Wednesday, 1 April 2015

The Film Industry: Ethnic Under-representation


I was going to upload a Spring inspired makeup post, but something far more important has come to my attention.

Brace yourselves.

Scarlett Johannson has been cast to play Mulan.

What. The actual. Hell.

***UPDATE: if this was an April Fools, I was well and truly duped. Regardless, this topic overall is something which needs to be spoken about, so I'll keep to what I say below***

What is the world of film coming to? I don't even dislike Scarlett (I'm pretty indifferent to her). If you're going to ask what my problem is with this, I'll start off with the obvious. The tale of Mulan is about that of a Chinese woman who defies her gender role in ancient China to fight for her country. This may well be a rumour, or a (cruel) joke. But at the rate the industry is going, we may be well hear similar stories in the future. Now, we've already seen from the example of Exodus last year that sticking on some fake tan can - albeit clumsily - can pass someone off as being of a different ethnicity, but how in the actual hell will they manage to, even slightly, make a white blonde woman be true to the characters features?

That only scratches the surface of this lacuna filled with problems.

There is so much background to this story of a woman who went against the status quo to become one of the most inspiring female warriors we've ever seen. It's something which has inspired many things, and people too. So naturally, one would expect it to be true to character - so why this great overstep? Ethnic minorities are so under-represented in film, the irony of hiring a white woman to play a Chinese character is so ridiculously laughable - irony, you heartless *****.

This past year, I've really allowed myself to step out and take a wide-scaled view of my surroundings, what influences the general public's perception of beauty, and how and why certain types of people are viewed and treated differently (and even indifferently) in the Western world. The film industry is riddled with a lack of ethnic representation, even the presenter of this year's Oscars jokily mentioned how 'white' the audience is. This kind of joke leaves a pretty nasty aftertaste, because little is being done in this modern day and age to combat this. When ethnic minorities are blessed with awards for their performances, I can guarantee you that most, of not all, were won while playing the role of a second class citizen (e.g. Lupita Nyong'o, Octavia Spencer, the list goes on...)

To get to the point, it's simply laughable when there is so much talent out there failing to be recognised because it doesn't fit in with the generally accepted view of the glitz and glamour of Hollywood. Why is it so hard to accept that an Oriental woman could play this role amazingly? Why must the industry seek so desperately to fit with their ethnicity-specific industry to the extent where their actress choices are simply nonsensical? It's like trying to stick a piece of Tetris into a space everyone knows it won't fit in. Or, as my older sister put it, it's as insulting as casting a white man to play Martin Luther King.

Just to clarify, this isn't a post for me to share any so-called hatred against white people. It isn't that. It's just me trying to illuminate you all on the fact that this industry, like so many others, is dominated by one group of people - and when it's something the world has an eye on, it dangerously influences a whole host of potentially talented men and women from a range of ethnicities to shy away from the industry, for fear of not being 'accepted'. And the industry in return turns a blind eye to casting such people for leading roles - and I mean leading roles. Not a black 50's maid in the Deep South, not a slave. Actual characters who aren't categorised by their ethnicities historical underpinnings. Why is it that when ethnic minorities are recognised in film, it's for a past they are trying to escape? What a vicious cycle. Essentially, it's adding fuel to a fire of wasted opportunities.

It makes me sad. It saddens me that lately a number of leading films are decided on so quickly and without considering potential consequences on its audience (sidenote: I'm thinking of the idiocy that is American Sniper, but that deserves its own post).

Mulan is undoubtedly one of, if not my favourite, female protagonist. She represents to me a vigour and strength I feel all women should try to encompass. She is a shining beacon of hope to all those who no longer want to fit into a designated 'role'. Don't you see the irony of choosing SJ to play her?

I pray for a day where somebody in the film industry sees all of this, begins to make this change, and pave the pathway for far more people to do so in the future.

For now, it seems we'll have to deal with our fake-tanned-black, white-playing-Asian-character norms. Wow. 

Share your thoughts on this in the comments below, use your voice! Be sure to follow DoD for more current affairs posts,

Zahra 
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