Sunday, February 6, 2011

Fustration with Hollywood..Plus other movie Pet Pevees:

I originally wanted to get back to the ongoing topics regarding hero/villain archetypes, (continuing with looking at the villain side of things so to speak), however I was compelled to get this topic out first. Ever notice that in many films (and TV series) both in the past and current that deal with or take place in history (fictional or otherwise) during ancient Rome, Greece, Norse, Israel, Persia, and even Egypt, more often than not, the actors always speak in strong proper English and/or Scottish accents? I mean I’m pretty sure the English language was not even in existence when the era of when these films are depicting. Yes I’m aware that it’s for the benefit for the audience and all, but way always that accent?

Think about it. In films like “Gladiator”, “300”, “Beowulf”, “Prince of Persia”, the upcoming “Thor” movie, even 3-D animations such as, “How to Train your Dragon”, all follow this unwritten rule of accent. Not just in big screen films, but even TV series too. Look at A&E's “Rome” same thing, “Spartacus; Sand and Blood” (which I might warn is quite graphic as the name suggests yet entertaining…somewhat), also commits to this imposed use of this accent.

Yes some of the actors in these films just happen to be of British/Scottish origin, like Gerarld Buttler (whom BTW is in 3 of the previously listed film and TV series), yet the majority of them are not. Yet in spite that, they all commit to the same instance of slapping on that accent. What’s sad is though some of them do the accent well, others do it very poorly. A good example of this is Ben Kingsley in Prince of Persia, compared to Jake Gyllenhaal of the same film.

Speaking of Prince of Persia, that reminds me of another film pet peeve I’ve been noticing that has started up again, the casting of Anglo-Saxon (white) actors in ethic specific roles. Granted this has been going in in Hollywood for some time now. It’s just lately in the past few years this practice has been really reared its ugly head in a lot of higher profiled Blockbuster-type films, like previously mentioned “Prince of Persia”. With the possible exception of Ben Kingsley not one single person in that film is of Persian or any Middle Eastern or East Asian decent. It really bothers me how quickly and easily Hollywood picks non ethnic actors to play in ethic roles. You would think is this day and age some of these film makers would broaden their horizons, yet without fail they continue to bow out to the age ol what they feel the North American market (Americans in particular) can identify with more so than what the original content entails. One could argue that perhaps they could not find any decent ethic actors to play some of those roles. That’s possible, but considering the growing popularity of Bollywood films and experienced actors (just look at films like “Slumdog Millionaire” or the TV show “Outsourced”) they’re going to tell us they couldn't find these ethic actors? I mean really? I don’t think so.

As some of you remember my small review on “The Last Airbender” several months back. As you recall, there was a lot of negativity towards the big screen adaptation of this beloved animation series, ranging from the producer/director choice of the film (good ol’ Night Shyamalan) to the overuse of the 3-D graphics in the film. However the biggest complaint of this film by critics and fans alike were the choice of characters in the film, specifically the reflection of race in the film...or lack thereof.

According to several movie sites and resources (including IMDB), “The casting of White actors in the Asian-influenced and Native American-influenced Avatar universe triggered negative reactions from some fans marked by accusations of racism, a letter-writing campaign, and various protests. "To take this incredibly loved children's series, and really distort not only the ethnicity of the individual characters but the message of acceptance and cultural diversity that the original series advocated, is a huge blow," Michael Le of, a fan site calling for a boycott of the martial-arts fantasy, said As a result of the casting, the Media Action Network for Asian-Americans urged a film boycott for the first time in the organization's 18-year history. "This was a great opportunity to create new Asian-American stars...[nonetheless,] I'm disappointed." stated Guy Aoki, president of the organization. After a casting call specifically looking for "Caucasians and other ethnicities," Shyamalan explained that "Ultimately, this movie, and then the three movies, will be the most culturally diverse tent-pole movies ever released, period." M. Night Shyamalan further stated: “Anime is based on ambiguous facial features. It's meant to be interpretive. It's meant to be inclusive of all races, and you can see yourself in all these characters...This is a multicultural movie and I'm going to make it even more multicultural in my approach to its casting. There's African-Americans in the it's a source of pride for me. The irony that [protesters] would label this with anything but the greatest pride, that the movie poster has Noah and Dev on it and my name on it. I don't know what else to do." Rathbone was also one to dismiss the complaints in an interview with MTV, saying, "I think it's one of those things where I pull my hair up, shave the sides, and I definitely need a tan. It's one of those things where, hopefully, the audience will suspend disbelief a little bit." So in other words he’s playing the token “other ethnicity's card” for his excuse? (if there is such a thing)…either way that’s a FAIL for Syamalan, (of many) and yet another FAIL for Hollywood.

