More Casting Ethics: In Search Of Acting Afghans

whiskeytangofoxtrot

The problem is that our educational system belches out new graduates who have been indoctrinated into rigid and often absurd ideas about right and wrong, They quickly fill the culture with those ideas and their freedom-stultifying emanations. The ideas act like viruses: if you don’t diagnose them and wipe them out, our very minds are at risk.

Here is an example, by mere coincidence, concerning casting ethics, the same topic as the recent post about how some African-Americans seem to want to discriminate on the basis of skin shade, at least when it comes to casting movies. (Who knew?) I was reading Entertainment Weekly on an airplane, as I only read Entertainment Weekly on airplanes, and this whole issue (The “Batman v. Superman” issue) struck me as being written by 22 year-olds. In a review of Tina Fey’s latest bomb (“Whiskey Tango Foxtrot”—“WTF,” or What the Fuck, get it?), reviewer Leah Greenblatt wrote this…

“And its more than a little disappointing that the two major Afghan supporting roles are filled by obviously non-Afghan actors….”

Leah doesn’t bother to explain why it’s a little disappointing; she just assumes it’s obvious, as in, “What? They didn’t hire real Afghans to play Afghans? I’m outraged!” Meanwhile, a young impressionable reader who assumed that a film reviewer has some expertise in such things, would absorb this heretofore unknown standard of decency and take it as cant. Contagion! This is how the political correctness virus eats our brains.

There is no reason on earth why it is disappointing that Afghan characters were played by American actors. None. It is a nonsensical notion. This is an American movie, and professional actors in the US average less than $4,000 a year. There are enough talented actors of every ethnic background capable of playing characters of every other ethnic background. That’s why it’s called acting. What bizarre, warped, foolish notion was planted in poor Leah’s brain to suggest otherwise, who did the planting, and what was their rationale? Is it disappointing when Hamlet isn’t played by a Dane?

One of the Afghans was played by Alfred Molina (above, with Tina) a Hispanic-American actor of note. I thought we were trying to find ways to employ more Hispanic and black actors, and now I find that Afghan roles are off-limits, only to be played by all those superb, underappreciated, Afghan movie actors you see in unemployment lines and soup kitchens everywhere.

This kind of virus can’t be battled by vaccines. What has to be done is to challenge these knee-jerk, nice-sounding, facile and completely batty waste-products of leftist indoctrination and to confront them on the spot, just as Leah’s editor should have done. Shine a glaring light on it: Okay, Leah, explain why Afghan characters should  be played by Afghans without sounding like a lunatic. You can’t.

You know, we don’t have to elect Donald Trump President to deal with this crap. That’s like dropping an atom bomb to cure the flu. All we have to do is to stop accepting such foolishness as worthy of deference or respect,  and show the political correctness-addled that once they leave the campus echo chamber, these concepts are not only useless but culturally, creatively and intellectually destructive.  Salvation is nigh once they find out that the warped view of life they have been indoctrinated into believing doesn’t work in the real world,  or in this case, even in Leah’s chosen field. A film critic who thinks that characters should only be played by actors who share their fictional ethnicity! Wow.

It’s more than a little disappointing that the job of film reviewer in an entertainment magazine is filled by someone who obviously knows nothing about acting.

Oh, I forgot to mention: in the film, which is an adaptation of an autobiography, Tina Fey plays a character that was supposed to be male, gender-changing characters being one way to improve the number of  female roles in Hollywood. Leah sees nothing untoward in this.

Had the character originally been a male Afghan, however, Tina would be out of luck if Leah had her way.

36 thoughts on “More Casting Ethics: In Search Of Acting Afghans

  1. Too bad Omar Shariff isn’t still around, but then again he played a Russian in “Dr. Zhivago”, so I suppose he wouldn’t do. Also, Anthony Quinn might be considered since he played a Greek, an Arab Sheik, a Libyan guerrilla fighter, etc. Unfortunatey, he’s long gone.

  2. “Tina Fey plays a character that was supposed to be male.”

