there be a woman called "James"?

DPRK 06-12-2019 10:21 PM

Well, in MY production I don't HAVE to do anything except fulfill my artistic vision. If a Korean woman is cast as Othello, then that's who will be appearing on stage. Note that you don't have to be a drunk to play an alcoholic, let's say.

ETA I would never mess with any of the Bard's lines, though. That's not cool.

armedmonkey 06-12-2019 10:40 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by DPRK (Post 21695483)
Well, in MY production I don't HAVE to do anything except fulfill my artistic vision. If a Korean woman is cast as Othello, then that's who will be appearing on stage. Note that you don't have to be a drunk to play an alcoholic, let's say.

ETA I would never mess with any of the Bard's lines., though. That's not cool.

Ah, but you're missing my point regarding Susana. Race may not matter, but sometimes it does. Othello is ALL about race. That's the whole plot!

Acsenray 06-12-2019 10:52 PM

The race of the characters can certainly be important to the plot. The actor isn’t actually the character.

armedmonkey 06-13-2019 12:39 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Acsenray (Post 21695516)
The race of the characters can certainly be important to the plot. The actor isnít actually the character.

But audience perception matters, no?

I am not talking about the ability of an actor. Let me make that VERY clear. I am talking about casting. A brilliant actor can/t play every role in existence. I want to talk about the roles, not the actors.

MrDibble 06-13-2019 04:08 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by armedmonkey (Post 21695445)
I can't imagine Thor played by anybody else than a big blond white guy

Thankfully, Marvel doesn't have your limited imagination.

Hell, Thor's been a frog...

Quote:

Take Charlize Theron as The Major in "Ghost in the Shell".
Look, I know all white people look alike, but ... that was Scarlett Johansson.

By all accounts, the people behind the original were cool with it, as were most Japanese people. Stoked, even.

Asuka 06-13-2019 05:35 AM

I always found it bizarre when they change the race of a character who was already a minority actor to begin with and apparently people are okay with it.

Those "Black Boba Fett" rumors that we're going around a few years ago actually made me angry due to how people were acting as if this was the greatest decision of all time on the rumor boards. We already had a great Maori actor play him, why did Disney suddenly muse changing his canonical race for absolutely no reason? Just either get Temuera Morrison to play him again or another Maori actor if you wanted somebody younger.

RealityChuck 06-13-2019 05:50 AM

Historical figures have to be the correct race?

Tell that to Lin-Manuel Miranda.

N9IWP 06-13-2019 05:51 AM

I thought Michael Clarke Duncan was a great choice to play Kingpin (since Kingpin's main physical attribute is bigness)

Brian

Wrenching Spanners 06-13-2019 06:14 AM

A fairly famous switch a few years ago was the choice to have the adult version of Harry Potter’s Hermione Grainger played by a black woman in the play Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.
https://www.theguardian.com/stage/20...black-hermione

I think the success of switching the race of a character or cast depends on how far-fetched the story is, how much ethnicity/culture is part of the plot, and how close the later production is intended to follow the original. I think a black or Asian cast doing Fiddler on the Roof in a Russian village setting would be a bit jarring. However, switch the setting to India, have an Indian cast, make a few tweaks and you could probably get it to work. On the other hand, doing Fiddler on the Roof with a multi-racial cast in any setting would take a substantial amount away from the plot and reduce the musical to essentially a concert.

Cheesesteak 06-13-2019 06:24 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Acsenray (Post 21695516)
The race of the characters can certainly be important to the plot. The actor isnít actually the character.

Context matters.

As mentioned already, you can cast our founding fathers as minorities (Hamilton) and not skip a beat. I'd say you could cast a black Superman, or James Bond, play it dead straight and it would work just fine.

However, if you're doing a serious Civil War drama, and cast black actors a slaves, white actors as slave owners and politicians and a historically accurate mix of other actors, you can't just throw in Denzel as Robert E. Lee and let it go at that. You can't really play that change straight and have it work, the casting pulls you out of the narrative.