Look, I’m not trying to stir up controversy or anything, but you would think by now, in this day and age, after a full decade in the 21st century and the new millennium, you would think Hollywood, (and producers in general) both on the big and small screen, would stop subjecting to all of these tiresome cliques of entrainment and try to broaden their horizons a bit. But I’m afraid this will never happen. Just look at what was nominated this year for the Academy Awards, and what was snubbed. Some things will never change.



  1. "Proper English" is the oldest living language... it was spoken in the Empire a long, long time ago. American English was spoken back then, too.

    No arguments there about casting for obviously ethnic roles. When movies get big and expensive, they often feel a need to attract people using a big name. That at least explains Jake Gylenhal, but that doesn't really excuse it. I mean... come on. In this day, there should be someone with more tanned skin who's able to act and do parcour or some kind of acrobatics.

    As for The Last Air Bender... yeah that movie should have been all asian and Inuit.

  2. M. Wanderer,

    Unfortunately, this topic will remain relevant for some time since the movers and shakers in Hollywood have hang ups about many things, and race is one of them.

    As an example of other ways this is shown, consider that the original Beverly Hills Cop script starred Sylvester Stallone, and the character "Jennie Summers" was his love interest. When his vision for action and explosions flew past the producer's budget, they went with a new young star, Eddie Murphy. However, the "love interest angle" would have to be, and was, changed. You'll recall that Axel Foley and Jennie Summers were "just old friends." Can't have a black man and white woman in love, right?

    As another example, it's fairly well documented that it was difficult, for a number of reasons, to keep Julia Roberts and Denzel Washington together in The Pelican Brief. But the script was "massaged" to accommodate the black male/white female leads.

    The difficulty with presentations of ancient movies is that most people see themselves in the past; since most movie makers and movie goers are...not people of colour, it's difficult to "see" people of colour in stories they tell, except as ancillary supporting cast members.

    I've seen someone accuse Eddie Murphy's Boomerang as racist because it features all black stars. So, are all the movies with an all-white cast racist, too? Of course not, that's a "normal movie."

    Oy vey.

  3. Hey mate, I should also just briefly comment on the term "ethnic". It bugs me!

    Take a look at a standard definition of "ethnic":

    World English Dictionary

    — adj
    1. relating to or characteristic of a human group having racial, religious, linguistic, and certain other traits in common
    2. relating to the classification of mankind into groups, esp on the basis of racial characteristics
    3. denoting or deriving from the cultural traditions of a group of people: the ethnic dances of Slovakia
    4. characteristic of another culture: the ethnic look ; ethnic food

    It bothers me when we use the term "ethnic" to refer to "visible minorities", as though the visible majority, white people, have no ethnicity.

    The thing is, if you call a Scotsman an Englishman, you'll get an earful. Czechs and Slovaks are not the same. But, here in the West, Whites are the majority, and have galvanized a unified worldview in comparison to the visible minorities around them.

    So, at your local grocery store, "Swiss cheese" and "French fries" and "Dutch apple pie" are "normal" foods, but Grace Guava Jelly won't be on the shelf with ED Smith's; you'll find that in the "ethnic aisle."

    Remember "ethnic" Barbie? Does that suggest the "real Barbie" had no ethnicity? What country does "White" come from?

    In other words, casting, in an "authentic manner," actors that better depict characters that are what we in the West would call visible minorities (which again, is relative to the West, since Asians are not minorities in Asia) is desired.

