Tag Archives: typecast

I’m Not Giving Hollywood Any More Money

15 Jul

Holly Transformers

I’m not a “movie person,” but summer always brings a few films I’m excited to see. However, after writing my recent article about Hollywood’s addiction to typecasting, I couldn’t walk into a theater without feeling guilty. Every time I purchased a ticket, my black feminist conscience would yell, “Are you really going to support an industry that doesn’t give a shit about you?”

I ignored her at first, but after the disappointments from the latest movies I’ve seen, X-men: Days of Future Past, Think Like a Man 2, and Godzilla—I’m officially done with Hollywood.

I’ll save my movie money for an industry that isn’t going to regurgitate stereotypes wrapped in lame, white-washed plots.

I have 3 reasons:

1. Hollywood doesn’t know what to do with women.

As a fan of all things alien and futuristic, Transformers is usually right up my alley. But third Transformers, released prior to the latest movie turned me off for good.

The majority of the time, the lead actress screams and runs from Decepticons in high heels. I’m watching the movie yelling “Bitch, if you don’t take off those heels and run like you got some sense.”

And can she do anything else besides scream, run, and act as the distraction while Shia LaBeouf saves the day?

So I refused to see the latest Transformers because I knew it would have all the same hackneyed motifs— and according to a few reviews, I was spot on.

I mean, is anyone else tired of the Damsel in Distress in action films?

Some of these writers need to take note from The Hunger Games series.

Transformers isn’t the only movie that could’ve utilized the female characters better. In X-men: Days of Future Past, the good white men save the day while the women and characters of colors sit and wait. However, in a 90’s cartoon version of Days of Future Past, it is actually Kitty Pryde who goes back in time to save mutants and humans from their horrible future. Xmen with a woman saving the day sounds like a cools concept. Especially considering Pryde’s mutation makes her untouchable, literally.

I love Hugh Jackman as Wolverine—but it’s time for a diverse range of characters to take the spotlight.

2. White = Universal

Where are all my black leading characters? Not in action films. Not in sci-fi. Not even in animated films. Oh that’s right: black characters are ghettoized into the black film genre, which currently includes the Think Like a Man series, Tyler Perry films (ugh), and whatever Kevin Hart’s currently starring in.

As for all the other people of color: Y’all don’t even get “race-themed” genres.

Yet, whenever all of the characters in a film are white, directors love to claim that “it’s not about race.” Films like Noah and the Gods of Egypt got a lot of pushback for their majority-white cast.

When asked about the lack of diversity in Noah, Co-writer Handel gives one of worst responses: “What we realized is that this story is functioning at the level of myth, and as a mythical story, the race of the individuals doesn’t matter. They’re supposed to be stand-ins for all people.”

And there lies the problem: white is the “stand-in for all people.” Only white skin can represent the whole of our society. This thinking is the very reason why movies are so white, why you hardly ever see Asian male characters in films outside of martial arts films (and Godzilla), and why Halle Berry is the only woman of color ever to receive an Oscar for Best Actress for a leading role.

Let’s get one thing straight: whenever a cast of characters is mostly white, it’s not an accident. If race really didn’t matter, then we would see more diversity. We live in an extremely diverse country with people of origins all over the globe. You just won’t find them on the screen.

3. We’re not humans, we’re stereotypes

talk about stereotypes a lot on A Womyn’s Worth. And I’m already over my word count, so I’ll be brief with this point.

The trailer of Dear White People, a comedy about stereotypes and white people’s discomfort with diversity, pretty much sums up my feels about seeing stereotypes on the screen.

 

If you want my in-depth commentary on this topic, check out my article, “Where Are All the Leading Ladies of Color?” which was featured on Ms. magazine’s blog.

Finally, I know my one-woman boycott doesn’t really make a difference in anyone’s life but my own. But imagine if every person of color stopped paying money for the exclusionary crap Hollywood puts out. Box offices numbers would drop tremendously, folks will lose money, and things would undoubtedly change (You know what they say: Hit them where it hurts the most—their wallets).

