Blaming actors of color isn’t productive change

Okay. I’ve gotten in heated arguments with friends about this, but I firmly believe that we should not blame actors of color for taking on demeaning roles. Acting is a tough enough line of work. You do not always have the luxury of turning down roles.

There’s some value in this critique of Star Trek: Into Darkness, but I definitely take serious issue with this section:

In the end, this really comes down to whether or not people of colour desire inclusion at all costs, or are happy to settle for a negative portrayal, just to see ourselves on the big screen.

Yeah, I think I’d rather see some non-White actors actually getting some work, since they’re usually severely underrepresented in popular media than have them institute some kind of boycott, especially since the boycott would be pointless (Google Hollywood whitewashing for more details). You can’t prevent Hollywood from being racist by refusing to portray racist stereotypes or enact negative portrayals (ever see Breakfast at Tiffany’s?).

If you really want to do something positive for people of color in the media, support them financially. Vote with your wallet. If you know a movie directed by or starring a person of color is coming out and may be worthwhile, be sure to watch it opening weekend, so the numbers look up for it.

For Hollywood at this point, a predominantly or totally White feature film that fails at the box office won’t doom prospects for other White filmmakers and actors, but a similar box office disaster could be a major setback for future endeavors from people of color. Don’t blame people of color for taking negative roles. Blame the people who put them in those roles, and support the kinds of films you want to see with your actual spending money.

Further reading: Kristen Schaal animated gif

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2 Comments

  1. I agree with your main point and regarding putting your money on what you value, but I think that supporting films based upon the color of the actors is counter productive in the long run. It ends up creating genres that people write off entirely.

    Christian movies have a similar dynamic. By supporting and rating them high even when they are insipid alienates people who are just looking for a good movie. It creates a distinct genre that people cannot trust, so it is written off by all but a niche and it encourages writing more pablum for that niche because they are so easy to please.

    To me, the solution is independent media and the lowered price of entry. If you can tell compelling stories, you will build an audience and develop a reputation for putting content above issues like color.

  2. Funny, I never thought of Montalban as an actor of colour. Nor did I consider the implications of Tekei being asian, Nichols being black and Koenig being Russian (during the cold war), although I knew something was up with Doohan because he was not Scottish. As an impressionable teenager during the 60s I simply saw a crew of a starship… a starship that I desperately wanted to become reality.

    Personally, I don’t give a ratz who plays what so long as the script stays true to Roddenberry’s (and my) dream.

    Gotta admit, I agree with Kirk about those green girls.

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