From the beginning, we were concerned about casting, the issue of race. What we realized is that this story is functioning at the level of myth, and as a mythical story, the race of the individuals doesn’t matter. They’re supposed to be stand-ins for all people. Either you end up with a Bennetton ad or the crew of the Starship Enterprise. You either try to put everything in there, which just calls attention to it, or you just say, ‘Let’s make that not a factor, because we’re trying to deal with everyman.’ Looking at this story through that kind of lens is the same as saying, ‘Would the ark float and is it big enough to get all the species in there?’ That’s irrelevant to the questions because the questions are operating on a different plane than that; they’re operating on the mythical plane.
– Ari Handel, screenwriter for “Noah,” as told to The High Calling
By Arturo R. García
One of the arguments surrounding the #CancelColbert campaign has been that it has effectively given some white people “passes,” among them the target of the Stephen Colbert “Foundation” bit that inspired the tag in the first place, NFL owner Dan Snyder.
And that’s a fair point. But it’s also inaccurate to suggest that the campaign did not deal with “real racism.” Because, as we’ve seen over the past few days, a quite verifiable strain of hatred — at times veering into racism and misogyny toward activist Suey Park, as well as others discussing the issue — on the part of people who claim they’re not just defending Colbert, but comedy itself.
(Note: This post is image-heavy, with coarse and NSFW language under the cut.)
By Guest Contributor Frank Ligtvoet
In my research for a piece in the Huffington Post on independent schools and the lack of diversity I came across Avenues. The World School in New York, a newly founded school in Chelsea. The school’s expression of diversity was so far away from my take on the subject, that I – after some hesitation to get so direct – couldn’t resist to write and make some serious fun about it. Avenues is in essence not very different from many other independent schools in the US, alas. But in comparison to the serious efforts made by some of their New York competitors like Calhoun, Brooklyn Friends and Dalton to break away from their ‘exclusive’ traditions, to become more inclusive and less upper class white, Avenue stands out. Being the new kid on the block it could have learned from its peers.
The Times devoted earlier this year an article on the new New York based, for-profit independent K-12 school with its somewhat bloated, urban-chic name Avenues. The World School. It has the title: ‘Is This the Best Education Money Can Buy?’. For my black kids, Joshua and Rosa, the answer to that question is absolutely not. And it might not be for white kids either.
I invite you to have a look at the ‘Leadership: Our People’ page of Avenues’ official site. What you will see are 17 portraits of ‘Our People’ with above nice descriptions of who they are and what they have accomplished in their lives. Impressive men and women, yes, and all middle aged, and then – disturbing: all white. Very white. Almost the whiteness of the definition of white when Italians and Spaniards were still regarded non-white, an Anglo-Saxon and German kind of white, an old-fashioned kind of white. (See Nell Irvin Painter’s The History of White People.)
Of course, it is fine to be white. I myself am white with a Germanic name. But it is not fine to be collectively white, not in a city that is as diverse as New York, not in a country that is less and less run or dominated by whiteness, not in a country that consciously makes efforts to be more inclusive, that strives to ‘a more perfect union’, and particularly not in a educational institution, in a school that is a world school in a non-white world. To be fair: the New York campus has three non-white leaders and one is the Director of Admissions, not an unimportant position.
Of course there is, like all other independent schools in the US, a whole section on Diversity on the website. You can read there that the Avenues’ budget allows 10% of the student body to be social-economically diverse. Hope for a higher percentage will be found in donations from parents and alumni, in – again – old-fashioned charity that is. There is no goal, the goal is for what the money eventually allows.
The real Avenues diversity is, however, projected in the future when according to the grandiose plans campuses elsewhere on the globe will be established: ‘The broader Avenues learning community, eventually comprising campuses in many of the world’s leading cultures, will be exceedingly rich in cultural diversity among both students and staff. The thousands of students and faculty from China, India, Europe, Africa, Latin America and North America who will be an integral part of the Avenues culture will represent unprecedented cultural diversity.’
Avenues’ diversity is not the diversity in the definition of most other (independent) schools: it is not about sharing the privileges that we white people amassed over the course of history, it is not striving for equity and equality, it is upper-class, multi-culturalism, powered by jets between the campuses, campuses which will be each max 10% diverse as well. (From a global diversity perspective is the expression ‘the world’s leading cultures’ also a bit awkward, to say the least.)
To go back to the whiteness of the Avenue’s leadership: what does all this whiteness say to my kids, who are adopted and happen to be black? There are no black people good enough to have those important jobs? There are not even people who are not black and not white, like Asian or Latino or Arab people who are good enough to fill those positions? How can the leadership create diversity if they are not even able to diversify their own administrative body? The world of the New York world school is white. We, 7 year old Rosa and 9 year old Joshua, and their brothers and sisters of color, don’t count in that world, our heritage doesn’t count, the ‘unpaid work’ of our forefathers and –mothers doesn’t count. We can attend – of course – if we have the money, but what we are and who we are and where we are from doesn’t count in the Avenues world. And imagine the unthinkable: if my kids would attend and finish that school, what would be their idea about themselves? That they had to submit to almost complete whiteness to become the people they are?
I am sure that as an ethical service to the people who will send their kids to Avenues, the curriculum will be very, very worldly and very, very diverse, but it is not the flexible ideology that counts in the real world, it is the real and hard facts that surround us, the faces we see and the social hierarchy they represent.