CalMeacham 06-13-2019 06:36 AM

I agree with the OP about the uproar over the casting of Ghost in the Shell being absurd.

There has been plenty of both race- and gender-switching already, especially on stage. Heck, Pearl Bailey played a black Dolly Levi in Hello Dolly! back in 1967 (!)

Whoopi Goldberg took over the role of Pseudolus (previously a white male role) in a Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum in 1996.

There have been tons of gender-reversed plays (I've seen gender-reversed Waiting for Godot and Taming of the Shrew -- with "Peter" jokes taking the place of "Kate" jokes.) A feature of one science fiction convention I regularly attend is a gender-reversed episode of Star Trek TOS.

We haven't had a black James Bond yet, but there have been two different black Felix Leiters. And Will Smith played what was effectively a black 19th century Bond in The Wild, Wild West, something that actually added something when they made Dr. Loveless an unrepentant Southern racist. (Jim West was played by the white Robert Conrad in the TV original).

I'm even okay with blackface, yellowface, and the inverses of these, under the proper circumstances, although this is a VERY touchy subject still. But the multiple incidences in Cloud Atlas didn't bother me at all -- the whole point of the film was the interconnectedness of human lives, so it was altogether appropriate to have men playing female roles, women playing male roles, white people in black roles, black people in white roles, white people playing people of oriental ancestry and (the first time I think I've seen this) a woman of oriental ancestry playing a white woman. Also a black woman playing an Asian man.

Acsenray 06-13-2019 07:28 AM

Right, the context is not the context of the story. It’s the context of race in society and in the entertainment industry.

The problem of casting and race has to do with non-white and non-male actors, writers, and other creators being locked out of large parts of the industry. It’s not about whether in an artistic sense an actor of X race or gender or what ever should be allowed to portray a character of Y race or gender or what ever.

Because an actor is someone pretending to be someone ē isn’t, and whether it’s oretending to be a doctor, or a space alien, or someone of a different race or gender isn’t an artistic obstacle.

That it seems physically possible for a white woman to disguise herself as an Asian woman more easily than a black man to disguise himself as a white man is not an acting problem. It’s a problem created by the prejudices of our society.

Balthisar 06-13-2019 07:33 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by CalMeacham (Post 21695723)
I'm even okay with blackface, yellowface, and the inverses of these, under the proper circumstances, although this is a VERY touchy subject still.

There was a time I wasn't bothered by Mr. Yunioshi, but these days, it completely ruins the experience of the film for me. I'd like to see a modern example of yellowface, well-executed.

Acsenray 06-13-2019 07:35 AM

Itís not unbelievable for an audience to buy an actor who is black to buy ēm in a role as a white character. Thatís a societal issue, not an inherent one.

armedmonkey 06-13-2019 07:44 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by MrDibble (Post 21695657)
Thankfully, Marvel doesn't have your limited imagination.

Hell, Thor's been a frog...

Look, I know all white people look alike, but ... that was Scarlett Johansson.

By all accounts, the people behind the original were cool with it, as were most Japanese people. Stoked, even.

I believe you are WILLFULLY missing the point here.

JRDelirious 06-13-2019 07:49 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by MrDibble (Post 21695657)
Look, I know all white people look alike, but ... that was Scarlett Johansson.

By all accounts, the people behind the original were cool with it, as were most Japanese people. Stoked, even.

In Japan they were aware that, uneasy as it may be to recognize it, no major distributor would lay out the big, big bucks for a live action GITS without some international headliner in the lead, to reach worldwide audiences beyond already existing fandom since most of humanity has no knowledge of the original. (Shirow of course doesn't mind at all as long as the check is large and it clears, allowing him to keep doing his bizarre new stuff).

It doesn't help, though, that in the comic/animation everyone in Section 9 is Japanese in name and culture, and that it is an established understanding that in Manga/Anime, characters intended to be Japanese are drawn the same generic-cartoon style anyway. So "westernizing" it did shake up many.


