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Modern interpretation vs. historical whiteness

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PDR
1383358.  Thu Jun 17, 2021 12:14 pm Reply with quote

barbados wrote:

Why do you care? and if you don't why are you arguing one portrayal is fine, yet the other isn't?


Perhaps because one portrayal would be fine while the other wouldn't. Because in the one case the physical characteristic (be it sex, gender, skin colour, nationality or shoe size) of the character is not a core feature of the role while in the other it is an intrinsic feature of the role (not the character) and goes to the heart of the reason why the play/film/WHY was made.

In Tom and Jerry it doesn't really matter what sex the three main characters are, but the whole piece wouldn't work if Tom was a mouse, Jerry was a dog and Butch was a cat. In old classics like The Front Page it really doesn't matter whether Hildy is a male or female journalist, and indeed it has been produced many times (on stage or screen) in both forms (although nothing quite tops the Lemon/Mathau version , naturally). Many years ago in Channel 4's much-missed "Shakespeare Masterclass" series of televised workshops Patrick Stewart demonstrated that it is possible to play Shylock both as a Jewish money-lender and as just a money-lender - he demonstrated that nothing in the text (with the exception of one line mentioning Gaberdine in the "Senior Antonio" speech) makes it essential to play it as an anti-Semitic rant.

You could have a black actor playing Anne Boleyn without too much difficulty - her skin colour isn't a particularly intrinsic part of the role. It's silly to say that the role could only be played by someone who is ethnically white-british. We don't seem bothered if the hair is the wrong colour or the height is wrong, or the actor's measurements are wrong - these are irrelevant details, just like her skin colour.

But you couldn't have a white woman playing Rosa Parks because the whole point of such a play/film would be that the character is not allowed on a given section of a bus because of her colour. The whole piece wouldn't make sense. You might be able to get away with making it a black man rather than a black woman, but even that would lose a big chunk of the sub-text - that a quiet, inoffensive, physically small and weak person brought a whole system down by shear dogged courage rather than aggression and physical force. It would be a major challenge for a male actor to bring that to the role.

So the two examples are not in any way comparable.

PDR

 
Alexander Howard
1383360.  Thu Jun 17, 2021 12:30 pm Reply with quote

Actually, for all the provocative suggestions, I am with CB27 on this one.

No one would be mad enough to let me loose on a film, but if they did, I would not actually cast Michael Sheen (for all his undoubted talents in biopics) as Barack Obama! I'm sure he would do it well, but even so...

As I once said, no one need bat an eyelid at Shakespeare with mixed race casts. The Taming of the Shrew worked well with Bianca and Kate, two sisters, played by a black and a white actress (Bianca the black actress as it happens) and if anything it emphasised their contrasting characters. Historical fiction is a difficult subject, and there I think there is no one right answer or no one right preference.

 
barbados
1383361.  Thu Jun 17, 2021 12:34 pm Reply with quote

PDR wrote:


So the two examples are not in any way comparable.

PDR
And youíre missing the point, Rosa Parks is irrelevant so is Anne Boleyn.
They could just as easily be replaced with Michelle Obama and Hilary Clinton

 
cornixt
1383362.  Thu Jun 17, 2021 12:50 pm Reply with quote

I think we understand that you disagree, we just don't understand the fault that you have with our reasoning/opinion.

It seems to be that you think that historical characters should only be played by people of the same race, but you aren't doing a great job of just saying that, you're just coming up with examples that don't make sense to us. Is that right?

 
barbados
1383363.  Thu Jun 17, 2021 1:03 pm Reply with quote

Lets just look back at the start of the conversation......

Jenny wrote:
The problem with mucking about with depictions of history is that people who aren't history fans tend to think it's factual. I have no problems when it's clearly a fantasy and an alternative history, as with Bridgerton, that's being depicted, but not when it purports to be the real thing. I appreciate that in these days of diversity and inclusion that is tough on black actors, but what it calls for is making movies and shows that depict the history of black people or from the point of view of black people. Anne Boleyn doesn't fit into that category.


barbados wrote:
As you say Jenny, if it is fantasy then it matters not who plays the part - Doctor Who is a classic example, Sherlock Holmes could even easier be played by anyone (he does have the regeneration issue the Doctor has ). But, could Rosa Parks be played by David Schwimmer without causing an uproar, even in a fictional film? I doubt it very much.
Anne Boleyn is pretty much in the same category


So are you suggesting that when Jenny says that
Quote:
The problem with mucking about with depictions of history is that people who aren't history fans tend to think it's factual
is fine, but when I say that there is a problem for some when a factual person is depicted by a different race it's wrong.
As I said, what are you arguing - that I am wrong? because all I have done is put names to the same comment that Jenny made so why did you not attack Jenny's point at all?

 
cornixt
1383364.  Thu Jun 17, 2021 1:57 pm Reply with quote

Is was easy to understand Jenny's comment. I might disagree to some levels and agree on others, but I understood it.

You appeared to say that Rosa Parks' ethnicity was irrelevant to her story (not so much in this comment but the one after it), which was a weird thing to say. You've refused to actually clarify again, and have just asked more questions rather than answering the one that is causing the problem. It seems like it is pointless to continue.

 
CB27
1383365.  Thu Jun 17, 2021 2:03 pm Reply with quote

Alexander Howard wrote:
Actually, for all the provocative suggestions, I am with CB27 on this one.

I have to admit I had to reread my post just to be sure that what I meant to say was that the arguments were tinged with racism, it's not accusing people of being racist.

I've fallen foul of saying things in the past that were pointed out to me as being racist or sexist, and it's sometimes a surprise and very disconcerting when it's pointed out because it's not the intention, it's just using arguments and\or phrases we've seen elsewhere without realising how they can come across to others.

 
barbados
1383366.  Thu Jun 17, 2021 2:15 pm Reply with quote

cornixt wrote:
Is was easy to understand Jenny's comment. I might disagree to some levels and agree on others, but I understood it.