The loss will not only be for the kids of color, but also for the white kids: they will experience that whiteness not rules the world any more once they leave the white, multi cultural bubble at graduation. And one can wonder if an education at Avenues under the ‘Our-white-people-leadership’ will be so effective after all, in a steadily more and more diverse world.
Frank Ligtvoet is the Founder of Adoptive Families with Children of African Heritage and their Friends, NY and published about adoption and diversity in a.o. Adoption Today, the Huffington Post and the New York Times. He tweets as @frank_ligtvoet.
By Guest Contributor Keith Chow, cross-posted from The Nerds of Color
Yes, I am proposing that a major comic book institution change the race of one of its popular characters as it transitions to a new form of media. In this case, I want Marvel Studios to cast an Asian American actor to play the lead in the upcoming Iron Fist show it is developing for Netflix. It seems logical enough to me, though as always, there are fans who are urging Marvel to resist changing his race.
Now, I know the topic of cross-racial casting has come up time andtime again here at The Nerds of Color. And while there are a contingent of fans who don’t think such things matter — or worse, arevehemently opposed to such casting choices — I can’t help thinking that Iron Fist gives Marvel a chance to add even more diversity to its interconnected cinematic universe. Not to mention that this is a case where changing the race of the character has the potential to actually add layers of depth to the story of said character.
By Arturo R. García
So after watching the trailer a couple of times Wednesday night, I came away feeling not totally worried about the forthcoming Annie remake. Quvenzhané Wallis looks like she’ll inhabit the title role more than capably — showing her ask “What’s the hustle?” was a nice touch to include this early — and Jamie Foxx (as Michael Bloomberg stand-in Benjamin Stacks) and Rose Byrne (as his girl Friday, uh, Grace) came off well in this trailer.
Cameron Diaz’s take on Miss Hannigan, here reimagined as a foster mother for Annie and her friends, looks less steady, shading further toward Carrie Bradshaw than Carol Burnett. The film’s IMDB page also reveals another potential setback for the character: there’s no listing for Daniel “Rooster” Hannigan, depriving Diaz’s Hannigan — at least thus far — of someone with whom to banter beyond Annie and Stacks. The music and choreography, from the brief glimpses we get in this trailer, don’t look bad.
The story also looks like a simplified version of the original, which you can either take or leave, considering that the 1982 vehicle featured “Bolsheviks,” assassination attempts, bodyguards named “Punjab” and “The Asp,” and Daddy Warbucks hanging around with Franklin D. Roosevelt. And while sites like ScreenRant and Jezebel also liked the trailer, it’s a long jump from a good two-minute clipshow to a coherent final product. (Remember, Zack Snyder’s Watchmen had a pretty well-liked trailer, and … well.)
In other words, there’s plenty of good discussion to be had about this movie; for starters, you might be surprised to see Emma Thompson — yes, that Emma Thompson — is one of the three writers. (In truth, it’s her 13th writing effort.)
But as you might imagine, some Internet Racists just couldn’t stop themselves from catching feelings. So, for anybody wondering why our comments policy is tight, we picked some real “winners” to show you under the cut.
By Arturo R. García
Our own Kendra James will have a proper review Monday morning, but we figured we’d get the ball rolling and gather your first thoughts on the Scandal spring premiere. SPOILERS UNDER THE CUT
By Arturo R. García
Welcome back, Scandalizens, as we embark on what Shonda Rhimes and company are billing as the all-killer(s), no-filler portion of the season: eight episodes, all in a row, telling what promises to be a three-sided war within the Pope family, with another conflict brewing within Fitz’s administration, despite Cyrus’ best efforts to (nearly literally) hide the bodies.
So before mounting up tonight, let’s play catch-up under the cut. SPOILERS FROM THIS POINT ON.
By Arturo R. García
Just as we’re getting used to having a show about zombies around again, NBC went one step further and dug up a show that is a zombie.
Yes, Heroes is apparently returning from the grave, with original showrunner Tim Kring in tow, sometime next year. As sensible longtime readers might have bleached out of their brain, the series’ first iteration ended, mercifully, with a pre-Nashville Claire-Bear outing the metahuman population to the world after Team Benetrelli saved the world from a group of angry carnival workers. Which gives just a little more heft to this bit of spin from NBC Entertainment President Jennifer Salke:
Until we get closer to air in 2015, the show will be appropriately shrouded in secrecy, but we won’t rule out the possibility of some of the show’s original cast members popping back in.
Sure, on one level that can be interpreted as a polite way for Salke to say, “PLEEEEEEEASE HAYDEN COME BACK,” but if the show really is a continuation and not just a “reimagining,” it puts Heroes in a very interesting position.
The genre television renaissance it helped define is mostly floundering; sure, Arrow gets its fair share of good reviews, but Agents of SHIELD has struggled to gain its footing and the British cult favorite Misfits has concluded. With Smallville long gone, Supernatural nearing the end of its run, Doctor Who surviving on a spread-out schedule and the CW’s Gotham and Flash projects looking unsteady, Heroes can reasonably expect to attract fans hoping for a return to its Series One risk-taking prime.
But for Reborn to truly thrive will take not just new blood, but picking the right (affordable) old faces to bring back. And more than anything, it is going to require Kring to learn from some of his costliest mistakes in the first go-round.