Author Topic: is it racist to argue in favor of...  (Read 4744 times)

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Online Guillermo

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is it racist to argue in favor of...
« on: September 11, 2018, 12:06:05 PM »
Is it racist to argue in favor of not changing a character's race to a different one as described in the original source material?

Examples of this happening include:
  • Eldris Alba cast as Roland Deschain in the movie
  • Scarlet Johansen cast as Major Motoko Kusanagi
  • Tilda Swinton cast as The Ancient One
  • Samuel L. Jackson cast as Nick Fury

Clearly, Whitewashing and hating on the topic just because it's one race and and loving it because its another race are clearly racist viewpoint.

I have seen arguments in favor of casting roles that differ from the source material for the purpose of diversity saying that those that oppose it are being racist.
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Offline wastrel

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Re: is it racist to argue in favor of...
« Reply #1 on: September 11, 2018, 12:15:05 PM »
This goes back to reverse racism not being a thing, in my mind.  Changing a character from white/majority to a classically minority or disadvantaged group, probably not a huge problem.  Going the other way.....who the hell would think that's a good idea? At that point, you are very purposefully piling onto a disadvantage group at that point.

This crosses from races into gender, disability, ethnicity, etc.

Offline SkeptiQueer

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Re: is it racist to argue in favor of...
« Reply #2 on: September 11, 2018, 12:17:46 PM »
Maybe.
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Re: is it racist to argue in favor of...
« Reply #3 on: September 11, 2018, 12:36:34 PM »
Can be. 

Most of the time, especially with legacy/older IPs, white guy is the "default" choice for any character.  Peter Parker is a white guy because that's what "normal" people are to a 1960s audience of white people.  Being a white guy isn't critical to the character of Peter Parker or Spider-Man, it's just a default setting.  Casting Peter Parker as an American of Asian descent or Hispanic descent wouldn't change the character (I'm not talking about Miles Morales here, actual Peter Parker) in a way to make it unrecognizable.  And so arguing against that casting choice in a non-racist way would be hard.

For the above example:  if the change went into the actual story, and Peter Parker was a fresh immigrant with an accent who struggled with assimilating into mainstream American culture and Aunt May spoke no English - while an interesting story, it is a *different* story than the Spider-Man story, and you could possibly argue against it in a non-racist way.  "Tell your story, it sounds great.  Just don't re-skin the Spider-Man story to do it, make something new" is the argument you might use.  I wouldn't use it, and you could still run into problems.  But it could be possible.
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Re: is it racist to argue in favor of...
« Reply #4 on: September 11, 2018, 12:37:26 PM »
Is it racist to argue in favor of not changing a character's race to a different one as described in the original source material?

Examples of this happening include:
  • Eldris Alba cast as Roland Deschain in the movie
  • Scarlet Johansen cast as Major Motoko Kusanagi
  • Tilda Swinton cast as The Ancient One
  • Samuel L. Jackson cast as Nick Fury
Clearly, Whitewashing and hating on the topic just because it's one race and and loving it because its another race are clearly racist viewpoint.

I have seen arguments in favor of casting roles that differ from the source material for the purpose of diversity saying that those that oppose it are being racist.
You forgot the current internet-exploding racial casting change, Netflix announcing they would cast a "black or asian" actress as Ciri for the Witcher series. The dorks are so riled up, I wouldn't even be surprised to see a DDoS attack coming their way.

And yeah it is pretty much always for racist reasons. If you're not racist, you won't really care what race a character might be in a necessarily-imperfect screen adaptation of a book, comic or game you like. It might even make the character better. And if you are a studio casting a white to play a racial character, you are doing it because you racistly decide that will make you more money.

Let's not forget the torrent of abuse that Kelly Mary Tran got just for being an asian woman playing in a Star Wars film. People are angry that she even exists. She's not replacing a white character from the books or anything. They created that character for the film. But she is still effectively replacing a white man, in the insane, battered clockwork of bigoted fans' heads.