Quote:

Originally Posted by Asuka (Post 21695685)
Those "Black Boba Fett" rumors that we're going around a few years ago actually made me angry due to how people were acting as if this was the greatest decision of all time on the rumor boards. We already had a great Maori actor play him, why did Disney suddenly muse changing his canonical race for absolutely no reason? Just either get Temuera Morrison to play him again or another Maori actor if you wanted somebody younger.

That is clearly an American-Market-centric calculation. Not for the sake of representing a minority, but for a big sale with the African-American audiences.


Quote:

Originally Posted by Cheesesteak (Post 21695715)
Context matters.

As mentioned already, you can cast our founding fathers as minorities (Hamilton) and not skip a beat. I'd say you could cast a black Superman, or James Bond, play it dead straight and it would work just fine.

However, if you're doing a serious Civil War drama, and cast black actors a slaves, white actors as slave owners and politicians and a historically accurate mix of other actors, you can't just throw in Denzel as Robert E. Lee and let it go at that. You can't really play that change straight and have it work, the casting pulls you out of the narrative.

Very well put. With historic narratives, you are either playing it dead straight to "the facts, ma'am" or doing an artistic-license symbolic thing, mixing them will just be confusing. With pure fiction, you may have far more flexibility. (Of course, you still should try to be consistent in-universe: a black Bond works better in 2020 than 1960 because Britain itself is more multiracial today.)

CalMeacham 06-13-2019 08:02 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Balthisar (Post 21695778)
There was a time I wasn't bothered by Mr. Yunioshi, but these days, it completely ruins the experience of the film for me. I'd like to see a modern example of yellowface, well-executed.

Have a look at Cloud Atlas, then. I thought the makeup was well done, not an insulting stereotype. I suspect it bothered people a bit to see James d'Arcy and Hugo Weaving with epicanthic folds, because they were familiar with the actors (who, after all, appear as other character in the film). But I'll bet that, like me, most people didn't realize that Halle Berry also played an Asian character until they saw the scene credited to her in the closing credits.

MrDibble 06-13-2019 08:16 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by armedmonkey (Post 21695790)
I believe you are WILLFULLY missing the point here.

So your point wasn't that you can only imagine a big, blonde White male Thor?

Acsenray 06-13-2019 08:23 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by armedmonkey (Post 21695445)
There are some that just HAVE to be played by a specific race due to their iconic nature. I can't imagine Thor played by anybody else than a big blond white guy

That's a failure of your imagination, not something inherent to the fictional character.

Jesus was likely not a tall, blond white man. Whatever he did look like, he has been portrayed with many different appearances, all to the satisfaction of a variety of audiences.

So there's no reason Thor has to be big, blond, white, or a guy, for a story about Thor to work.

For millennia, dramatic performances were limited to people who could stand right in front of you. So whatever those people looked like, human imagination was sufficient to have them play whatever roles needed to be played. So this is not a limitation of human nature.

Alessan 06-13-2019 08:50 AM

Stage is not the same as film and TV. For the latter, audiences demand a higher level of realism. That's just the way it is. Film a movie just like a stage play, with the same style of staging, acting, direction, with the same type of sets and lights, and people will complain that it doesn't look real.

Acsenray 06-13-2019 09:00 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Alessan (Post 21695904)
Stage is not the same as film and TV. For the latter, audiences demand a higher level of realism. That's just the way it is. Film a movie just like a stage play, with the same style of staging, acting, direction, with the same type of sets and lights, and people will complain that it doesn't look real.

Again, this is a societal issue, not one inherent to being human.

Alessan 06-13-2019 09:17 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Acsenray (Post 21695921)
Again, this is a societal issue, not one inherent to being human.

So what?

WOOKINPANUB 06-13-2019 09:19 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Acsenray (Post 21695851)
That's a failure of your imagination, not something inherent to the fictional character.

Jesus was likely not a tall, blond white man. Whatever he did look like, he has been portrayed with many different appearances, all to the satisfaction of a variety of audiences.

So there's no reason Thor has to be big, blond, white, or a guy, for a story about Thor to work.

