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Monday, 28 January 2013

Racism in Hollywood

Many months after starting this post--subsequent to viewing basically the entire ROOTS Miniseries for the first time--I've decided to cut my comments down to just the racism question. This is what I had noted right after viewing:

They glorified Muslims, truncated the Islamic prayer (made it sound very Christian) and gave a very syncretized view of African religion, yet made a big deal of pork.

Also, musings on the link between animism and illiteracy.

They only hired 'black' people to play the slave roles and 'white' people to play the 'white' roles, thus perpetrating the very racism the series was supposedly criticizing.


Okay, here's what I observed: the 'black' actors in the production ranged from almost completely white to almost completely black, but their skin tone had no bearing whatsoever on the characters they played, other than at the very beginning and very end of the series. In other words, Kunta Kinte's depictors looked believably African, and James Earl Jones bore a passing resemblance to Alex Haley, but in between you had a supposedly half-white slave, George, being quite a few shades darker than his supposedly half-African slave mother, Kezzie. As little as the actors' skin tone reflected reality, they may as well have hired 'white' actors to play some of the 'black' roles. Not bloody likely.

Except that is exactly what happened when Charlie and the Chocolate Factory hit the big screen. Before I even saw how they were depicted in the movie, I just knew that there was no way the Oompa Loompas (depicted in Roald Dahl's book as little black pygmy tribesmen) were going to be played by black-skinned actors.

And, sure enough--they weren't. Despite the total lack of little white pygmy tribes anywhere in the real world, one had to be invented for the movie. All 165 identical Oompa Loompas were played by the Indo-European actor Mohinder Purba.

And that was okay, somehow.  Go figure.

1 comment:

  1. Never expect anything sensible from the entertainment industry.


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