Miscasting and stereotyping in the film industry
Casting is one of the most crucial aspects of filmmaking. It is the process of selecting actors to portray the characters in a movie, and it plays a significant role in how the story is told, perceived, and interpreted by the audience. When done correctly, casting can breathe life into a character, making them feel relatable, inspiring, and touch viewers on a personal level. However, when it’s done poorly, miscasting can lead to stereotypes, discrimination, and missed opportunities for representation.
What is stereotyping?
One of the most significant problems with miscasting is that it often leads to stereotyping. Stereotyping is the process of categorizing individuals or groups based on preconceived notions or assumptions about their characteristics, behavior, or beliefs. Stereotyping is harmful and can lead to prejudice, discrimination, and negative attitudes towards individuals or groups.
Stereotyping happens a lot in the film industry, especially a few years back. Before, people were much less concerned about concepts like political correctness, racial appropriation, and respecting others’ rights and identities. The center of the film industry is the United States. American media and Hollywood are mainstream and have been leading other countries in modeling and producing media worldwide. Since the U.S. and its film industry are dominated by white people, many depictions of non-white characters in films were based on racial biases and cultural ignorance.
Here are some unethical practices that were used in the American film industry in the early days
White washing entails the casting of white actors in non-white roles in the film industry. This practices divided to so many sub practices like
Black face is a type of stage makeup that is primarily worn by non-black people to represent a caricature of a black person. During the 19th century, the practice of black face was very popular in the U.S. Black people were portrayed as weak, evil, dangerous, foolish, uneducated, and submissive. This practice is very harmful as it causes the spread of racial stereotypes and discrimination.
A notable example of this is
Birth of Nation (1915)
In this film, Characters representing African Americans were portrayed by White actors in blackface. Especially African American men who were shown as unintelligent and sexually aggressive toward white women.
- Yellow face
Yellow face is when white actors would typically portray East Asian roles, frequently employing makeup to simulate East Asian facial features. Ex: using equipment to pull back their eyes. Rather than presenting accurate and truthful representations of real cultures, customs, and behaviors, The American media’s portrayal of East Asians reflect a dominantly Eurocentric perception. The practice of “Yellowface” shows American prejudices of East Asians.
A notable example of this is
Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961)
The film is a romantic comedy that was centered on the Romance between Young New York socialite Holly Golightly and a man who moves into her building.
The character of “Mr. Yunioshi” is a Japanese photographer who lives in the same building as Holly Golightly. He was played by American actor, Mickey Rooney who had slanted eyes, buck teeth and a thick accent in the film.
All of these practices lead to cultural discrimination, a practice when a person is treated less favorably because of their culture. They are the result of all of the media that White people have created in the past. Media which were so disrespectful to people of color, their culture, and identity. Additionally, it perpetuates and reinforces stereotypes. Have you ever noticed how in movies, muslims and Middle Easterners always play terrorists? Why do black people always act so violently and white people are always the prince charming or the hero? The media in the past has shaped people’s thoughts and perceptions of each other. Not being inclusive enough in the casting process can create a chain of processes that lead to dysfunctional thoughts and cause several major social problems.
Effects of Miscasting
Since the U.S. dominates the film industry, many popular films in the market are produced with cultural ignorance and cultural discrimination. Hollywood has been doing this for decades. Overtime, the audience began to stigmatize those cultural behaviors and view it as a threat to their society, leading to something called a moral panic.
What is a Moral panic?
A moral panic is a widespread and exaggerated public response to a certain topic or behavior. This phenomenon is fueled by irrational fears or anxieties. A typical moral panic is a heightened sense of moral concern that is often fueled by the media and results in the demonization or stigmatization of a certain group or behavior which the society views as a threat to their social values and interests.
The entertainment industry has been plagued with various controversies over the years. One of the biggest issues is the moral panic that arises from miscasting in the film industry. When a character in a film or television show is miscasted, it means that the actor or actress does not fit in the character. It could also mean casting actors of color in a role that plays into dysfunctional stereotypes. The moral panic that arises from miscasting in the film industry is not only limited to issues of race but also extends to gender and sexuality. Miscasting can reinforce unfavorable preconceptions and misrepresentations. As well as instill fear and paint certain groups as destructive or unfavorable.
Hollywood has a history of promoting inaccurate assumptions about minority groups such as Muslim people, Black people, and people from the LGBTQ+ community which can spark a moral panic with far-reaching consequences. Hollywood perpetuates negative stereotypes about Muslims through the casting of actors, the lack of nuance and complexity in their portrayal, and the use of violent imagery and language. All of these have played a part in perpetuating negative stereotypes about Muslim and middle eastern people. Black characters in Hollywood have often been portrayed as problematic, violent or as criminals and thugs. And gay characters are portrayed as sexual predators who camp around bathrooms to take advantage of people. When people see these stereotypes play out in the screen over and over, they start to generalize and view these groups of people as “the bad guy”
Is woke really good if it is too much?