Also, to nitpick, the Major from Ghost in the Shell was white in the books. They took a japanese lady and put her Ghost in an american Shell. That was kind of the point of the character. That whole controversy was even stupider than the others.
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Online John Albert

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Re: is it racist to argue in favor of...
« Reply #5 on: September 11, 2018, 12:41:58 PM »
I'd say it probably depends on the rationale behind the opinion, but I don't feel quite comfortable being the one to make that decision.

In some cases the race of the character might be so inherent to that character's gestalt, that it cannot be extricated without drastically altering the character's personality, motives, position in society, relationships to other characters, etc. Changing the race of a major character could even change the basic themes of the narrative. That could be a reasonable, non-racist justification for keeping the character's racial identity intact.

Some Hollywood movies already suffer from this problem, when they cast a white guy in place of a character that by all propriety ought to be of a certain ethnicity.
« Last Edit: September 11, 2018, 02:34:02 PM by John Albert »

Offline Quetzalcoatl

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Re: is it racist to argue in favor of...
« Reply #6 on: September 11, 2018, 12:45:35 PM »
What a weird question. Racist? I don't think so. But it would be odd.

For example, in the movie Alexander, I assume that they chose Rosario Dawson to play Roxana, rather than Scarlett Johansson. The former looks more like an ancient Bactrian would look like than the latter does.

Meanwhile, in Gladiator, it would have been weird to have Morgan Freeman playing Marcus Aurelius.

So racist, no. Just weird. People who lose sleep over this or who build elobarate castles of air around it have too much sparetime.
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Offline brilligtove

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Re: is it racist to argue in favor of...
« Reply #7 on: September 11, 2018, 12:51:57 PM »
Racist recasting: Shaft as a white guy.
Not racist recasting: The Equalizer as a black guy.

The difference is not whether the character is white or black in the end or in the beginning. The difference is whether the color of their skin is fundamental to their character. An equally bad choice would be to cast Peter Dinklage as a basketball player in their biopic. Not racist in that case, but stupidly insensitive to a core element of the character.
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Online John Albert

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Re: is it racist to argue in favor of...
« Reply #8 on: September 11, 2018, 12:53:47 PM »
You forgot the current internet-exploding racial casting change, Netflix announcing they would cast a "black or asian" actress as Ciri for the Witcher series. The dorks are so riled up, I wouldn't even be surprised to see a DDoS attack coming their way.

In the case of The Witcher, I can't speak for dorks, but some critics have a reasonable point.

That game is created by a Polish game company, and was very intentionally made to portray a medieval Polish setting with uniquely Polish traditions, themes, and myths. It was clearly intended as an adaptation of old world Polish culture, not a celebration of modern multiculturalism. In a piece such as that, changing the race of a character for no valid aesthetic reason but just to satisfy some diversity quotient could be seen as a compromise of the vision of the original work.

Offline Ron Obvious

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Re: is it racist to argue in favor of...
« Reply #9 on: September 11, 2018, 01:06:14 PM »
Not in my opinion. If the character's ethnicity or sex takes me out of the film, e.g. a female black Julius Caesar, it's a bad casting choice. Nothing racist about that.

I can see doing it for artistic reasons if it's part of making a specific point, but not if that's not the intent. Casting Idris Elba as James Bond or Pippi Longstocking makes me feel it's done to drive home a specific point, which reduces the entertainment value of the film in question. Make a 008 film instead. Wouldn't want to see a white Shaft either.

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Re: is it racist to argue in favor of...
« Reply #10 on: September 11, 2018, 01:24:37 PM »
Depends on the circumstances, but mostly yes, if it is a white actor playing a non-white character.

Casting a white actor in a non-whit role reinforces white hegemony over the film/tv industry and it also marginalises non-white actors (for example it is already hard enough for South or East Asian actors to get decent roles, but seeing white actors play Asian characters just makes it all that worse), often forcing them into roles that are pure racist stereotypes.

