A little blog post I wrote yesterday for HuffPost Entertainment.
Last week, Woody Allen finally “broke his silence” regarding accusations that he doesn’t cast black actors. Why the world felt it necessary to hold the director of “Scoop” and “Cassandra’s Dream” accountable for the lack of black stars in cinema is a little beyond me, but I’d like to discuss anyway.
It’s not a director’s job to celebrate or showcase diversity. It’s a director’s job to tell their story, which they’ve presumably worked tirelessly to get onscreen. (Whether Allen works tirelessly on his films anymore is, of course, up for debate.) It’s not a director’s job to comb through their script and think, “There just aren’t enough [insert ethnicity] in my film. Maybe we could turn this character into …” That would be tokenism, which is almost more offensive than a lack of diversity and often feels like an afterthought that ends up furthering stereotypes.
Why would we want Woody Allen to attempt to write black characters? Based on his limited world-view it’s obvious he would have very little perspective or authenticity. It’s a much greater problem that his limited view of the world is of such a specific socio-economic sphere which apparently does not contain enough African-Americans for him to know or have known some. But is that his problem or the world’s problem? And if it is the world’s problem, isn’t it more important that global corporations such as Paramount Pictures, Universal Studios or, any of the other major studios take on the cause of telling a more diverse group of stories? Consider a study put together by UCLA last year that shows “Across 100 top-grossing films of 2012, only 10.8 percent of speaking characters are Black, 4.2 percent are Hispanic, 5 percent are Asian, and 3.6 percent are from other (or mixed race) ethnicities.” When a studio is putting together what could be one of the largest grossing, superhero-themed entertainments of the year — entertainment meant for the majority to consume — shouldn’t they consider the majority that is going to see the film, especially when 44 percent of tickets sold are to non-Caucasians? The point being that, a studio makes 10 to 20 films a year that are meant for wide audiences. They are the ones who should be responsible for telling a diverse group of stories for a diverse audience. More often than not, they do what’s even worse than Woody Allen, which is to pigeonhole African-American stories by marketing them less to white audiences. They wind up creating a culture where diversity is less of the norm and less interesting to more colors of the rainbow.
Woody Allen makes one film a year, the majority of which take place in some upper-crust, bourgeoisie fantasy land where a rich old man must debate whether or not he should sleep with a much younger woman. Allen is not the villain when it comes to racial diversity on the big screen. It’s easy to paint him as one and believe me, I don’t mind doing so myself. He’s just not the guy in this particular go around. Also, after digging through his 50 films, Woody Allen HAS CAST African-Americans in his films.
Verna O. Hobson as “Mavis,” a maid in “Hannah And Her Sisters.”
Uncredited Actor Playing A Detective in “Manhattan Murder Mystery.”
Linda Kuriloff as “Nurse” In “Everyone Says I Love You.”
Hazelle Goodman as “Cookie,” a Prostitute in “Deconstructing Harry.”
Chiwetel Ejiofor as Ellis Moonsong in “Melinda and Melinda.”