What is political correctness?
Political correctness is when you try to be mindful when it comes to using language and portraying behaviour within the media. This is due to the fact that certain aspects and sensitive topics could potentially offend or mentally affect a specific group of people, particularly those who may have experienced or been discriminated against. This particular concept has been known for promoting inclusivity and diversity, making the media a safer place for everyone and empowering them at the same time. Although, it could also be argued that this could lead to censorship and a restriction of freedom of speech/ expression. This could be because not all of the content is able to be shown and only certain sides of the story are portrayed. Thus, it aligns with the concept of censorship and potentially could lead to an echo chamber.
Being woke refers to having the sense of awareness and understanding of social issues and forms of discrimination such as sexism or racism. It strongly believes in having respect for all individuals regardless of their personal characteristics and background. Moreover, being woke involves advocating for change and peace, in order to achieve equality and justice within society. This includes speaking up against discrimination and being aware of it. There are many social movements within these past few years but one prominent concept that is associated with this topic would be the Black Lives Matter movement. Not only does it address crucial topics, it has also empowered many people of colour to stand up for themselves and to fight for justice and equity.
Current casting are trying too hard to be woke:
With people becoming more aware of issues like political correctness, racism, and the lack of diversity. Movie casting teams are trying harder than ever to be inclusive. This can often lead to them overcompensating and “shoving diversity down people’s throats.” Another reason why casting teams are trying too hard to be “woke” now is because in this high competition market, they want to stand out from others and make their media relate to as many people as possible.
Negative effects from being too woke with an example of the movie “ Little Mermaid ”
The plot lines and characters were changed from the original animation to increase the credibility and ethical image of media producers. When well-off and privileged activists who have appropriated wokeness can not even conform to their own norms, the moral superiority platform is rarely a good strategy to win over doubts. A good example of trying to be too woke in casting is the little mermaid. They’re trying too hard to be woke so they casted a black girl as Ariel in hopes to expand the target market. However, they faced a huge amount of backlash. Halle Bailey, a singer and performer of color, was casted to play Ariel in the recently released live-action of The Little Mermaid. And a portion of the internet has responded poorly to the release as the trailer received a million and a half dislikes from upsetting audiences who were outraged that the character is no longer a hot aquatic mermaid. Additionally, many of Disney’s loyal fans praised an AI artist that “fixed” Bailey’s appearance to look like a white woman.
- The entertainment industry needs to be more mindful of how it represents different groups of people, and casting decisions should be made with consideration for accuracy and sensitivity.
- It’s good to add diversity and try to be more inclusive when producing films, but there’s a very thin line between being inclusive and overcompensating for the lack of diversity.
- When it comes to casting iconic characters that are well known and well liked by the public, there are high expectations of how the work will turn out.
- We think it’s a great idea to add diversity by casting more diverse actors as long as it does not affect the overall picture and is appropriate to the context of the story.
- (Ex: Ariel dreadlock, Anne Boleyn)
- Furthermore, when the actors casted are drastically different from the original text or people’s expectations, it can turn out offensive and cause more damage than good.
In this live version of the Little Mermaid, Ariel is portrayed by Halle Bailey, a black female actress. This could be seen as quite inaccurate due to the fact that she has different features from the original cast. Although people do not have a problem with the new Ariel being black, concerns have been raised regarding the actress’ suitability to the context of the original story. For instance, in the iconic scene of Ariel flipping her hair, Halle could be seen as struggling to do so due to the weight of her dreadlocks. Not only that, questions have been raised about whether it is realistic for Ariel to have dreadlocks and swim at the same time. Thus, this raises many questions among the audience as to whether casting an African American actress and incorporating these cultural elements was a right choice.
Jodie Turner Smith, a person with color, played as Anne Boleyn who’s originally white. The movie ‘Anne Boleyn’ is historically incorrect as the real historical figure was light skinned. In which there’s a difference in their traits and characteristics. Despite her race, questions are still brought up about how well she fits into the initial story’s setting. The decision of selecting a person with color is questioned by the public in numerous ways.
Miscasting is an issue that has been a part of the film industry from its early days up to the present. The film industry’s long history of misrepresentation has led to several issues like perpetuating stereotypes, social discrimination, and causing moral panics. Furthermore, with a general increase in the awareness of political correctness and social issues. Newer movies are trying to be more inclusive by casting more diverse talents. However, in many cases it seems that they are trying to overcompensate and are “missing the point” of inclusivity entirely.
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