As previously mentioned on this blog, stereotypical portrayals are often harmful to the groups they represent. Put succinctly by the super-famous movie star Ed Skrein, “…to neglect this responsibility would continue a worrying tendency to obscure ethnic minority stories and voice in the Arts.”
Oh, you haven’t heard of Ed Skrein? That’s because his career ground to a halt after he refused to play a role in the Hellboy reboot five years ago. After landing a minor role in Game of Thrones and a supporting part in Deadpool, Skrein’s star was rising, so he was cast in 2017’s Hellboy–and promptly caught hell for it. His character is Asian in the comics while he is mixed race and not Asian. To make matters worse, his casting was announced amid the Scarlett Johansson debacle regarding Ghost in the Shell. Upon discovering his role was whitewashed (the script he received didn’t indicate race, and Skrein wasn’t familiar with the Hellboy comics beforehand), Skrein bowed out of production, making a tactful statement. Only now is he getting sizable roles again.
Unlimited instant streaming of thousands of movies and TV shows
Basically, Skrein lost momentum. He did the right thing and lost four years of his career for it. Not many actors have the same fortitude when in that situation. Much of that needed fortitude must be used when an actor stands up to their team. An actor in the rising part of their career already has a manager, agent, and publicist (which the actor likely had to claw and scrape for close to a decade to get) working for them, making moves and doing deals in their name. To tell that team “The opportunity you’ve given me is racist,” will most likely mean that they’ll lose many members of that team, members that will spread word of the actor’s “difficult” reputation.
This says nothing of the daunting challange that faces actors just starting out. Many of these hopefuls are just happy to have acting credits in reputable studio films. Channing Tatum is a famous example. He received a three-picture deal with Paramount, which guaranteed him work and massive name exposure. He wasn’t told which movies were part of that deal, though, leading Tatum to star in G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra. Were he to say, “No, this movie sucks and will tarnish my reputation,” Paramount would’ve sued him for breach of contract, and we never would’ve seen Tatum in a movie past 2009.
Similarly, fresh actors have little power to affect decisions from above during production. If a producer or executive orders a rewrite, the role for which an actor signed on could look entirely different by the time the movie is finished filming. Again, if an actor makes waves, they could be labeled “difficult.” (Remember the Katherine Heigel Knocked Up saga ten years back?) If they leave production, they could be sued for money they don’t have.
That leaves A-list actors, who can and should refuse roles that hurt minorities. Although, that won’t actually fix the problem of a bad role’s existence. Once a script goes to casting, only a producer, director, or executive has the authority to alter the role, which means that if an actor declines a gig, the production will just find a less ethical star waiting in line.
Therefore, the onus for removing these portrayals not only lies with actors, but also with writers, producers, directors, and executives. Ultimately, this issue then enters into the frustrating zone of everyone sharing the blame, which means everyone has to be a little better.
GameStop has all your new and refurbished electronic needs here.
The average moviegoer can be a little better too, though. Your purchase is a vote; if you hear about a movie with a problematic production or portrayal, don’t pay money to see it. Likewise, if you hear about someone doing the right thing, try to support their career. People like Ed Skrein deserve better for standing up.
Stream on Netflix