Working For The Man

News sites are packed with stories about film stars apologising for acting characters of other ethnicities than their own. It is absolutely right that, where possible, minority characters should be played by minority actors. There are far fewer starring roles for them, and it is laughably ironic to depict a racially or sexually diverse community on screen, but to deny it by only casting white actors. It almost looks like a hegemonic conspiracy. 

However, this is not the actors’ fault. They can’t be blamed for wanting to play meaty roles that will stretch them. Denunciation makes them apologise, but they seem to do so with increasing ease and glibness (although many testify how upsetting it is, to feel yourself hated, so),  but what good is an insincere apology, especially after the film has been released?

From a Machiavellian point of view, I suppose it puts pressure on casting directors and film companies for fear of bad publicity, a dimming of their star’s wattage, and boycotting. However, even they don’t deserve anger and hatred. Films are incredibly expensive and film makers must do their utmost to guarantee a return on their backers’ investments, if they are to get funding for their projects. Actors are picked for their acting chops, their beauty and their pulling power. The standards for these qualities are set by an unequal society, not by individual film makers.

Still, each film that sets up exclusively white beauty, skill and success standards is reinforcing the ideology, so campaigns to challenge that are justified.

This is no excuse, however, for vindictive persecution of individuals, even gallingly beautiful and successful ones, and especially not the vulnerable, flash-in-the-pan vloggers, desperate to be loved. They are denounced with relish, out of venomous envy, for invented crimes.

It is nothing more than bullying, as in a playground, where children perceived as posher than their classmates are put into headlocks and squeezed until they gasp “uncle” (or “pax”, it used to be where I grew up in Ireland): it is an exhilarating and addictive demonstration, a reassurance, of the bullies’ personal power and consequence. But, in the end, it is just another sort of destruction of the different. 

And is there much difference between these trolls and the highly educated, respected and successful activists who spend their time telling much less successful and less gifted people that they are the racist beneficiaries of “white privilege”? After all, these activists are often the beautiful people, endorsed by, and with tenure at, exclusive academic institutions. And these institutions are deeply embedded in the elitist systems of our society, gaining millions of pounds/ dollars of funding from them to produce the next generations of their members. 

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