For millennia, dramatic performances were limited to people who could stand right in front of you. So whatever those people looked like, human imagination was sufficient to have them play whatever roles needed to be played. So this is not a limitation of human nature.

I get your (valid) point. The difference, to I who am woefully ignorant in matters of the bible / Christianity, is that the Christ story was created/passed down by dudes who "cast" his character in their own image i.e., lily white guy as opposed to swarthy which he certainly would have been. Even though we conceptually know where he came from, his background / culture is secondary to his words and deeds. I think that's what makes it possible for the worshiper to picture him any way they want.

I'm almost as ignorant of superhero culture as I am of Christianity, but isn't the canon surrounding Thor steeped in Norse mythology? It seems like that aspect is a pretty crucial part of his character and, to my mind, yes, Norse = big, blonde white guy.

I do agree, though, that more often than not race needn't be a determining factor is casting a role.

Inner Stickler 06-13-2019 09:37 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Alessan (Post 21695904)
For the latter, audiences demand a higher level of realism. That's just the way it is.

Is it realistic for people to outrun an explosion's fireball? Is it realistic to get punched in the face multiple times and simply shake it off? Is it realistic to fall multiple stories or crash into walls and through windows and survive with minimal injuries? Is it realistic for a person who's flatlined to be revived by a defibrillator? Is it realistic to own a large two bedroom apartment in NYC and pay peanuts for it? TV shows and movies are not really any more realistic than stage plays.

Does this character need to be a man and does this character need to be white are two questions that I find myself asking about a lot of material. My experience is that quite often, the answer to both is no.

Wrenching Spanners 06-13-2019 09:37 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Acsenray (Post 21695851)
That's a failure of your imagination, not something inherent to the fictional character.

Jesus was likely not a tall, blond white man. Whatever he did look like, he has been portrayed with many different appearances, all to the satisfaction of a variety of audiences.

So there's no reason Thor has to be big, blond, white, or a guy, for a story about Thor to work.

For millennia, dramatic performances were limited to people who could stand right in front of you. So whatever those people looked like, human imagination was sufficient to have them play whatever roles needed to be played. So this is not a limitation of human nature.

Itís still about context though. Is Thor the god of 14th century Vikings, where both Thor and the Vikings are a central part of the plot? If so, a black Thor creates a dissonance that distracts from the production. On the other hand, when considering an alternate version of a comic book hero with only a superficial connection to Norse mythology, if the Norse origin isnít central to the universe, thereís no reason race needs to be. Also, thereís other attributes besides race. Eddie Remayne would make a terrible Thor.

Acsenray 06-13-2019 09:37 AM

Maybe, right now, to your mind, "Norse = big, blonde white guy."

Maybe that's because you believe that:

1. There were never any dark-skinned people in Norse culture?
2. Norse people could not conceive of a mythological character who is dark-skinned?
3. That all of humanity for all of time should be constrained by what ancient Norsemen might or might not have been able to imaging in terms of skin color?

Maybe one or more of those things might be wrong.

And, regarding characters from Norse mythology--Idris Elba portrayed Heimdall in the Marvel movies -- https://ewedit.files.wordpress.com/2...684hr_vert.jpg -- So, what does that say about whether or not it's possible for audiences to let their imaginations stretch?

Jonathan Chance 06-13-2019 09:48 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by JRDelirious (Post 21695797)
With historic narratives, you are either playing it dead straight to "the facts, ma'am" or doing an artistic-license symbolic thing, mixing them will just be confusing. With pure fiction, you may have far more flexibility. (Of course, you still should try to be consistent in-universe: a black Bond works better in 2020 than 1960 because Britain itself is more multiracial today.)

I don't know about that. Casting Denzel Washington as Don Pedro in Much Ado About Nothing was a brilliant move. His race was completely ignored and he just played the role straight.

More recently - very recently - in Good Omens we have the lead girl, Pepper, being played by a black girl, Amma Ris and it fit in just fine. In the original book, she's a fiery, freckle-faced tomboy who's clearly meant to be traditional small village English.

