Tag Archives: race-blind casting

“Bewitched” Ethics: A Startling Lesson In How Increased Sensitivity To Other Cultures Constitutes Progress

The Sixties witchery sitcom “Bewitched” is a guilty pleasure, mostly because of the superb cast and unabashed silliness of the enterprise. (I do avoid the episodes with Darrin 2, Dick Sergeant, who took over the role of Samantha’s befuddled mortal husband—without any explanation in the series—after the Definitive Darrin, Dick York, became unable to perform.) A new cable channel is running the series in the morning, and today I saw an episode that delivered a series of shocks that never would have registered in 1968, when it first aired. Some of them should have, though.

The episode, “A Majority of Two” (the title evokes the stage and film comedy “A Majority of One,” about a romance between a middle-aged Japanese man and a Jewish widow from Brooklyn)  involves Darrin’s boss, the weaselly Larry Tate, conning Samantha into hosting a dinner for important advertising client Kensu Mishimoto, who is flying in from Japan. Sam agrees—after all, a nose twitch or two is all it takes—but asks Larry what to serve, Japanese or Western cuisine. Larry is prepared: he gives Samantha a note with the name of what Mishimoto’s secretary told Tate was the businessman’s favorite  dish: Hung Ai Wan Goo Rash. There being no internet, Sam worries about how she will get the recipe.

Let’s count the insensitivity jolts here: Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Etiquette and manners, Popular Culture, Race, U.S. Society

All Fictional TV Characters’ Lives Matter

Ouch. But what REALLY hurt was that she was a lesbian...

Ouch. But what REALLY hurt was that she was a lesbian…

Apparently LGBT TV fans are up in arms over characters sharing their sexual orientation getting killed off now and then on various dramas. They are, it seems, keeping score.

 

I knew our culture’s fracturing was tilting us toward this social Armageddon, but I had hoped we would regain sanity before it reached this point.

I first noticed that many LGBT fans embrace the view that Gay Lives Matter (more) on TV dramas when “The Walking Dead”  killed off one of its two lesbian characters, Dr. Denise Cloyd (Merritt Wever) with an arrow through the eye (from behind…TWD doesn’t fool around) and articles about the “problem” started popping up. Protests and fan freak-outs over the demise of fictional characters are nothing new, of course, but I didn’t realize that it wasn’t enough to have diversity in casting and individual characters on TV, and that groups with calculators were measuring happiness, success, heroism, villainy, life, death, good luck, bad luck and skin rashes by EEOC categories as well. This is neither compassionate, democratic, American nor healthy.

One TV show’s LGBT aficionados are in revolt over the death of a gay character. “The 100″  killed off Lexa, an openly gay major character, and her similarly gay fans are enraged and offended. They were unable to sleep, they said.   Some threatened to harm themselves; the writer of the deadly episode published a list of self-help hotlines. During the episode following Lexa’s death, the show’s fans created the topic #LGBT Fans Deserve Better on Twitter, which has since become an international LGBT phenomenon. Later, fans tweeted with Bury Tropes Not Us, opposing the alleged “trend” of TV shows creating gay characters only to kill them off later. Autostraddle, a lesbian and bisexual website,  compiled a list of 150 lesbian and bisexual characters in TV roles who have been killed, going back to 1976.

The ironic aspect of this—I will call it nonsense because it is nonsense, though it is also dangerous nonsense—nonsense is that the shows under fire are the same ones progressives have saluted for having diverse characters to begin with. Then, because those color-blind, gender-blind, age-blind, disability-blind, ethnicity-blind writers treat the diverse characters like they do any other characters—that is, they kill them when it advances the plot, creates buzz, or just because they feel like it, being gods in this make-believe universe, the shows are boycotted and derided for bigotry.You can bet that the much acclaimed and over-rated trans actress on Netflix’s Orange Is The New Black has a job for the life of the series, because getting rid of her would be considered proof-positive of anti-trans hatred.