    How many mortal sins have been committed here? A woman actress played a guy. Inauthenticity. Cultural appropriation. Gender appropriation. Shouldn’t the role have been cast to a trans gender person? A woman who identifies as a man? A man who identifies as a woman? A gay guy since it was only last month that a gay guy finally won an Oscar? This could be an entire Ph.D. thesis in a Communications Department or a Fill-in-the-blank Studies Department.

  3. The problem behind the problem you’ve put your finger on is that the editors are young and also products of the same warped colleges and universities. Lou Grant is long gone from any editorial offices.

  4. Another thought. All these casting purists, maybe they should be militating for good documentaries. I watched a couple of really tremendous documentaries about Glenn Gould. They were fascinating and incredibly enlightening. What good would a movie have been about Glenn Gould? Nothing. Wouldn’t a well-done documentary about Nina Simone have been a better way to go. She could have played herself. Everything she thought important could have been treated at length.

    And I know this probably falls into the “it’s not the worst thing” rationalization, but without this “controversy” how many people would have ever known anything about Nina Simone other than she coined herself a great name and was a fairly exotic singer some time ago. If your objective is to get Nina Simone’s life and the issues it represents known, praise Allah these people cast someone unsuitable in the lead. Otherwise, the movie would have come and gone and probably lost the investors and lenders a lot of money. Who knows, maybe it still will.

    • Every time a controversy like this rages, I assume that it was manufactured by some marketing consultant who thinks that no publicity is bad. Now THAT’S unethical, because the unintended (maybe) consequences are so destructive.

    • Wouldn’t a well-done documentary about Nina Simone have been a better way to go.

      They could call it “What Happened, Miss Simone” and give it an Oscar nomination ….

  5. Twenty years ago, I would have agreed. But since then, I fear that it has gone beyond the flu. Political correctness has become a cancer, and it’s advanced far enough that some serious chemo is needed.

  6. One point here, the reviewer Leah Greenblatt said “And its more than a little disappointing that the two major Afghan supporting roles are filled by obviously non-Afghan actors….”.
    That is LOOK LIKE Afghans not BE Afghans. I have just been watching the Afghan cricket team playing and they look similar to many Pakistani and Indian people that I have seen, so if the producers had wanted the actors to look like the people they were playing then there would be many Pakistani-American and Indian-American actors who could play the role if there is a shortage of Afghan actors, whereas Hispanic actors look decidedly different.

  7. All things being equal, cast the best person for the role, regardless of skin color, ethnicity, gender, etc.

    But all things are NOT equal. Actors of Middle Eastern descent are constantly passed over in casting decisions, even for roles that are written as Middle Eastern. You mention Prince of Persia, but in recent years there has also been Gods of Egypt, Exodus, Noah, and many others. The message to Middle Eastern actors is that white actors are somehow ALWAYS better for those roles. And in one case (Exodus, I think?), the director actually said they only looked at white actors because white actors are a bigger box office draw.

    I agree that not all roles written as Middle Eastern have to be played by Middle Easterners. How about “some?” How about a similar ratio as the one between white actors and roles written as white? You’re ignoring that these casting decisions aren’t taking place in an ideal world where the person cast is just the best for the role, but in a world where actual discrimination is a thing that exists. If there were no such discrimination, we’d see more diversity naturally, without any pressure from the “politically correct” crowd to do so. While they can be hysterical at times in this case they are reacting to a very real problem, which is that minority actors are passed over way too often.

    • The purpose of art and commerce does not include affirmative action or employment equity. On one hand, minorities argue that they should be given a chance to play roles they would not normally be thought suitable for. On the other, they are arguing that strict ethic consistency should rule. You can’t see that these are diametrically opposed?

      Why wasn’t a Scot cast as “Hamilton”? How disappointing!

      • “The purpose of art and commerce does not include affirmative action or employment equity.”

        Let’s pretend that the reason minorities are discriminated against in casting is to preserve the quality of “art.” Commerce, I’ll grant you. But we recognize that discrimination is wrong even if it serves the bottom line all the time.

        One purpose of art is to inspire. Continually passing over minority actors in favor of white actors playing minorities reduces the potential to inspire a large group of people who are not seeing themselves represented on screen.

