How come every time us minority folk talk about racial disparities, someone has to tell us to go back to our native lands? What is that about? Does the minutia of inequality freak these people out? Or, is it that they never expected us brown people to notice that the game (i.e. the game of life in the U.S. in 2015) is not set up in our favor. Well guess what, guys. We noticed.
Today–just like yesterday, yesteryear and the days of old–the game is set up in favor of the straight, white male. I know that sentence sounds all angry and disgruntled, but it’s not. It is simply the truth. If you’re a white male, you’ve got the odds stacked in your favor more often than not. It’s OK to accept that. Us minorities have, and we do what we can to cope. Sometimes, we even talk about racial disparities and lack of diversity in public. Don’t fret, though. We’re not attacking you; we’re simply expressing our frustrations and realities, but I digress.
Yesterday I commented on this Slate post.
It’s a video of actor Cliff Curtis who is a New Zealander of native / indigenous (Maori) descent. If you’ve seen a movie or watched TV in the last ten years, you’ve probably seen his face. I know I have. I’ve seen him play Latinos a couple of times and he was good. It seems lots of people are pretty good at playing Latinos. There was Natalie Wood as Maria in West Side Story, Marlon Brando as Emiliano Zapata in Viva Zapata!, Al Pacino as Tony Montana in Scarface and Carlito Brigante in Carlito’s Way and finally, Cliff Curtis as Smiley in Training Day.
It seems there’s always room for Latinos in the storytelling, but not so much when it comes to casting. Wait. That’s not even really true, because there always seems to be a Latino floating around when Hollywood needs someone to play a gardener or maid.
When you’re a kid growing up addicted to movies, you look to them for escape. You want to see yourself reflected in this temporary nirvana. When you’re a Latino kid, that doesn’t happen often and wen it does, it’s nothing more than the personification of a multitude of negative stereotypes. For a budding cinephile, that’s extremely disheartening to experience, especially when you don’t feel all that different from anyone else depicted on the silver screen.
To be clear, this isn’t a dig at Curtis. He’s a talented actor. He clearly works hard to make all of his portrayals wholly believable. If you doubt that, just watch the video in the Slate post, and you’ll see. Ultimately, it’s not the actors that irritate me in this scenario. They’re just trying to get work, which I fully understand and support. What irks me is that Hollywood refuses to truly embrace diversity when it comes to movie making.
As an American who values her freedom and damn near cries every time she hears the big speech from Independence Day, I feel I’m within my rights to express myself, especially online. Freedom of speech is a big deal when you’re American. Anyway, yesterday I commented on that Slate post. I said it was great that Cliff Curtis was so versatile, but I condemned Hollywood for refusing to hire more ethnic actors.
I made my observation, content with simply getting the contempt off my chest. Unable to let my comment stand, some bald-eagle profile picture told me to go back to my “ancestral country.” To him I simply said the same. I told him to go back to the land of his people because ultimately, we all come form somewhere, and the cinephiles among us would like to see that “somewhere” depicted in modern-day American cinema. Everybody seems to have forgotten that the U.S. is this great melting pot, and all I’m saying is that maybe it wouldn’t have been so easy to forget if Hollywood had done better at reflecting that melting pot back at us. The worst part of all of this is that Hollywood already knows what Uncle Ben said about great power and great responsibility because they helped him say it.