Every once in awhile a big topic stumps the American public. Like this week’s All White Oscars problem.
They didn’t MEAN to nominate just white people. They really wanted to nominate others. But do you really want to accept an Oscar for playing a supporting-to-the-supporting-actress role as a chauffeur … or whatever?
No! Soooo, to the moderate-depth-thinkers on this topic, it’s obvious: cast some black people in better roles.
But to the c’mon-let’s-really-think-about-this peeps, this is about writing some roles for those real people who have thought beyond the boundaries of their own worlds and overcome societal prejudices. People who have said to themselves, “Oh yeah? Watch this!”
You know someone who has done that, we all do.
My next door neighbor when I moved to Virginia was a black woman who runs a call center. And I had a boss who, although I didn’t like her frigid style, I gotta admit was a ‘kick-ass, don’t take-no-for-an-answer’ woman … who happens to also be dark in skin color.
To find the answer to why theses roles are not being written, I have only to ask my oldest child, ‘what the heck is going on here?’
This child, who we will call “Chance,” was a film student at Colorado College.
He got tired of Colorado College after a couple years in part because it did not have the depth of funding required to offer even the most simple film production studio facilities.
He has to render his films on his own cracked-screen computer … which doesn’t take hours, it takes DAYS.
This after the most powerful rendering machine he had available–an offline lab computer into which he had to hack to gain access– began smoking during one of his renders
So he applied to the University of California’s School of Cinematic Arts. This is the film school you’ve all heard of. Possibly George Lucas and Steven Spielberg’s biggest tax breaks come from their donations here … and they have buildings named after them. Sure, the multi-million dollar facilities are great, for the single digit percent of the applicants who get in… a total 700 students at any time.
But who exactly are those students? If they are unable to pay the $67,000 annual cost of attending school, will they even apply? And if they apply and by luck or scholarship are able to attend, are these students even aware of the issue of race in hiring, casting, or … really think hard now … screen writing?
My son wrote to me during his first (and last) semester at USC (aka “University of Spoiled Children”) and mentioned that a classmate had complained that the auditions for the role of maid in his assignment had been a failure because none of the actresses could do a decent Hispanic accent.
My son was horrified.
“Perpetuation of stereotypes much?”
I mentioned it to acquaintance after acquaintance. No one got it. Not. One. Person.
It really hit home when, sitting in the hot tub at my mom’s place on Maui, I found myself chatting with a woman who works in “reality TV.” I stifled my laughter at the oxymoron only to find myself choking on bile when her response was to comment that it only reflects actual society. Oh? Is that where our responsibility ends?
We are obligated to cast Hispanic women as maids because that is in reality who the maids are? REALLY? Let’s think about that moment. No, REALLY think about it.
It explains such atrocities as Sarah Palin and Donald Trump.
But do film makers really want to cater to that low denominator?
What if we had a sitcom with a white male maid? Huh? Unbelievable? Hilarious, perhaps, but not unbelievable.
And more importantly, it is a suggestion. And that image might, just might, open someone’s mind a tiny crack.
And where did Chance go next? He returned to Colorado College where at least an attempt is being made to change the world. One of his films he made as an undergrad—an assignment for a class—just hit one million views.