Representation matters, folks. Hollywood tells us that white people are the stars and the rest of us are just extras, brought in to uphold stereotypes and act as sidekicks. So I can no longer contribute to an industry that makes billions of dollars excluding people like me or making us look bad.

Where Are All the Leading Ladies of Color?

10 Apr

Image

A few years ago, my boyfriend and I sat in a movie theater in Malibu, watching the opening of Couples Retreat. When the first black actress came on the screen, my date smacked his teeth in disgust. The woman was loud, obnoxious, and senseless. Within the first 5 minutes of seeing her on the screen, the only other black couple in the theater walked out.

They were lucky: Had they stayed any longer they would’ve seen the other black woman in the movie, who was louder, violent, and even more irrational, knocking other women out of her way while she searched for her cheating husband.

It wasn’t the first time I’d seen that black woman on the screen, and definitely wouldn’t be the last. Although not all black characters in film behave as badly, actresses of color are often pigeon-holed into playing the same typecast roles again and again.

In “Typecast,” their brilliant parody of Lorde’s “Royals, actresses Tess Paras, Haneefa Wood, and Ayana Hampton display that for actresses of color, the road to stardom means playing race-based, cookie-cutter characters, with the role of the leading lady often remaining just out of reach.

Actresses who look like the ones in the video are sometimes subjected to typecast roles: Sassy black girl, geeky Asian, fiery Latina. Actresses of other races and ethnicities may not even be considered for a part. This leaves opportunities few and far between for actresses of color.

When placed in a historical context, Typecasting becomes even more problematic. In the parody, as Hampton sings, “Any maid could look like us,” I was taken back to the historical mammy figure. While we’ve come a long way from the Hattie McDaniel’s mammy in Gone with the Wind, the pool has only expanded wide enough to include other stereotypes and subordinate roles, with a few exceptions here and there.

HATTIE

Hatti McDaniel in Gone with the Wind

Typecasting women of color into supporting roles such as the main character’s best friend, secretary, or nanny, reinforces the idea that people of color are only supporters or “extras” in America, while white people are the central figures. It displays a dynamic where actresses of color don’t have their own story outside of helping the main character, not unlike the historical mammy, who usually has no life outside of serving her bosses. Such roles are seen in movies like Sex and the City, with Jennifer Hudson playing Sarah Jessica Parker’s personal assistant, and in the upcoming comedy The Other Woman, with Nicki Minaj playing Cameron Dias’ legal assistant.

Then there is the obvious problem with typecasting: the roles play off of stereotypes that project sexist and racist ideas. When consistently casting women of color for the same typecast roles, the industry renders possibilities for these women to exist outside of their stereotypes unlikely. While typecasts like the fiery Latina, nerdy Asian, and sassy black girl, are usually written for comedic affect, they reduce human beings to a one-dimensional devices that garner a few laughs at the woman’s expense and move the plot along.

Moving away from these stereotypes and adding some color to leading lady role can be good for audiences. After backlash from fans of movies Annie (2014), Hunger Games, Catching Fire, and Fantastic 4 (2015), where black actresses and actors were cast for traditionally (or what people believed to be traditionally) white roles, maybe audiences could use a little help expanding their imagination. It seems that when actors of color are cast in central, not typecasted roles, racist commenters masking themselves as “fictional purists” storm twitter with remarks about how their favorite character’s skin should be white. Yet, the more we see actresses of color playing central figures, the more we can shed the stereotypes and break down barriers for women in the industry. Maybe then American audiences will become a little more comfortable with diversity on the screen.

While we’re moving in the right direction, with shows like Scandal and The Mindy Project (though they also have their flaws) and movies like the latest remake of Annie, we still have a ways to go before we see more accurate and equal representation.

P.S. This article is part of the Top Posts. Check out the Best of A Womyn’s Worth.

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