Posted by: hatzihatzi | March 27, 2012

Race, religion, and ethnicity fail

I saw the movie the Mummy Returns when I was living in Israel. At the end of the movie, Oded Fehr’s character Ardeth Bey says something in Arabic (my Arabic is very bad) that I’m assuming is a good bye to Brendan Frazier  and Rachel Weisz. And everyone in the theater made this tisking noise of disgust. For those of you playing at home, Fehr is Israeli and Jewish whereas Bey is supposed to be Arab and Muslim. And apparently the Israeli audience had a problem with this.

Apparently some illiterate racists are upset that an African American girl was cast to play Rue in the Hunger Games movie. To them, I say, I’m upset that a light brown girl was cast to play a character that was described as having dark brown skin. Damn Hollywood and it’s light brown washing! In the interest of full disclosure, I didn’t pick up on it that Rue was black when I first read the book. This was probably because it was really just a passing detail and I was on Vicodin when I read the book (recovering from surgery). But I guess this means that it’s not exactly fair that I’m calling them illiterate.

What upsets me isn’t that Israeli Fehr played Arab Bey or that Rue and Katniss were a little paler than described in the book or even that the actors chosen to play Alai and Dink in the upcoming Ender’s Game movie are Indian (Alai is Arab) and African American (Dink is Dutch…hey, nice alliteration, Orson Scott Card. Arkanian is Armenian. Wiggin is white [I think]. But Bonzo is Spanish, not Basque), it’s fans’ reactions. The getting pissed that the Arab character speaks Arabic or that you cried over the death of a black girl. (That is not a spoiler. It’s a book and movie about kids killing each other.) But where I haven’t heard vitriol coming from the Ender’s Game fans (though this could be because I try to ignore Ender’s Game fans), I’ve heard a lot of ignorant remarks about the casting. For example, when discussing the actor to play Alai, a fan wrote: “He’s Indian; Alai is supposed to be from Northern Africa. We think he fits the description pretty well.” No, my friend. North Africa is not in India. And if you know that, then how can you possibly say that he fits the description well? Unless all brown people are interchangeable. Or when discussing Dink: ” Dink isn’t African-American in the Ender’s Game book, but we’re not complaining- it adds to the international feel of the battle school.” How the hell does another American add to the international feel?

But ignorance is almost refreshing in the face of the Rue hate.

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Responses

  1. Reply to this comment so I remember to comment later when I actually have time. I have many things to say on this subject, but I’m making dinner.

    • I hope dinner was yummy.

    • Oh, also, I’m complete crap at picturing characters when I read books. I just don’t do it. Was Shadow black? I could picture Laura’s rotting corpse because it was described very well, but that’s about it.

      • Mmmmm, I honestly can’t remember how he’s described right now, but I always imagined him looking like Morpheus from the Sandman comics…who kind of looks like Neil Gaiman.

        There was a follow-up novella to American Gods where Shadow was revealed to be Baldur, so I realized that he was far more Norse than I’d given him credit for. >.<

        Anyway, I'm so sick of Hollywood just casting whoever the hell they want for roles. Why is Katniss the whitest white girl ever? They couldn't get someone WHO IS ACTUALLY BLONDE to play Cersei? Or how about getting someone who is actually age appropriate to play these characters? Don't even get me started on everyone EVER that has been cast in a PKD adaptation. <.<

    • I don’t know. I think I’m some sort of middle ground between not getting so upset and getting upset. When it comes to hair color, Rupert Grint wasn’t a perfect Ron because he was a natural red head. That was just a bonus. And even though Daniel Radcliff doesn’t have green eyes, he still made a good Harry. When it’s something important to the plot, I think every effort should be made to find an actor that fits the description or make changes to the actor’s appearance and I don’t have a problem with wrong natural hair or eye color: I haven’t watched GoT, but I think it’s pretty important that Cersei be blonde. Did they dye her hair? They tried to put green contacts on Radcliff, but apparently he didn’t like them. So that bothers me a little. But it’s more important that his eyes look like his mother’s than be green. For Alai, it’s kind of important to Ender’s Game that he’s Muslim. If he whispers “Namaste,” I don’t think it will be the same.

      As a side note, when someone says “olive skin,” I get really confused. Olives can be black, green, or purple.

      • The whole olive skin thing confused me when I was young, too. Now I just picture their skin being the colour of olive oil, though. >.<

        Most of the Harry Potter characters don't look like they're supposed to. Gred and Forge are way too tall and thin, Olliver was too handsome, the Marauders (and Snape) were all FAR too old…you know I could go on.

        Cersei was definitely supposed to be blonde, but I guess it's just that I'm not a fan of Lena Headey and she looks terrible as a blonde.

        Everyone is all excited about Javier Bardem as Roland in this Dark Tower adaptation, but my head just keeps screaming that he's WRONGWRONGWRONG.

        [shrug]

        Adaptations invariably end up making me mad.

    • I think what I tried to say was that I thought Rupert did such a good job as Ron that any physical appearance difference wouldn’t matter to me. The twins too. I thought they were perfect acting-wise, even if they had the wrong physical build. I think this is in part because I really don’t picture characters when I read books. (Other than small details that are repeated a lot or standout as odd or are relevant to the plot, like Cinna had gold eyeliner and was hot, Octavia was green, Ron was a redhead, Harry had green eyes, Hermione had bushy hair [didn’t care so much about her teeth, not really mentioned a lot before the incident with Malfoy], Draco and his family were all blond, Laura was rotting, Cersei was blonde as were her kids but not her husband…)

      With adaptations, I usually care more about how they stuck to the plot and themes.


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