Tag Archives: race

Actors, Roles; It’s a Wrap

Over the last nine posts I’ve been pondering the topic of Who Can Play Who when it comes to adaptations of existing works. To wrap things up, and because ten is a magic number to us humans, it seems reasonable to try to boil it all down to something coherent. If that’s even possible.

I find myself conflicted sometimes between what I’ll call a stage play sensibility that allows huge latitude in casting actors versus my sensibilities about live-action adaptations of well-established existing properties.

I think that changes the equation.

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Objectification of Women

Recently I’ve been thinking (and posting) about acting roles in adaptations of existing works, especially of comics and animations. A few months ago, I ventured down the YouTube rabbit hole of fan media commentary channels where the topic is a common one. Fans naturally have strong opinions about their favorite characters.

I’ve long said sexual differences make social gender issues more challenging than social race issues (because race is a social construct). The issue of gender swapping is likewise more challenging than that of race swapping.

Here be dragons of objectification, exploitation, and the Male Gaze.

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Live-Action Adaptations

I seem to have a penchant for trilogy posts. It wasn’t intentional this time, but I ended up writing a trilogy of posts [1, 2, 3] about the Netflix adaptation of The Sandman (1989-1996), the much-loved graphic novel authored by Neil Gaiman (and drawn by various artists).

The Netflix adaptation offers some good examples of actor swapping, which has been my theme lately. Ultimately, I think the real problem is realistic live-action adaptations of singularly and visually well-defined drawn or animated characters. For instance: Superman, Homer Simpson, and Mickey Mouse.

When real people portray them, race and gender come into play.

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Who Can Play Who?

I was born in the Bronx and became a young man in Los Angeles, so I lived in racially mixed neighborhoods during my formative years. I’m aghast at the pain we cause over what are essentially paint jobs and accessories. It’s a vast and vital topic — a needed ongoing conversation. For now, suffice that “race” should never be the answer to any important question.

Such as the question of who can — as in “is allowed to” — have what acting roles in movies and TV shows. Specifically, the issue of “race swapping” in previously established roles. Complicating the matter is an asymmetry; swapping X for Y isn’t the same as swapping Y for X.

There is also the question of “gender swapping” and the “strong female character” in modern writing. We’ve forgotten Ellen Ripley and Sarah Connor.

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Apollo 11 and Us

We dream of soaring…

Sunday night I watched the new Apollo 11 documentary by Todd Miller. At first, I was really into the show. When the Apollo 11 mission happened I was just starting high school and had been a big fan of the space program going back to Project Mercury. Watching a Saturn V lift off has always induced a profound sense of awe in me.

But I was increasingly struck by how white it all was. And male, but really, really white. That diluted the joy I was feeling with some deep regrets about how we act still today over what are basically paint jobs and some minor accessories.

Given where we find ourselves these days, 50 years hasn’t brought as much progress as it should have. We’re still really stupid about paint jobs.

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Note #3: Gender Differences

venn-men-women

Nearly (but not quite) identical!

Yet another bit of flotsam washed ashore, this one from the mid-to-late 1980s I’m guessing. Another part of the same note has a file system diagram that, in part based on the “DOS” directory, confirms the era.

Back then I participated a lot in two online groups: Star Trek and Feminism. (Both were topics of avid interest to me!) This note seems to address a topic that sometimes arose as party line in the latter group, but which I thought missed the point.

It’s about examining versus ignoring differences…

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