A new brouhaha has erupted in the world of political correctness. Well it’s not really new, since everything in that world revolves around race and how the diabolical white power structure. i.e.those with white privilege, is once again denying people of color their true equal due in the world. Race-grievance mongers are at it again. They are upset that a Caucasian actress has been chosen to play “Tiger Lily” in the upcoming Peter Pan movie. As if all Native-Americans only have one particular set of physical and ethnic parameters and that somehow only a Native-American can do justice to a Native-American part . Of course, they seem to have ignored the reality where Peter Pan is make-believe, i.e. pretend, and a story written by a Scotsman (non-Native-American) to boot. These same professional grievance mongers even complained that it was insensitive to cast Johnny Depp as Tonto in the Lone Ranger. I guess they didn’t see that film. For if they did they would be glad that no respectable Native-American had anything to do with that role (or the movie as a whole).
The actual issue that arises concerns the preconceived notions of what people are supposed to look like and how people are supposed to behave. It is called stereotyping. Stereotypes, ones even pushed for good purposes, are debilitating and promote bigotry. It creates a false expectation about who a people happen to be and what they can accomplish. To say that a Native-American only looks one particular way is to deny all those Native-Americans who defy the stereotype. We also aren’t talking about an “Orson Welles in black face playing Othello” moment with modern film.
Additionally, complaints have been made that the person playing a Palestinian in Community is an Indian-American, the person playing Jafar in Once Upon A Time: Alice in Wonderland is also Indian, and there are no Arab-Americans in the Broadway cast of Aladdin. Apparently this complaining Arab-American organization (see link above) forgot the fact that Aladdin takes place in Persia and that there is a huge difference between Arabs and Persians. For Persians (Iranians) their language is Farsi not Arabic, they have a different history separate and unique from the Arab world (i.e. they created the great Persian empire) and there is that little religious difference where the majority of Persians are Shiite, as opposed to the majority of Arabs who are Sunni. It may be a little distinction to the CAIR disinformation bureau, but this divergence did, and still is, causing death, mayhem and destruction across huge swaths of the Middle East.
People are chosen for parts for any number of reasons, most of which, other than talent, is name recognition and potential box office. Movie making after all, is one of the world’s biggest and most lucrative businesses.To also say that the person who plays a particular ethnic character has to be from that particular ethnic group is also promoting ignorance. The art of acting is to become your character no matter who they are, to appreciate the character’s reality, and to understand where they are from. Actors are artists. They take what they do seriously and proudly.
In conjunction with this nonsense there was a recent article that appeared in Salon, which demanded that non-Arab women should not be allowed to “belly dance” because that dilutes its ethnic origins. (Actually the author castigates “white” women who “belly dance.” It seems it’s perfectly alright if progressives and feminists decide who a person is based upon the color of their skin.) The author was even insulted that we use the western term for this kind of dance. It showed how westerners appropriated and destroyed her heritage. Meanwhile, extrapolating her theory then that art forms must remain ethnic specific, non-Europeans should not be allowed to study classical music, non-African-Americans should never be allowed to play jazz and non-Asians should never be allowed to learn karate, judo or any form of Asian martial art. Apparently, only if you are part and parcel of a particular ethnic group could you ever be allowed to learn, appreciate and study any form of art from that culture. This “feminist of color dilettante” has decided that individuals (especially those from a white or European inspired imperialistic background) are totally incapable of understanding and respecting any art form not found within the narrow boundaries of their own genealogical code.
This is the new problematic point in the politically correct world of continual butt-hurt. Ethnic divisions are now never-ending, exclusive and tribal. Since tribalism is working out so well for the Middle East, Africa, parts of Eastern Europe and Asia, why wouldn’t the politically correct braintrust want to bring that joy over here? Hence, now ethnic roles must be handed out to ethnic specific actors. Ethnic arts can only be appreciated and practiced within a particular ethnic community. In other words, only Native-Americans can play Native-American and only Arabs can play Arabs, or better yet, specific Arab ethnicity must play a specific Arab ethnicity. Unless it’s the show Aladdin then you can be an Arab playing a Persian.
