Monday, February 1, 2016

Whose Role Is It?

#OscarSoWhite controversy reminded me of something. In the 2015 rom-com ‘Aloha’ Emma Stone played a one quarter Chinese and one quarter Hawaiian descent. The movie was criticized for ‘white-washing’.

And there are opinions that say a transgender role should be played by a transgender person.

I’m not saying that these opinions and criticisms are wrong. But there are couple of problems with this idea:

  1. There’s a reason why those people are called ‘actors’. They act. They become something that they are not. We enjoy stories of actors bulking up, putting on pounds, losing weight, training for sword-fights and horse-riding, learning different accents and how to play an instrument, researching different diseases or occupation. We enjoy great actors/actresses become what they aren’t an marvel at their talent. It is entertainment.
  1. For the director directing any movie, each movie is a once in a lifetime opportunity to bring into picture their vision. Each director will have a unique story and character interpretation. It’s their ‘art’.
  1. Movie making is business for production companies and some producers. They do have to/want to make money. They will cater to the people who will buy the tickets, DVDs, probably to a lesser extent, people who will rent DVDs. So there are even going to be total miscasts for the sake of marketing. Like (a nerdy) computer hacker played by muscular, bulky Chris Hemsworth in 2015 ‘Blackhat’.


In our 2015 ‘Brand Is Crisis’, Sandra Bullock played a role originally written for a man. Should she have not? Or because she is a woman and has less opportunity for a starting role, it’s OK.

Should the role of HIV patient have been played by an actual patient instead of Tom Hanks in the movie ‘Philadelphia’ (1993). HIV patients are marginalized and have few opportunities to get regular jobs.

The movie ‘Steve Jobs’. Should we have stuck with the 2013 version because it’s played by an American, Ashton Kutcher verses the 2015 version which was played by an Irish-German actor Michael Fassbender. Or does it not matter because both are white male?

The 2011 ‘Wuthering Heights’, James Howson played Heathcliff, becoming the first black actor to play the role. Should he not have? Or is it fine because it gave roll to a non-white actor?

Should the paraplegic role played by Denzel Washington in 1999 ‘Bone Collector’ be remade with a paraplegic actor?

Would it be all right for Cate Blanchett to play a lesbian (2015 ‘Carole) only if there are enough lesbian actresses around and getting plenty of other acting jobs and they are sick and tired of ‘acting’ like a lesbian?



We do need more female or non-white actors, directors, writers, producers, production company CEOs, and critiques to level out the field. But where do we draw the line as to what’s correct and what’s wrong?

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And I’m kind of sick and tired of hearing about Oscar ‘snubs’. There are ALWAYS going to exist. There are only so many who can be nominated and there’s only one person winning in each category. And it is a pretty well known fact that Oscar prefers certain types of movies and roles.


If you do comedy, you probably won’t get it. If you do villains, there’s only a slim chance. Take the late Alan Rickman. He was NEVER even nominated for Oscars and he said, “Parts win prizes, not actors. You always know a part that’s got ‘prize winner’ written all over it, and it’s almost like anybody could say those lines and somebody will hand them a piece of metal.” If we continue with the diversity theme, on the other hand, Denzel Washington has been nominated for Oscars 6 times and won twice. I wouldn’t say that people who were awarded are not worth it. What I’m saying is even if an actor/actress is great, if they don’t play movies and roles that Oscar prefers, they are out of luck.

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