White actors just don't feel the pressure, therefore casting non-white actors for white roles is perfectly OK most of the time. 73% of all roles are White anyway, it's not like Colin Farrell is only cast to play a Leprechaun or David Cross, a native of Atlanta, has no problems getting roles other than that of a Confederate soldier.

You forgot the current internet-exploding racial casting change, Netflix announcing they would cast a "black or asian" actress as Ciri for the Witcher series. The dorks are so riled up, I wouldn't even be surprised to see a DDoS attack coming their way.

In the case of The Witcher, I can't speak for dorks, but some critics have a reasonable point.

That game is created by a Polish game company, and was very intentionally made to portray a medieval Polish setting with uniquely Polish traditions, themes, and myths. It was clearly intended as an adaptation of old world Polish culture, not a celebration of modern multiculturalism. In a piece such as that, changing the race of a character for no valid aesthetic reason but just to satisfy some diversity quotient could be seen as a compromise of the vision of the original work.


How on earth is the vision of a completely fictional world compromised by adding a little variation of skin tone? If the audience accepts fictional geographies, magic, monsters, mythological and fairytale elements, is it so much for them to accept someone who happens to be not pearly white? Were vampires, dragons, elves, child-eating swamp hags all over Old World Poland? Were there cat-eyed, sterile, white-haired, emotionless monster hunters roaming around 13th century Krakow?

Did CD Projekt Red cause trigger the precious fans by having mythological beings speak with a Welsh accent in Witcher 3? I don't think anyone spoke with a Welsh accent in Merry Old White Poland.

Why is it the only thing that ever triggers these overwhelmingly white male snowflake audiences if there are, women or, horrible dictu, people of colour introduced to their precious little white male fantasies?
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Offline 2397

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Re: is it racist to argue in favor of...
« Reply #11 on: September 11, 2018, 01:27:30 PM »
In a way I don't care. When people brought up Marvel Heimdall's "race" vs. them being Norse gods, maybe I could complain about cultural appropriation, but given that they're aliens who could be exposed to varying levels of solar radiation where they live, it makes sense they would evolve varieties in pigmentation.

I don't like the idea of changing a character because of their ethnicity, to a "better" one for PR reasons or whatever. Unless it's to make it more historically accurate, or for some story reason where it would make sense to have it different from the way it was originally/commonly thought. If a demigod was born into a population and is supposed to look like some average person, to the point where someone else has to finger them for them to be caught out, then it doesn't make sense to maintain them having a completely different ethnicity to the given local population.

Offline daniel1948

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Re: is it racist to argue in favor of...
« Reply #12 on: September 11, 2018, 01:29:04 PM »
I would see it as an issue of equal opportunity. In western culture the heroes are often white, and so people of color seldom get hired to play the role of heroes. Giving a "traditionally white" role to a minority looks to me like expanding equality of opportunity. Giving one of the very rare minority roles to a white person is denying opportunity. However, an exception would be when a story is imported from another culture and adapted to the local culture. If an American filmmaker decides to adapt a Japanese story for the American audience, then casting white actors is not necessarily racist.

We need to see more minorities in strong heroic roles. And if that means casting a black person in a traditionally white role, I've got no problem with that.

Example: When I was visiting London a decade ago I saw a performance of Romeo and Juliette played by the Royal Shakespeare Company. Romeo was played by a black actor wearing dreadlocks. It was a fabulous performance. I see nothing wrong with the casting, and I think it would definitely have been racist to assert that this black actor should not have played the part of Romeo. Juliette was played by a white actor, and this highlighted the whole family feud thing.

OTOH, I think it would be bizarre to cast a white actor in the role of Othello, since his race is an integral part of the story. There is nothing in the story line of most of our traditional stories or pop culture stories that requires the character to be one particular race or another. Peter Parker could as easily be black or Mexican or Asian as white. Same with Clark Kent or any of our other comic-book heroes.
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Re: is it racist to argue in favor of...
« Reply #13 on: September 11, 2018, 01:29:53 PM »
You forgot the current internet-exploding racial casting change, Netflix announcing they would cast a "black or asian" actress as Ciri for the Witcher series. The dorks are so riled up, I wouldn't even be surprised to see a DDoS attack coming their way.