Jonathan Chance 06-13-2019 09:51 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by WOOKINPANUB (Post 21695953)
I'm almost as ignorant of superhero culture as I am of Christianity, but isn't the canon surrounding Thor steeped in Norse mythology? It seems like that aspect is a pretty crucial part of his character and, to my mind, yes, Norse = big, blonde white guy.

And, since we're on the subject of Thor and how the Scandinavians see him.

How the Scandinavians see Thor

WOOKINPANUB 06-13-2019 09:55 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Acsenray (Post 21695986)
Maybe, right now, to your mind, "Norse = big, blonde white guy."

Maybe that's because you believe that:

1. There were never any dark-skinned people in Norse culture?
2. Norse people could not conceive of a mythological character who is dark-skinned?
3. That all of humanity for all of time should be constrained by what ancient Norsemen might or might not have been able to imaging in terms of skin color?

Maybe one or more of those things might be wrong.

And, regarding characters from Norse mythology--Idris Elba portrayed Heimdall in the Marvel movies -- https://ewedit.files.wordpress.com/2...684hr_vert.jpg -- So, what does that say about whether or not it's possible for audiences to let their imaginations stretch?

Possibly. I mean, were there any dark skinned people in Norse culture? That's a serious question because I honestly don't know. Even if that's true, the VAST majority of people, when picturing Vikings in general and (superhero)Thor in particular, will picture a big, white blond guy. If I'm casting for a movie (less so for a play)my goal is going to be to immerse the audience in the experience, not distract them by asking them to completely disregard everything they've ever thought about a well known character. I'm all for our people of color / women/LGBTQ, etc. to have an equal presence in, well . . everything. I also think that doesn't mean every individual is equally suited for every role.

CalMeacham 06-13-2019 10:01 AM

Speaking of Thor and switching races, Heimdall , guardian of the Rainbow Bridge, has always been depicted in Marvel comics as pretty Nordic and white, but for the MCU films he's portrayed by Idris Elba.


The major race-change in the MCU films, of course, is Nick Fury, who was originally white in the comics, but later was re-imagined in the Ultimate Universe as a black character resembling Samuel L. Jackson. In the MCU he's been played by Samuel L. Jackson


In the movie Vampira (also released as old Dracula), David Niven, as Dracula, seeks to revive his long-lost love Vampira by giving her blood from a variety of women. One of them was black, so the revived Vampira is black, as well. This gives the filmmakers an excuse to have what would be expected to be a white European character by the black Teresa Graves.

Inner Stickler 06-13-2019 10:04 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by WOOKINPANUB (Post 21696021)
If I'm casting for a movie (less so for a play)my goal is going to be to immerse the audience in the experience,

Why? Why is it less important for a play and why would mixed race casting make the audience less immersed?

I think if there's one lesson we can take from Brecht, it's that regardless of what you do, if the audience wants to immerse itself, it fucking well will.

CaptMurdock 06-13-2019 10:10 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by MrDibble (Post 21695657)
Thankfully, Marvel doesn't have your limited imagination.

Hell, Thor's been a frog...

.

And let's not forget Garrett Morris' epic turn as the God of Thunder... :cool:

Acsenray 06-13-2019 10:18 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by WOOKINPANUB (Post 21696021)
Possibly. I mean, were there any dark skinned people in Norse culture?

Do you suppose there's a way to find out the answer? Should you find out the answer? What would the answer mean to you?

Quote:

That's a serious question because I honestly don't know.
Maybe the fact that you honestly don't know is something you can work with. Maybe not knowing might itself be something that can help unlock your imagination.

Quote:

Even if that's true, the VAST majority of people, when picturing Vikings in general and (superhero)Thor in particular, will picture a big, white blond guy.
Maybe. So what? Is it a belief that it's important to society in some way? What if one day a character that has always been thought of as white was suddenly now portrayed as black?
Or a man, now a woman?
Or a child, now an adult?
Or a human, now an extraterrestrial?
Or a god, now a mortal?
Or a young person, now old?
Or beautiful, now ugly?
Or a character with frizzy, dark hair and buck teeth now Emma Watson?
Or Rosemary Harris now Marisa Tomei https://media.vanityfair.com/photos/...May-Role.jpg)?

