Monday, December 19, 2005

This quote from Reappropriate has summed up something that I've been thinking about all weekend:

This, apparently, is the problem with being a person of colour in drama;
there is simply no good way around the quandry. Do the part and I'm left
wondering if I was cast based on race rather than merit, and don't do the part
and end up with a non-Asian actor playing an Asian character -- in other words,
"yellowface". (Incidentally, M's monologue requires her to play a "Southern
woman of colour". I am... concerned is a good word. M is many things; a Southern
woman of colour is not one of them.)

I am honestly torn on this issue. Not being part of theatre or acting myself, I'm not so sure what the general feeling is about this either. Only that I know that most of the time in Hollywood there is a certain pool of people who are chosen for roles. We see people like Tom Cruise in role after role after role, because it's not just the movie that we want to see, it's the specific actors. Which isn't something new, but is something I'd like to think about some more. In my Women's Health Care Issues class we talked about colorism. How the term "African American" implies that every single black person is from Africa though black people live and originate from all around the world. We applied this to how White is all encompassing, something that glosses over ethnicity, and what that might mean for certain people who are light skinned. Race and ethinicity intersect and it's incredibly complicated. My teacher believed that if we could get beyond race a bit, and also start looking at ethnicity and the societal implications that come with it, much progress could be made. So this leaves me with movies or theatre. Everyone agrees, I think, that blackface (and yellowface for the matter) is utterly dispicable. But what does this teach us? What happens when we cast Chinese people for the roles of Japanese people as is the case for Memoirs of a Geisha? I believe that race and ethnicity is the source of a lot of problems in American society, but that it isn't being dealt with, and when we have a media that mostly puts white people in the spotlight that we become ignorant about race and ethnicity and have a difficult time thinking about it and discussing it. I know I am.

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