        “On one hand, minorities argue that they should be given a chance to play roles they would not normally be thought suitable for.”

        All I’m talking about is giving minorities a chance to play roles they obviously ARE suited for, like Middle Easterners playing Middle Easterners, so why address that? Right now we live in a world where casting directors seem to think white people are more suitable for those roles than Middle Easterners. White people are suitable for everything, whereas minorities HAVE to argue their suitability.

        “On the other, they are arguing that strict ethic consistency should rule. You can’t see that these are diametrically opposed?”

        I don’t think that’s what most are arguing, and it certainly isn’t what I have been arguing. You haven’t addressed my argument, so I’m not sure why you’re asking me to address the arguments of strangers.

        “Why wasn’t a Scot cast as “Hamilton”? How disappointing!”

        If Scots were discriminated against in casting, I’d agree. But they aren’t. Also, Hamilton kind of runs against your point. It wasn’t “race-blind” casting. Miranda made a concerted effort to reimagine the Founding Fathers as people of color precisely because he thinks they’re underrepresented in theater and in our understanding of history, and the result has been a huge success. So if your argument is that giving more roles to minorities should not be a factor in casting, you couldn’t have picked a stranger example.

        • 1. Let’s pretend that the reason minorities are discriminated against in casting is to preserve the quality of “art.”

          Uh, uh. Cheating in the phrasing: I don’t accept that minorities are discriminated against in casting AT ALL. and I say this, unlike you, a someone who has been involved in the casting of over 300 commercial dramatic productions with multiple directors and in many, many organizations. I have seen discrimination in favor of minorities, as in, yes, this white actress iw more experienced and better, but wouldn’t it be cool to have a black woman in the role?

          2. “But we recognize that discrimination is wrong even if it serves the bottom line all the time.” But when minority actors aren’t cast, it is almost never discrimination. That’s a fact. Show business is ruthless, venal and dominated by liberals. The bottom line is that the show has to be good. And ethically, that’s literally all that matters.

          3. “One purpose of art is to inspire. Continually passing over minority actors in favor of white actors playing minorities reduces the potential to inspire a large group of people who are not seeing themselves represented on screen.”

          BS. Sorry. The art itself is supposed to inspire, not the methods and tools used to create it. Since we don’t want a divided society in which we only are interested in people “like us”, it is counter-productive to make art that caters to what is a bigoted and biased world view. My mother and her whole family loved “Zorba the Greek.” Was she less “inspired” because Zorba was played by an Irish-Mexican? No. You’re talking political correctness, and that’s all.

          4. All I’m talking about is giving minorities a chance to play roles they obviously ARE suited for, like Middle Easterners playing Middle Easterners, so why not address that?

          They have that chance now. I guarantee you that if an Afghan artist had the credentials, expertise, trust of directors, track record and talent of Alfred Molina, he would have had a good shot at that secondary role, in a comedy, in which the authenticity of Afghans meant less than nothing. What they don’t have is a chance to be cast just because of their ethinicity when a better known, more accomplished non-Afghan who can be made to look and sound Afghan enough is preferred by the director, which is as it should be.

          5. Right now we live in a world where casting directors seem to think white people are more suitable for those roles than Middle Easterners. White people are suitable for everything, whereas minorities HAVE to argue their suitability.

          That’s false. That has nothing to do with the casting logic at all. What matters is time, risk and money. (And Afghans are white, you know.) If an established, known, available actor can be hired easily and safely, there is no reason to spend the time and money to explore a small pool of actors at time and expense to find one who matched the ethnicity when that is really no advantage to the film, ending up with an unknown quantity that has no financial upside to the film.Or are you really going to argue that the Afghan audience will flock to a Tina Fey movie because a countryman happens to be cast in a secondary role?

          I don’t think that’s what most are arguing, and it certainly isn’t what I have been arguing. You haven’t addressed my argument, so I’m not sure why you’re asking me to address the arguments of strangers.

          Dodge.