You have to feel sorry for “The Walking Dead,” which ended its latest season by leaving its audience in doubt regarding which character just got his or her brains beat out with a baseball bat, splattering blood on the camera lens. No matter whom the victim turns out to be, it will have offended some “tribe” and opened itself to accusations of bias. The possible victims include a black heterosexual woman, a mixed-race woman, a possibly gay adult white male, an Asian-American adult male, a white pregnant female (and her baby/fetus/ inhuman set of parasitic cells, depending on your point of view), a white juvenile male, and the show’s hero, an idiot. No matter who it is, some group will have evidence of antipathy, hate and bias by the writers, just as Black Lives Matters and its allies like Al Sharpton and the Congressional Black Caucus take the position that any time a black perp or suspect is killed by police, it is per se evidence of racism. Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Gender and Sex, Romance and Relationships, The Internet

Yet More Casting Ethics: “Hamilton’s” ‘No Whites Need Apply’ Open Casting Call

_hamilton

[ I am back from a speaking engagement that required over eight hours of driving, being in a supposedly “luxury resort” hotel room that had no Wi-Fi for most of my stay and no functioning TV for any of it,  and various other distractions and misadventures that prevented me from posting so far today. I apologize, though it is really the famous Omni Homestead in Hot Springs, VA. that should apologize. The good news is that my seminar was well-received, and that the disappointing trip–this time I was paid only with the supposedly sumptuous two-day  Homestead experience for myself and my long-suffering spouse, including outdoor activities that were impossible due to constant rain and a room with more things in poor repair than a Motel 6—is over.]

 

Broadway’s biggest hit, the Tony-winning  “Hamilton,” is under attack for, of all things, racism.

An open casting announcement on the show’s website read…

“Hamilton” is “seeking NON-WHITE men and women, ages 20s to 30s, for Broadway and upcoming Tours.”

Whaaaat? This joyous musical celebration of America’s founding and its Founders’ inspiration…engaging in racial discrimination? How could this be? Sniffed Actors Equity spokeswoman Maria Somma “The language … is inconsistent with Equity’s policy.”

Yes, this would be because Actor’s Equity has a lot of dumb policies, and like all unions, doesn’t really care about keeping the industry its members work in healthy, productive and profitable, only  making sure as many members as possible have jobs or at least shots at them. There is nothing whatsoever racist or discriminatory about a show that relies on the concept of non-white actors playing the very white Founding Fathers announcing that only actors who can fulfill that conceptual requirement will be considered for roles.

Civil rights attorney Ron Kuby, in an interview with the NY Daily News,  agreed the advertisement might technically violate the city’s human rights law, but that this is because casting is an anomaly. “It’s almost always illegal to advertise on the basis of race, but when you’re casting … it can be a bona fide occupational requirement,” he said. Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, History, Law & Law Enforcement, Popular Culture, Professions, Rights

Woody Allen, James Shigata, And Diversity Casting Ethics

You have no idea who this is, do you? Well, it shouldn't have turned out  that way...

You have no idea who this is, do you? Well, it shouldn’t have turned out that way…

I’m sure you heard about James Garner’s recent death, but were you aware of James Shigata’s passing? Shigata, who died July 28 at the age of 85, was a contemporary of Garner’s, a superb actor, and like Garner, a leading man with leading man looks. James Shigata, however, was of Asian descent, though American through and through, and never escaped the perceived limitations of the shape of his eyes. Though he had a starring role in the hit film adaption of  the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical “Flower Drum Song” and routinely received critical acclaim for all of his film work, but though he got roles on television through the ’80s, he never was able to break through the typecasting straightjacket that deemed him only suitable for “Asian” roles. If you remember him as all, it is probably as the brave Japanese executive shot by Allan Rickman in “Die Hard.”

I thought about Shigata when I read a piece in Salon, noting that director Woody Allen didn’t cast African-Americans in his movies, and that his explanation why didn’t justify the neglect. Prachi Gupta writes, Continue reading

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What Is An Ethical Tiger Lily?

Believe it or not, this is Disney's version of an Indian chief.

Disney’s version of an Indian chief.

I recently watched the Disney “Peter Pan,” long my favorite of the classic animated films, which I had not seen from beginning to end in decades. I was genuinely shocked at the portrayal of the Indians, which would make the average movie Western seem politically correct and the Washington Redskins seem like a compliment. I know the story is a fantasy; I know that these are not supposed to represent real Native Americans, but a Victorian child’s visualization of the villains of their games. Nevertheless, it is hard to imagine the effect of such a film on a Native American child as being anything but devastating. The Neverland Indians, and their heroine, Tiger Lily, have been a human relations problem since at least the civil rights era, and the provocation is legitimate: did you recall (I had forgotten) that Tiger Lily belonged to the “Piccaninny tribe”? That James Barrie was a funny guy. Continue reading

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