What happens? Has that ever happened before? And what happens after that, if it becomes, say, a popular film?

WOOKINPANUB 06-13-2019 10:19 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Inner Stickler (Post 21696038)
Why? Why is it less important for a play and why would mixed race casting make the audience less immersed?

I think if there's one lesson we can take from Brecht, it's that regardless of what you do, if the audience wants to immerse itself, it fucking well will.

Because

Quote:

Originally Posted by Alessan
Stage is not the same as film and TV. For the latter, audiences demand a higher level of realism. That's just the way it is. Film a movie just like a stage play, with the same style of staging, acting, direction, with the same type of sets and lights, and people will complain that it doesn't look real.

Maybe it's just me, but watching a play is just a completely different experience than watching a film. That's why (again, just mho) I don't really enjoy dramatic plays. To me drama necessarily needs to feel realistic.

Bijou Drains 06-13-2019 10:29 AM

in the Martian book Mindy Park was Korean American but in the movie the actress was white, Mackenzie Davis .

Little Nemo 06-13-2019 10:42 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by armedmonkey (Post 21695445)
First off, I know anything involving race is touchy, so to start with I just want everybody to try to stay chill. So here we go.

As much as I hate the racist trolls who lose there minds when something like a black Spiderman comes out, I am similarly annoyed when people on the other side of the coin panic about "white-washing". So, in this thread I want to examine which characters can be racially switched while it still makes sense to the story line, and which ones can't.

I'm going to start with those that can't. First, pretty much any historical figure because, well, come on. That one's easy. It gets more complicated in fiction. There are some that just HAVE to be played by a specific race due to their iconic nature. I can't imagine Thor played by anybody else than a big blond white guy and I can't imagine Black Panther played by anybody else but an athletic black guy. But how far does "iconic" go?

Superman, I would argue, is iconic enough that he needs to be played by a white guy with dark hair (preferably with the little "s" curl on his forehead). James Bond is iconic, but it's a bit different because his iconic nature is more just Britishness. Idris Elba would make a phenomenal James Bond, but as bad ass as he is, I can't see him as Superman. Batman, though....?

Idris Elba is a good example for what I want to get into, because while on the surface it would seem like he's a great choice to play The Gunslinger, it get's a bit problematic when you start thinking about Susana in "The Drawing of the Three". She absolutely HAS to be black, no question there, and I would argue that Eddie has to be white and the gunslinger does too just for the storyline.

Now, to touch on whitewashing, the accusations of that can annoy me. Take Charlize Theron as The Major in "Ghost in the Shell". Why did anybody care? The characther herslelf inhabits an artificial body. What difference does race make in something like that? And as far as Japanese culture is going to be damaged by "white washing", I'm going to have to laugh at that a bit. I seriously doubt anybody in Japan was bothered by it.

Anyway, um... discuss?

You have to include the context in the discussion. The reality of show business is that white people are vastly over-represented and non-white people are vastly under-represented (even when you take population percentages into account). The same disparity exists regarding genders.

So while a surface evaluation would say that casting a white actor as a non-white character is the equivalent of casting a non-white actor as a white character, that's not the reality given the context. The reality is that casting a white actor as a non-white character increases the disparity while casting a non-white actor as a white character reduces the disparity.

Little Nemo 06-13-2019 10:47 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Bijou Drains (Post 21696101)
in the Martian book Mindy Park was Korean American but in the movie the actress was white, Mackenzie Davis .

That movie also upset some Asians by casting a black actor, Chiwetel Ejiofor, as a character who was Asian in the book.

Wrenching Spanners 06-13-2019 11:23 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Acsenray (Post 21695986)
Maybe, right now, to your mind, "Norse = big, blonde white guy."

Maybe that's because you believe that:

1. There were never any dark-skinned people in Norse culture?
2. Norse people could not conceive of a mythological character who is dark-skinned?
3. That all of humanity for all of time should be constrained by what ancient Norsemen might or might not have been able to imaging in terms of skin color?

