Discrimination Rules the Filmmaking World

Discrimination in Filmmaking World

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Discrimination in the filmmaking world still reigns supreme, but shock horror, the latest Ariel is Black. A furore has erupted because Halle Bailey has been cast as Ariel in The Little Mermaid. This is despite Halle having a glorious voice in the live-action film that uses photography instead of animation produced by a computer or drawn by an artist. The first released trailer on YouTube received more than 2 million dislikes.

This proves once again, that popular culture is about power and images send strong messages. It also says that the limitations of society are alive and well, despite all modern advances.

Tolkein’s World Upset

The new adaptation of The Lord of the Rings is also in the melee of deep outrage and indignation. Tolkien’s world has been shaken by the casting of Black and Asian actors in Middle Earth. It’s hard to believe these

It is time society moved past the colour barrier and discrimination in the filmmaking world. Any unfair, or prejudicial treatment of people, or groups of people, based on their characteristics, race, gender, age or sexual orientation is no longer ‘cool’. It’s not just women who are discriminated against.

Discrimination Rules in the Filmmaking World

Colour-Blind casting has always been a source of controversy where discrimination rules the filmmaking world. The audience feels possessive of well-known characters, rather than simply being entertained by any new version or portrayal.

Jodie Turner-Smith faced a backlash, when she starred as black Tudor Queen Anne Boleyn, It was a psychological thriller, rather than an accurate period drama. The racist overtones rose in an outcry that was both positive and negative.

Jodie Turner-Smith was chosen for the role because she is beautiful, witty, vibrant and intelligent. Black actors Paapa Essiedu starred as Anne’s brother and Thalissa Teixeira played the queen’s cousin. White actor Mark Stanley starred as the queen’s husband.

In 1997, Whitney Houston not only co-produced Cinderella, but acted the role of Cinderella’s Fairy Godmother. This was a further attempt of Hollywood to diversify, though progress has been slow and discrimination still rules in the filmmaking world.

Colour Casting is Filmmaking Discrimination

The argument against diversification happens when a racial identity is deeply embedded in the DNA of a character and it shouldn’t be changed by the whim of a director.

Discrimination rules in the filmmaking world, when they insist Pocahontas must be Native American, and Mulan must be Chinese. In this way the audience takes part in the discrimination. Luke Cage and T’Challa must remain black because their culture deeply influences the character’s point of view.

Characters like Ariel, Tinker Bell, or Spider-Man should not be held ransom by their legendary status of being white. These characters are not tied to their whiteness. These characters act reliably in the way they handle struggles and their personal quirks and that is not based on gender, race, or colour.

Whitewashing is Discrimination Ruling the Filmmaking World

Whitewashing has long been a practise in Hollywood, where a white person is cast in a non-white role. They claim discrimination rules the filmmaking world because there is a lack of suitable actors of colour available in the industry.

The BBC reported in 2015, “The practice of casting white actors in non-white roles is still prevalent in Hollywood, despite widespread condemnation and protest.” They said it was institutional racism as white actors attracted more audience and maximized profits.

In 2019, Daniel Craig announced he was quitting the James Bond movies. Fans were outraged when Idris Elba expressed his interest in playing 007. The outcry continued when it was revealed that a black actor would replace Henry Cavill as Superman.

Coloured Actors Stereotyped

People of colour were limited to the stereotypical roles of servants in the early years of Hollywood. Academy Awards were seldom given in recognition of their work.

In 1939, Hattie McDaniel was the first coloured woman to receive an Oscar for her role as Mammie in Gone With the Wind. She competed with Olivia de Havilland for the Best Supporting Actress. When Hattie was nominated for an Oscar, she was put on a segregated table at the back of the room. She was then refused entry to the ‘whites only’ after party. She is still the only nonwhite woman to win Best Supporting Actress.

Miyoshi Umeki remains the only Asian person to win an acting Oscar and only five Latino women have been nominated for Best Actress. Rami Malek is the only person of Arab descent to win an acting Oscar.

The #OscarsSoWhite movement began in 2015, claiming that Hollywood still ignores the work of people of color in Hollywood. There is criticism of the Academy Awards for its shameful lack of inclusivity, but discrimination rules the filmmaking world. In 2016, pillars of the coloured filmmaking community boycotted the Awards.

Black Film Directors and Discrimination in Filmmaking World

In 2013, it was revealed that 94% of film executives were white. This was more proof that discrimination rules the filmmaking world.

However, there are records of Black woman, Tressie Souders, directing the film A Woman’s Error that was shown by a Black-owned film distributor in Kansas City in 1922. No copies of the film are still in existence.

The same year another Black woman filmmaker, Maria Williams, released The Flames of Wrath. Maria directed, produced and starred in the film.

Few people recognize the name, Oscar Micheaux. He was a major Black American filmmaker. He was an author, who produced and directed over 44 films between 1919 and 1948. The majority of his films were ‘race films’ with predominantly Black casts and produced for Black audiences. Micheaux drew upon his personal experiences as a Black person.

His film The Homesteader was financially and critically successful. Micheaux produced films during a time of rampant racial hostility. Micheaux had of necessity, to produce his films outside the Hollywood studio system.

Name Change in the World of Discrimination

In recognizing that race is a social construct, non-White people are no longer described as ‘persons of colour’, ‘racial minority’, or visible minority’. The Human Rights Commission of Ontario has settled on the terms of ‘racialized person, or ‘racialized group’. It was considered that the old terms were overly sensitive, but that changed nothing where discrimination rules the filmmaking world.

Other organisations refer to anyone who is not white as being ‘diverse’. The drive to adopt new terms for disadvantaged people does not change people’s attitudes. It is a case of ‘A rose by any other name is still a rose’. As long as racial inequality exists, there will always be division, but it is refreshing to see racialized people stepping up and taking on the challenge of the filmmaking world.

We have come through the era of change in the cultural revolution of the swinging 60s, but it’s time for another cultural revolution. Anything is possible in the world of fiction and the imagination. They are the birthing room of the future as we adapt to changing times.

It’s time we moved past the barriers of discrimination, based on race, gender, age, or sexual orientation. Everyone has a unique voice and they have a right for that voice to be heard. As women, we need to be doubly careful that we ourselves are not discriminatory in our opinions, but need to encourage one another.

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    Wendy is an Inspirational Freelance Writer specializing in offering encouragement to women in all walks of life.

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