          If Scots were discriminated against in casting, I’d agree. But they aren’t. Also, Hamilton kind of runs against your point. It wasn’t “race-blind” casting. Miranda made a concerted effort to reimagine the Founding Fathers as people of color precisely because he thinks they’re underrepresented in theater and in our understanding of history, and the result has been a huge success. So if your argument is that giving more roles to minorities should not be a factor in casting, you couldn’t have picked a stranger example.

          By your weird definition, Scots are discriminated against. In Jurassic Park, Richard Attenborough, non-Scot, played the Scottish creator of the park. But this had nothing to do with an anti_Scot mentality, andy more than an anti-Afghan mentality. Spielberg wanted an actor of the size, shape, fame, name recognition and skill of Richard Attenborough, and could have cared less whether he was Scot or Afghan.

          As for “Hamilton,” it wasn’t race-blind casting, it was non-traditional casting, which is very different.Like casting Tevye as a black man, for example. I have heard Hamilton’s genius author-star talk extensively about the show, and the idea of comparing the Founders to the black experience was the point, not affirmative action: among other things, he was in no position to pitch a show on the latter basis. Even if Scots were discriminated against, it would have destroyed his concept and vision to cast any white actor, and that’s NOT discrimination. It’s integrity of vision. But the point still is that the much-praised casting did NOT match ethnicity to role, and that’s fine and ethical, as it always is if the casting is aimed at a successful project.

          • Jack,

            Just because you personally have not seen racial discrimination in Hollywood or theater does not mean that it doesn’t exist. I have seen countless testimonies from minorities in the business who have said they have personal experience with such discrimination, and I believe them, because the stats support their charges.

            If there were no racial discrimination in casting, then you’d be right; casting whites as minorities would not be a problem. But minorities are often passed over for roles written for minorities, such as all the examples I gave you earlier. Your argument is built on the false premise that this doesn’t happen.

            • Ridley Scott specifically said he did not consider minority actors for financial concerns:

              But Scott said the lack of actors from the Middle East in major roles was dictated by financial concerns.

              He told Variety. “I can’t mount a film of this budget, where I have to rely on tax rebates in Spain, and say that my lead actor is Mohammad so-and-so from such-and-such.

              “I’m just not going to get it financed. So the question doesn’t even come up.”

              Racism motivated by economic concerns is still racism.

              • Except that there is nothing racist about it at all. Nothing. Racism would be if he said that he wouldn’t cast them because of their skin color, and because they are inherently inferior. Do you even know what racism is?

                • Racism is discriminating against someone based on race. It matters not whether the discriminator truly hates minorities or just thinks they don’t sell well; the action and result are the same.

                  I think actions and results are more important than intent.

                  • Well, you are confused. There are legitimate reasons to discriminate, like when one wants to successfully prosecute OJ Simpson, and chooses a black prosecutor when a better male is available. Discrimination is NOT the same as racism, nor are unequal results. So you don’t know what racism is. I thought so.

                    That explains a lot.

            • “I have seen countless testimonies from minorities in the business who have said they have personal experience with such discrimination, and I believe them, because the stats support their charges.”

              Yes, and actors will never accept that they lost parts because they are not good enough. I have had minority actors who couldn’t cut it and accused me of racism when the truth was that they couldn’t act/sing well enough, or as well as the competition. This is what your race-obsessed victim construct has done to minorities in this and other professions.

              • And the stats, which simply show more white actors than black in approximate proportion to the population, audience, writers and scripts, only support them in the sense of confirmation bias, and “disparate impact” logic, which isn’t logical.

  8. The funny thing about Central (Asian) casting is that the people there tend to be very phenotypically diverse (makes sense given the genes flowing in from both east and west). far more so than Westerners of any political stripe tend to give them credit for; there’s far less of a “standard Afghan look” than what outsiders generally assume.

      • Don’t forget the various Turco-Mongol tribes (in particular, the Hazara of Afghanistan are believed to be descended from Genghis Khan’s armies). And actually, some genetic and archaeological research suggest that traits stereotypically associated with Europeans already existed in Central Asia long before Alexander’s armies ever rode through the place, likely from earlier Indo-European migrations, as such traits seem to be, if anything, particular strong among populations who seem have been genetically isolated from both neighboring and invading populations.

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