    But to refer to such actors as "ethnic" actors is to use colonial language at odds with your quest for inclusion, and also denies white actors from being dignified as having cultural backgrounds of their own. Portuguese people are proud to be Portuguese, and they are not Spanish. Sicilians say they are Sicilian before they say they are Italian, and don't call a Macedonian Greek!

    All people have some form of ethnic identity, because culture forms the basis of the human experience.

    For more on that, see

  4. Lancer:

    When I meant in regards to english, I mean in consideration of the era and location of the world the movie or show is depecting. I'm pretty sure they werent speaking any kind of english in acicent Greece (or even modern Greek for that matter considering the time of the battles between the Persians and the Spartans.

    Speaking of Persians, I'm glad were in agreement on Hollywood's picks for the Prince of Persia. Then again consiering that it was Disney that was bankrolling that particular film, guess its not all that surprising.

    And as for the Last Airbender.....well thats just one of many many issues I had with that film. But youve heard most of them already.

    DA: Heres an even scarier thought. What if Blade was played by er, Jason Statham? Yeah hes a good actor, espically in action. But as Blade? NO.

    BTW you techicly correct about the "ethinc" statement..I'll try to keep that in mind with my next posts. Er, just one question though, Where do those of a mixed (interracial)race fit in? I mean from a general perspective, I truly think soceity loves to put everything in a catergoy or label...epscially when it comes to race. But what is also interesting is that with those born of mixed races becoming much more common (epsically in Canada) is it even fair let alone right to try to catagorize them into a paticular race? Are we as a soceity still so instant on "putting everything in its proper place" or any other type of twisted PC-ish idealogy? That kind of thinking gets me just as annoyed as with those that love to call you out if you dont fit a certian sterotype based on your looks, interest, geographic, demographic or income bracket. When does a person's character ever count? yeesh...

    Any who, back to the topic with Hollywood...Any of you reveiw what and who was nominated for the Oscars this year? Its pretty twisted to say the least..some movies and actors that should have had some clout,(like the Tron: Legacy Sountrack) were snubbed. Others that shouldnt have been even suggested (like the Social Network GAH) got nominated...really makes you wonder...

  5. Re: Oscars, it doesn't make me wonder because I don't pay any attention to them at all :-)

    Re: people of mixed race, they fit in with mixed heritage and however they were raised. I know a guy who's Greek. He and his wife adopted two Asian girls. What are the girls? They are Canadian, of Asian ancestry, who are no doubt being raise with Greek mores and customs in the home (such as food), by parents who are sensitive to their Asian physiology and wish to help them discover their Asian heritage.

    Categorizing a person of mixed heritage is not much different than categorizing a white person; I can't look at the average person and "know" if they are English or Welsh, German or Belgian, Hungarian or Bulgarian, until perhaps they speak. Can I look at someone and know if they're from Bahamas or Bermuda or Cayman Island? St. Kitts or Montserrat or any of the outward islands? Similarly, a person who is mixed may be of too many configurations of parentage to know, until they tell you. So, we should treat people as individuals and not try to categorize them at all.

  6. Midnight,

    Can you imagine movies where the respected tutor, who speaks in the king's english, is casted instead by an Aussie? Hilarity.

    To me, the irony is that Hollywood is always preaching to people like me that I've gotta be more accepting of other people/cultures, when frankly people like me wouldn't complain if those kinds of movies were casted properly. If they think they can get more money out of a movie if it stars a famous white guy instead of a not-well known but otherwise good Persian actor, frankly they're doing exactly what they decry.


  7. Lancer,

    Heh that would be something to see. I have a couple of friends orignally from Austrailia that would find that very funny and very wrong!

    As for Hollywood and is place with race play in films..well considering its long history with race related issues (just to name a few) since the "Golden age" of film, well, the more things change, the more they stay the same...

  8. Just a quick update:

    With the Osscars just passing, I'm glad the Kings Speech got the top awards, still need to see it though.

    Also kudos to Ms. Portman for her role in Black Swan, which she got an award too. Good movie, though very disturbing in diffrent ways.

    I still think Daft Punk should have got nominated at the very least for best orignal score for Tron Legacy...but oh well...


What do you think?!