In the case of The Witcher, I can't speak for dorks, but some critics have a reasonable point.

That game is created by a Polish game company, and was very intentionally made to portray a medieval Polish setting with uniquely Polish traditions, themes, and myths. It was clearly intended as an adaptation of old world Polish culture, not a celebration of modern multiculturalism. In a piece such as that, changing the race of a character for no valid aesthetic reason but just to satisfy some diversity quotient could be seen as a compromise of the vision of the original work.


How on earth is the vision of a completely fictional world compromised by adding a little variation of skin tone?

Because of what I said. Read what I said. I think I made myself quite clear.


Not in my opinion. If the character's ethnicity or sex takes me out of the film, e.g. a female black Julius Caesar, it's a bad casting choice. Nothing racist about that.

What's even more annoying is when bad casting choices and maladapted movies are hyped by studios and activicts as "must see," on the basis of their politics instead of being good movies. As if sitting in a theater seat munching popcorn through a shitty movie is a revolutionary act, and we owe the Hollywood producers a debt of gratitude for daring to pander to identity politics in pursuit of a quick buck. 


Example: When I was visiting London a decade ago I saw a performance of Romeo and Juliette played by the Royal Shakespeare Company. Romeo was played by a black actor wearing dreadlocks. It was a fabulous performance. I see nothing wrong with the casting, and I think it would definitely have been racist to assert that this black actor should not have played the part of Romeo. Juliette was played by a white actor, and this highlighted the whole family feud thing.

Black Orpheus is a great movie, regardless what Obama said.


Casting Idris Elba as James Bond or Pippi Longstocking makes me feel it's done to drive home a specific point, which reduces the entertainment value of the film in question. Make a 008 film instead.

I don't know about this. Seven different actors have portrayed the British agent, including a Scotsman, an Irishman, a Welshman, and an Australian. Each actor has brought his own personality to the role. I see no problem with casting a black guy in the role.

However, I'd certainly consider it a racist, pandering insult if they changed his designation to "008" just because he's black.   

Idris Alba is a great actor, but I think it would be very creepy to see him portraying a peppy, young, white girl with ginger pigtails and freckles. 


Racist recasting: Shaft as a white guy.
Wouldn't want to see a white Shaft either.

Only if it starred Chris Elliot.
« Last Edit: September 11, 2018, 04:14:27 PM by John Albert »

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Re: is it racist to argue in favor of...
« Reply #14 on: September 11, 2018, 01:49:04 PM »
You forgot the current internet-exploding racial casting change, Netflix announcing they would cast a "black or asian" actress as Ciri for the Witcher series. The dorks are so riled up, I wouldn't even be surprised to see a DDoS attack coming their way.

In the case of The Witcher, I can't speak for dorks, but some critics have a reasonable point.

That game is created by a Polish game company, and was very intentionally made to portray a medieval Polish setting with uniquely Polish traditions, themes, and myths. It was clearly intended as an adaptation of old world Polish culture, not a celebration of modern multiculturalism. In a piece such as that, changing the race of a character for no valid aesthetic reason but just to satisfy some diversity quotient could be seen as a compromise of the vision of the original work.


How on earth is the vision of a completely fictional world compromised by adding a little variation of skin tone?

Because of what I said. Read what I said. I think I made myself quite clear.

No you did not.

Why are child-eating swamp hags, cat-eyed monster hunters, elements of Arthurian legends or non-Polish fairytales acceptable breaks from Medieval Polish reality, but changing generic white character No. 85129 to a slightly darker skintone just totally breaks the world and the holy vision of the author?

Was it so bad when Peter Jackson made Legolas blonde? Was Tolkien's vision tarnished? Was J. K. Rowling's work ruined because Harry Potter had green eyes? Why is skin colour so much more important than any other phenotype variation? Is it maybe because the audiences are racist crybabies?
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