Maybe one or more of those things might be wrong.

And, regarding characters from Norse mythology--Idris Elba portrayed Heimdall in the Marvel movies -- https://ewedit.files.wordpress.com/2...684hr_vert.jpg -- So, what does that say about whether or not it's possible for audiences to let their imaginations stretch?

If Iím doing a Viking-type depiction of Thor, Iím probably doing a big guy dressed in furs and ring mail with a beard. Hair colour wouldnít be important to me, but a ruddy complexion would. I wouldnít have a character dressed up like heíd come out of a 19th century German opera.

I did a fair amount of reading about mythology, including Norse mythology, when I was a teenager, but thatís long enough ago that Iíd require a refresher before I could discuss the topic authoritatively. From what I recall, the Norse myths were much more about actions than physical descriptions. I think Balder was described as handsome and fair, which I took as fair-skinned, aka white. That implies that Thor was also white since they were brothers. There were different ďracesĒ in Norse mythology, but the races were gods, men, dwarves, giants, and Iíve probably missed a couple. I donít think any were portrayed as dark-skinned.

So yes, if a director is trying to depict a Norse type Thor, he should use a white actor. If all he cares about is the God of Thunder, then use whatever actor best fits the storyline and universe.

Acsenray 06-13-2019 11:36 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Wrenching Spanners (Post 21696238)
he should ...

Or what?

What is the consequence?

naita 06-13-2019 11:43 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Wrenching Spanners (Post 21695985)
Itís still about context though. Is Thor the god of 14th century Vikings, where both Thor and the Vikings are a central part of the plot? If so, a black Thor creates a dissonance that distracts from the production. On the other hand, when considering an alternate version of a comic book hero with only a superficial connection to Norse mythology, if the Norse origin isnít central to the universe, thereís no reason race needs to be. Also, thereís other attributes besides race. Eddie Remayne would make a terrible Thor.

The Viking era ended in the 11th century. By the 14th Scandinavia had been pretty much exclusively Christian for at least 200 years, with the exception being Sami traditional religion rather than pockets of Norse paganism. Which of course isn't relevant to you point.

As someone descended from Frey* I agree completely that Marvel Thor never was all that closely tied to mythical Thor in the first place. Wrong helmet, wrong hammer, wrong hair color.

I'm more offended by that, and stuff like Hela being sister to Loki instead of daughter than I am about Idris Elba. And to be honest the only thing about it that really irks me is when someone thinks they know Norse myths and they've only got drips through the Marvel universe.

*There's multiple parts of that line that is scholarly ... dubious

naita 06-13-2019 11:46 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Wrenching Spanners (Post 21696238)
So yes, if a director is trying to depict a Norse type Thor, he should use a white actor. If all he cares about is the God of Thunder, then use whatever actor best fits the storyline and universe.

I have to disagree. If someone did a whole series of Norse Myths for TV, like Gaiman just did in literature, I would have no problem with it having a diverse cast. I'd be annoyed if Thor was thin, not if he was Polynesian.

Chronos 06-13-2019 12:06 PM

What gets me is when people complain about "changing" the race of a character (presumably, literary) whose race was never specified to begin with. Like, did Douglas Adams ever say that Ford Prefect didn't look like Mos Def? About the limit of description we have of him is that he has one head, and he's not British.

Dale Sams 06-13-2019 12:48 PM

Done right: Heimdell. He isn't Agardian. And he's played very powerful, and unique.

Idris Elba as The Gunslinger. Who cares what 'race' he is.

The MCU Spidey-cast. They went all in!! Flash, Ned, MJ. AND their ages overshadow everything making race-swapping a non-issue.

A black Baron Mordo? Who cares.

The Ancient One (Fuck you Margaret Cho) No one took a job from an Asian...and if they did? So Fucking What. Life's not fair. Also...would it have been ok to get a Chinese actor? TO PLAY A TIBETAN?? How down the rabbit-hole of victim-hood do we want to go? Just fuck off Margaret.

