Thursday, May 26, 2016

A Black Scarlett O'Hara? Is It a Good Idea?

This is not an important post, it is merely a responsive one. I read as much news as possible everyday, I post on only limited articles that I believe deserve a little more attention. I try to focus on what will effect your lives that is not be sufficiently discussed. This is not about any of that.

I was reading the news and watching videos over the past couple of months and it turns our that Daniel Craig (who did a great job) is quitting the James Bond movies. At first people asked whether or not we should have a black James Bond next and now they are asking if we should have a female James Bond. I have a minor reaction to this, it is stupid as an idea and sort of racist; but, in the scheme of things it is meaningless.

I find it odd that people who did "black face" (theater that used white people using black makeup to pretend to be black, very often it exaggerated the stereotypes of blacks that were held a long time ago in a negative way) are considered evil bigots; but, we want to make a black version of "The Odd Couple". I understand what people perceive one of the differences to be (that the black odd couple plays it as black); but, then where do the racial and gender divides cease mattering. Do you have to be white to play King Lear or Hamlet or Romeo? Could you do Romeo and Juliet with two men? I think you could; but, when would it add to the play? That is always the question for me. Shouldn't the selection of set and lights and actors be an attempt to help explain what the author meant? I think the only time it makes sense to play with those things is when you want to say something about the original story.

James Bond was a white man, the man who wrote the stories (Ian Fleming) was a white man who had been in the British intelligence agencies during world war II and while there were women spies, the person the books were based on was also a white man. I have no problem with saying that having John Wayne play a Mongolian was stupid and did not add anything to the story, so what does having a woman or a black person play a white British secret service agent add to the story. Remember I said the story?

The reason this came up has nothing to do with James Bond or Gone With the Wind, one of my daughters has now told me on two occasions that she things the all female Ghostbusters is a stupid idea and I agree. We both like the actresses; but, think that trying to make the movie a statement loses the point of the franchise. So, what if this film fails, will people blame it on the fact that it had an all female lead cast in a big film and they couldn't make bank? Hollywood is not about diversity, it is about money.

Why do I say this, you cannot complain about white males playing roles that were written for white males and then complain about white males playing black male roles. This is true in reverse, black males cannot complain about whites playing their roles if they play roles written for whites. Either any actor can play any role or no actor can play any role that was written for their race and gender. You sort of have to pick what you believe is right, I personally can live with either answer. I just don't care and am only pointing out the hypocrisy that exists with others regarding the answer.

Let's go back to the title of this post. I can imagine putting on "Gone With the Wind" where all the white roles are played by blacks and all the black roles are played by whites. I would do it to use the same metaphor that was used in Planet of the Apes. The story of the original Planet of the Apes was written during the time of great racial tensions in the United States.  If all the humans had been black, the story would not be about what it was, it would have been about slavery rather than how blacks were being treated in the 1960s in America. When blacks and whites were finally allowed to marry a movie came out called, "Guess Whose Coming to Dinner" about a black family and a white family coming to grips with that fact that their children were going to marry. If it had been about two men, it would not have addressed the racial issue it was attempting to deal with.

Historical events and historical novels and plays are just that, historical. I think if we don't have something to add to that narrative, the intent of the author, then we should be true to it. I say this as a stage manager, not a writer. This is my artistic believe coming out, oh, and by the way, yes, I do believe the show must go on with all my heart. I was and am old school theater; but, I think my questions still have merit.

Here is what you should know, if Hollywood could put out a new black face comedy and make a billion dollars, they would make more of them. If an all female Ghostbusters makes a lot of money, expect and all female The Expendables and an all female A Team, anything that makes money becomes the trend. I remember when every other film was blackploitation films, Shaft and Super Fly were great; but, the films got worse and worse and then there were no roles for blacks. Watch what happens if the all females Ghostbusters loses lots of money, we won't see any more all female leads and that is a shame. The choice of actors should be based on who adds to the entertainment value whether it be comedy or tragedy or drama.

When you have a cast that is all black or white or male or female and it does not add to the point the writer was trying to make or add to it, then you are just exploiting. My daughter and I discussed the possibility of having one female as a ghostbuster and both agreed that would be okay, though, our choices are different. Personally, my choice for the ghostbusters would be Will Ferrell, Jennifer Lawrence (I know she is not a comedian; but, she is very funny and silly, she would do fine and probably love the role), Seth Rogen and Bruce Campbell. My choices are bizarre; but, interesting and they would not detract from the emotion these movies are meant to bring to the audience, they are not a distraction, just questionable. They do not have a political agenda, they are based on something else, story integrity and meaning. Be well.

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