Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Casting, Racism & The Phenomenon of "Sticking to Your Own Kind"

I read this article on Slate yesterday & thought it was definitely one to share. After all, it's about a subject anyone in the entertainment industry is familiar with: breakdowns.

Personally, I thought this article was interesting. In fact, the agent I interned with did tell me that anytime a breakdown role didn't specify ethnicity or say "Open to all ethnicities" that meant only white people should submit for it. As someone working in this business, I wonder where it's going to go.

I'd also like to see what those involved with independent film companies have to say on the subject or how they do casting. Do they go by the same standards or do they simply practice diversity casting without making a big issue of it? Does it matter who is doing the casting?

Personally, when I've written something I never have an image in mind of a character's race. I just think of the personality traits & go from there. If the character isn't based on someone I actually know or there isn't some dialogue related to a character's description or situation (say a business executive who's talking about racism on a subject relevant to what the speaker would look like), it's just not something at the forefront of my mind. In fact, I think if I did do that I think it would screw up the writing process & make your character too boring or common.

Also, I REALLY hate tokenism & diversity for diversity's sake. I think "diversity" should be a natural process, not something you force into the process. Injecting diversity should not be like trying to put on a pair of skinny jeans that are two sizes too small for you.

Perhaps I encounter the whole concept of racism differently. After all, natural redheads are the smallest minority of them all. We're the most disregarded & the most overlooked; I can't even create a Mii that actually looks like me. Only perhaps someone of mixed race or a Native American can also make that claim. Forget about hair products as well. If you're a redhead, that industry is saying "screw you" on a regular basis when it comes to hair clips that are supposed to blend in with your hair.

Even in high school I was an anomaly since I actually had friends who were black (and real friends, not tokens) as well as other ethnicities. This came up when a Twitter follower retweeted some news that apparently the author of a book called Some of My Best Friends Are Black didn't actually have any black friends. It brought up a point on how people still tend to "stick with their own kind" in social situations and their day to day lives.

Certainly hasn't been true for my life; for one thing, how many redheads am I going to find to talk to? I also think being a natural redhead is a bit like being a drag queen (at least if you're me); there's only room for ONE in a group & we aren't into begging for attention from others. I don't think any naturally redhaired woman would want to share her sexiness & specialness with some other woman who looked like her. Or that's just me since I admit to being very competitive on certain things & when you have a unique identity, you get used to being the only one after a while.

The only use I see to having a bunch of friends who looked exactly like me would be the whole having an army or clones so we could all switch places sometime. Overall, it would just freak me out though. Plus, I would never want to live in White Land. I just couldn't see doing that, ever. It weirded me out in college to hear about white people who'd never seen a person of color before.

So it just surprises me that I'm apparently an oddity because I actually speak to people outside my own race & have friendships with them.

Oh, and free advice: if you actually have any friends who are black, you would NEVER in a trillion years refer to or call a black person the n-word (as in, the actual word & not "the n-word"). My mother told us from a very early age not to use it after we'd heard it at our Christian private school of all places (yes, that place was a real bastion of Christian love wasn't it?). I had a college roommate who was a racist & a black person (yes, you can be racist without being white or even an American citizen/illegal/permanent resident) but I never called her the n-word. It never really occurred to me to do it actually, since I'd pegged her as a garden variety bitch & her race had nothing to do with her crappy behavior.

I did hear later on that she had some racist suite mates. The only thing I said at the time was that I generally don't condone racism but in her case, I'd make an exception. She also hated cats & told me about a class she'd taken where she got to dissect them. Need I say any more? She never said she liked dogs instead so I think that tells you something about the type of person she was.

Nor do you have any black friends or other friends of color if I don't see you interacting with them on Facebook or talking to them more than once or twice a year. If you have family members who are black, you sure as hell would not be using the n-word since I know you wouldn't want someone doing that to your family members (at least if you don't hate their guts).

Anyone who uses that word & tells you either of those things is a big, fat liar. Case closed, end of story.

So I wonder if maybe more people in the business had the experience I did that this whole diversity push wouldn't be necessary. If they'd not been exposed to the stereotypes of folks but just knew people of color as regular, everyday folk doing different things. Thoughts?

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