Done Wrong: Diversity and inclusion for the sake of doing so. That Mary Queen of Scots movie? Just because the director "Wasnt interested in directing an all-white period piece"? So you're just pandering and throwing out token roles?

Star Trek Discovery. Ok, you've cast a lot of female roles. Thats cool....ANNNND 90% of them have the emotional stability of five year old girls. That's very empowering. I too can be a woman in charge who starts wailing at the drop of a hat.




...and that Witcher series looks like its going to be a train wreck.


You know whats REALLY done wrong? I commented a while back on the dearth of black villains and anti-heroes. How African-American audiences WANT a black character on a level of Dr. Doom or Magneto. An established comic-book writer told me that he agreed theres a modern day under-representation of black villains....but he would be damned if he would write one cause that would make him racist....somehow.

Omniscient 06-13-2019 01:39 PM

I don't think I could come up with any hard and fast rules for this. It's just too subjective.

I think Idris Elba would make an amazing James Bond. I was about to say he's getting a little too old for the role, but a quick Google tells me he's only 46! I would have guessed we was over 50. The movie version has evolved so far beyond the original source material that I feel like that's a meaningless excuse to insist on him being white. As are any claims of movie continuity, it's not like there's any similarity between Roger Moore's Bond and Craig's Bond besides their nationality and skin color.

I'm not super into the Ghost In the Shell stuff, but I can't say I see any issue with the casting of ScarJo there either.

That said, the casting of Emma Stone in Aloha felt really wrong to me. It's difficult to explain why it's different except perhaps that the character in Aloha's native Hawaiian-ness is sort of central to several plot points. They way they hand waved it away felt really dismissive.

Having an black Peter Parker or a white Spawn would probably really bother me. Having a black alternate-reality Spider-man was absolutely okay. Is it because there's source material backing it up or is it because the multiverse explicitly makes it possible? I'm not sure.

In general I think the Sfi-Fi, Fantasy, Comic genres this is going to largely be much less problematic just by their nature. Though as the OP notes....certain characters are just iconic. Making Peter Parker or Clark Kent black isn't "wrong" per se.....but it'll probably ruin the story for most people. Bad creative choice.

WOOKINPANUB 06-13-2019 02:05 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Omniscient (Post 21696548)
". . .
In general I think the Sfi-Fi, Fantasy, Comic genres this is going to largely be much less problematic just by their nature. Though as the OP notes....certain characters are just iconic. Making Peter Parker or Clark Kent black isn't "wrong" per se.....but it'll probably ruin the story for most people. Bad creative choice.

I think this sums it up; sometimes it's simply not a good creative choice. Nobody is saying it's "wrong" or that lasting consequences would ensue (though possibly at the box office).

Darren Garrison 06-13-2019 02:47 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Wrenching Spanners (Post 21695709)
I think a black or Asian cast doing Fiddler on the Roof in a Russian village setting would be a bit jarring.


Tell that to Troy Barnes.

Little Nemo 06-13-2019 02:59 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Dale Sams (Post 21696444)
How down the rabbit-hole of victim-hood do we want to go?

It would be bad enough if a bunch of people who had never experienced any real oppression were dismissing the concept.

But, of course, it's much worse. Many of the people who have never experienced any oppression and dismiss what's happened (and is still happening) to other people will then turn around and snivel about their own faux oppression.

Yodalicious 06-13-2019 03:40 PM

I'll talk about comic books since I know them pretty well. Almost any comic book character could be played by someone of a different race, without a problem. Two exceptions that come to mind right away are Captain America and Captain Nazi. Cap A's origin goes back to the American army during WWII. The army was not yet integrated, and there is NO way a non-white person would have been chosen to get the super soldier serum, and represent the USA. And, Captain Nazi, I think the character speaks for itself.

There was a little bit of an uproar when Finn Jones was cast as Danny Rand in the Iron Fist Netflix series. There were people who said that an Asian-American should be cast, since Iron Fist can be seen in the "white savior" trope. The counter argument that I read was that the "Asian getting magical kung fu powers" was just as bad.


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