I didn’t want to do it. I didn’t want to read the article that had been circulating around my Facebook feed for weeks; but today, I finally cracked. You may have heard of this article written by Deadline with what the writer probably thought was a very witty title which instead got a slew of backlash on social media.
THE YEAR OF ETHNIC CASTING: ABOUT TIME OR TOO MUCH OF A GOOD THING?
I saw the article on my Facebook feed and closed my computer down, opened it again, and made sure I read the title correctly. I did. Since the media frenzy surrounding this articles controversial title it has since been changed and even a nice (sort of) apology at the bottoming stating:
“Note: The original headline on the story has been changed as it did not correctly reflect the context of the article.”
Alright, so let us dive in and unpack the actual content of this article. The year 2014 has been quiet a year for television and there is no doubt that TV is where some of the best writing and acting is happening at the current moment. Shows such as Scandal, How To Get Away with Murder, Jane the Virgin, Cristela, Empire, Fresh off the Boat, and Blackish to name a mere few. The reason TV has taken off in the way that it has in the recent years is because finally, networks in Hollywood discovered that people want to watch and engage with shows and stories that (SURPRISE) reflects who we are as a country. Something many of us have known for years and FINALLY Hollywood is beginning to learn the same.
My first complaint about this article is this writers use of the word “Ethnic”. As someone who is of a multiracial background I personally hate the word Ethnic and describing people as such. Don’t call someone Ethnic. That’s almost as bad as calling someone Exotic or worse than that, using the word “Urban”.
“Because of the sudden flood of roles for ethnic actors after years of suppressed opportunities for them, the talent pool of experienced minority performers — especially in the younger range — is pretty limited. That has led to a feeding frenzy, with a number of straight offers locking in ethnic talent before they could be snatched by another pilot.” ( Deadline)
That was my first big pause. What she is practically saying is there are not enough people of color in theatre, tv, and film therefore they need to lock in the ones that they have. Simply not true! Are they looking, i’m pretty sure if they were looking they would find a slew of talented actors that happen to be a variety of different shades and backgrounds.
My favorite part of the article is the following:
“But, as is the case with any sea change, some suggest that the pendulum might have swung a bit too far in the opposite direction. Instead of opening the field for actors of any race to compete for any role in a color-blind manner, there has been a significant number of parts designated as ethnic this year, making them off-limits for Caucasian actors, some agents signal.Many pilot characters this year were listed as open to all ethnicities, but when reps would call to inquire about an actor submission, they frequently have been told that only non-Caucasian actors would be considered. “Basically 50% of the roles in a pilot have to be ethnic, and the mandate goes all the way down to guest parts,” one talent representative said.”
Yes, this author does admit earlier in the article that what is happening on TV currently long overdue; thank you for acknowledging it as such. But Wow, God forbid, those who have had to succumb to playing prostitutes, drug dealers, prisoners, the funny “ethnic” friend or the sassy receptionist after years of classical Shakespeare or countless higher education degrees FINALLY get a chance to play a character with slightly more substance. God forbid that we represent America and not continue to drive stereotypes that are continuing to fuel hatred, animosity, and violence in this country. The media is how we stop the shooting of young boys on the streets by changing the way we view our own citizens.
This is a great time in television, a incredible shift in the entertainment industry because the reality is that not much has changed yet. Yes, there are a few shows on TV with complex, real, and interesting characters that happen to be people of color, but I’m still going in for auditions where i’m asked to read for the prostitute or the sassy receptionist so I KNOW we’ve still got work to do. ONE YEAR of change is not going to change the entire future of our entertainment industry and nor is one television show.
50 television shows and another 50 years, then let us talk about progress.