Sadly the haters of CAIR also complain that Jafar is a stereotypical Arab character. Apparently our friendly neighborhood Hamas affiliated Islamofascist American non-profit forgot that Jafar is an evil character from the Arabian Nights. A compilation of stories begun in the 10th century created by an amalgamation of anonymous Middle Eastern authors. It is considered one of the great feats of world literature. Perhaps the confused individuals of CAIR could find a way to demand a rewrite of Alf-layla-wa-layla so that there are no bad Moslems in the stories whatsoever. I wonder which peace-loving Middle Eastern tyrant they would petition for permission to rewrite one of the greatest literary achievements of the Moslem world? Their first request, of course, could be to change Jafar from being Persian into an Arab, and that he be merely misunderstood, like CAIR”S friends in Hezbollah and Hamas. Otherwise they should just stick to threatening Hollywood liberals because ABC wanted to create a show called Alice in Arabia.
This show was supposed to be about an Arab-American girl who has to return to Saudi Arabia to live. The character was described as an observant proud Moslem girl. CAIR complained it would show Arabs in a bad light. Actually, CAIR does have a point. If the show was true to life it wouldn’t really be a good travel log for Arabia. What with honor murders; child marriage; beheadings; amputations for criminals; stoning of rape victims; crucifixions; no freedom of religion, speech or travel; women as chattel; women arrested for driving; women arrested for witchcraft; the religious police; the fatwas that ban everything from flying to Mars to eating at an all you can eat buffet; and the support for terrorists around the globe, or at least those terrorists that want to kill Jews; a peek behind the Veil that is Saudi Arabia would not do well for the propaganda arm of the “religion of peace.” I could see why if you wanted to gloss over the mentality of the tyrants of the Middle East, threatening today’s politically correct liberal minds-as-goo-Hollywood-potentates would actually be an easy endeavor. Sadly, it wasn’t really hard for our terrorist supporting friends at CAIR to get cowardly-Hollywood to back down on that series.
Meanwhile, the newest round of politically correct racism is upon us. Funny how other ethnic groups didn’t get upset about who played a part in the movies. Yes, the Italian community was upset when The Godfather came out, some made noise about not all Italians being in the Mafia. But no one really complained about Marlon Brando, who was not Italian, in the lead, nor James Caan as Sunny, who is also not Italian (OK Caan is Jewish and according to sources from the Bronx and Brooklyn, Jewish is really basically the same thing as Italian.) Additionally same with movies with major Jewish characters. James Woods, and Robert DeNiro who are not Jewish, played Jewish mobsters in Once Upon a Time in America. In fact, the latest round of gentiles playing Jews include Leonardo DiCaprio and Christian Bale. Didn’t seem to bother anyone of the Tribe of Israel that none of these great actors are Jewish but played Jews. What about Al Pacino as Shylock in the Merchant of Venice, on film and Broadway? Don’t forget Charlton Heston as Moses and only part-Jewish, technically gentile, Paul Newman as Ari Ben Canaan in Exodus. Supposedly if the Jews wanted to jump into the politically correct fray they could always demand a brit milah certificate when a gentile is even mistaken for a Jew. But honestly Jews have more urgent things to worry about, like an Iranian nuclear bomb, terror attacks against Jewish children and the worldwide rise in antisemitism.
In fact one of the most iconic Hollywood movies of all time is Moonstruck with Cher, Nicholas Cage, and Olivia Dukakis. It is about an Italian family in Brooklyn, very stereotypical and not always flattering, but a terrifically fun movie. Now ethnically the lead, Cher, is Armenian, and her mother in the film who was played by Dukakis, is Greek. Meanwhile, even Nicholas Cage is only a little bit Italian (OK he’s part of the Coppola family so it’s not too shabby Italian) but his other half is German and Polish. No one seemed to mind at all. At the time, Moonstruck’s diversity was lauded as the real America. An example of e pluribus unum, the melting pot. But since then identity politics has taken hold of the United States and the American chattering class has lost its collective sanity.
It is an interesting phenomenon that the politically correct who pushed us into a multicultural world, which of course results in mixed ethnic parentage, have decided to complain that a particular part didn’t go to the right ethnicity. Ironically, these politically correct cabals would then ultimately have to decide the question about what makes someone part of a particular group? Genealogy? Genetic code? Religious practice? Skin color? Facial characteristics? All of the above? Do we devolve into a world that details how many parts of a particular ethnic group you have to have in order to be considered right for a role? Are we once again going to go down the ethnicity defining Nuremberg road beginning and ending with great-grandparents or 1/32nd ethnic part? After all, if the result is to be politically correct, there can’t be any racism involved, right?