October 19, 2017
It was the first time I’d ever heard the phrase, so I said, “Would you repeat that?”
“We’re hiring an African-American for this part.”
What I wanted to say was: Wait, is this the same female casting director who is notorious in New York City for bringing actresses to tears by telling them that they’re too short, too fat, too blond, too perky, too old, too young, too chubby, too Jewish, too ethnic, too whatever—in other words, pointing out things they have no control over—because the script is written this way and the script is sacred?
Yes, it was the same woman. Apparently skin color was the only thing that wasn’t sacred in a shooting script.
I’m guessing, but I would imagine there was a production meeting, and at some point someone said, “What we need for this is a strong black character.”
And seven other people immediately agreed.
And so the director said, “Tell the casting director we’re Going Black with that police captain.”
I understand the whole multicultural, multiethnic universe of certain stories that are rooted in diverse environments—Star Trek comes to mind—but lately there’s been an aggressive effort to use actors as agitprop signboards even in stories about mountain men set in rural Montana.
“Well, no,” says the director or the producer, “the mayor of Thornton, Colorado, is not transgender in this script.”
“Why not? Why wouldn’t it be a BETTER STORY if the mayor were transgender?”
I mean, these conversations actually take place, and they take place long after the screenwriter has lost control of his work. He may have a three-inch-thick bible of backstory on that Colorado mayor, and he may have spent nine months perfecting that characterization, but it won’t matter because somebody with a sickle to grind at a production meeting started daydreaming about a transgender plot twist.
Fortunately these things have a way of self-correcting. People who make movies in order to transform society end up dying of brain aneurysms when the Monday-morning box office results come out and Transformers 8 has outperformed their socially relevant stick figures by 9,000 percent. Watch all those Lenfilm and Mosfilm movies from the 1950s and you’ll know what I mean. Better yet, watch Detroit. Because…nobody else did.
I think we’ll know this is over on some future day when they’re having a production meeting at the Public Theater, and the director of Shakespeare in the Park says, “Okay, we’re doing Othello this year, but listen to this…we’re gonna Go White with it.”
That’s when they’ll finally decide fake symbolism has run its course.