You appeared to say that Rosa Parks' ethnicity was irrelevant to her story (not so much in this comment but the one after it), which was a weird thing to say. You've refused to actually clarify again, and have just asked more questions rather than answering the one that is causing the problem. It seems like it is pointless to continue.

As I said, the Rosa Parks suggestion was one where there would be outrage if it was not portrayed correctly.
Where you got that her ethnicity wasn't relevant is an odd one - for the point of the conversation, the person Rosa Parks it is equally relevant to that of Anne Boleyn (in current the conversation). Your suggest appears to be that one is more relevant than the other - when it isn't - if you are a black woman in real life then you should be played by a black woman. If you are a white woman in real life, then you should be played by a white woman.

 
CB27
1383370.  Thu Jun 17, 2021 2:26 pm Reply with quote

Which is not what other people are saying.

Not speaking for everyone else, and I think I made my view clear before, but if a person's ethnicity, gender or ability are not part of the story then it doesn't matter who plays them.

If it's part of the story it does.

Anne Boleyn's ethnicity has nothing to do with the story being portrayed.

Rosa Parks's story has everything to do with her ethnicity.

 
barbados
1383373.  Thu Jun 17, 2021 2:42 pm Reply with quote

The film where Rosa Parks is portrayed by David Schwimmer doesn't exist - how can it be to do with anything?
As Jenny said
Quote:
The problem with mucking about with depictions of history is that people who aren't history fans tend to think it's factual.

What was not being discussed is fictional characters in drama - you know, like Dastan and Tamina in the Prince of Persia film

 
PDR
1383381.  Thu Jun 17, 2021 4:05 pm Reply with quote

barbados wrote:
The film where Rosa Parks is portrayed by David Schwimmer doesn't exist - how can it be to do with anything?
As Jenny said
Quote:
The problem with mucking about with depictions of history is that people who aren't history fans tend to think it's factual.

What was not being discussed is fictional characters in drama - you know, like Dastan and Tamina in the Prince of Persia film


I'm sure Jenny can clarify her own views as she sees fit, but I feel it useful to go back and read her remarks in context - specifically where she said:

Quote:
I haven't seen it, but I know that a friend of mine who has studied Anne Boleyn quite a bit was unable to get through the first episode, she was so annoyed by its departure from history and gratuitous lesbian sex, without even considering the racial element.


I would read that as saying she has a problem with productions that are deliberately historically inaccurate rather than being particularly bothered about whether a particularly role is played by an ethnically coincident actor.

I'm not sure anyone is "attacking" anyone here (it's a discussion, not a competition), but if you want to view it in those terms, the reason why the people who are disagreeing with your posts are not also disagreeing with Jenny's is probably that she is not saying the same thing.

PDR

 
barbados
1383383.  Thu Jun 17, 2021 4:26 pm Reply with quote

So where is the actual issue, I said that in the case of historical characters there would be those that rely on the character being true even if it is a work of fiction.
I suggested that if the film were about Rosa Parks, there would be outrage, even though it would obviously not be a depiction of her life story. Sure enough, you were outraged. Yet you chose to argue that I was incorrect.

So Iílll ask again, when I say that the problem with mucking about with depictions of history is that people who aren't history fans tend to think it's factual, and I give you an example to illustrate how that would happen. How is that different from someone saying The problem with mucking about with depictions of history is that people who aren't history fans tend to think it's factual without the example? Or do you think there really is a film where David Schwimmer plays a character called Rosa Parks?

 
ali
1383392.  Thu Jun 17, 2021 8:45 pm Reply with quote

barbados wrote:
So where is the actual issue, I said that in the case of historical characters there would be those that rely on the character being true even if it is a work of fiction.
I suggested that if the film were about Rosa Parks, there would be outrage, even though it would obviously not be a depiction of her life story. Sure enough, you were outraged. Yet you chose to argue that I was incorrect.

So Iílll ask again, when I say that the problem with mucking about with depictions of history is that people who aren't history fans tend to think it's factual, and I give you an example to illustrate how that would happen. How is that different from someone saying The problem with mucking about with depictions of history is that people who aren't history fans tend to think it's factual without the example? Or do you think there really is a film where David Schwimmer plays a character called Rosa Parks?


Anne Boleyn and Rosa Parks are not dramatically comparable.
If you change the race of Anne Boleyn (but make no other obvious deviations from the historical record), there will be much harumphing heard in Tunbridge Wells, but the play remains the same. You can regard it as fiction if that makes you happier.
If you do the same with Rosa Parks you don't (as you suggest) get outrage so much as incomprehension - because the story no longer makes any sense: the relationship between black and white is integral to the plot. Regarding the story as fiction does not, in this case, help.
A play with David Schwimmer in the role of 'Rosa Parks' could only take place in a bizarro world where black and white and male and female are both reversed, which might be interesting, but IMO would lack the emotional force of a straightish historical play.

 
barbados
1383393.  Fri Jun 18, 2021 1:00 am Reply with quote

Why can you not see the point.
Rosa Parks is irrelevant- it is the first name I thought of. The point is again, in the case of historical characters there would be those that rely on the character being true even if it is a work of fiction.
in the case of historical characters there would be those that rely on the character being true even if it is a work of fiction.
in the case of historical characters there would be those that rely on the character being true even if it is a work of fiction.
Replace Rosa Parks and Anne Boleyn with Michelle Obama and Carrie Johnson itís the same thing, there would be those that rely on the character being true even if it is a work of fiction.
It doesnít matter if you think itís ok, there will be others who donít - there is nothing wrong with those that would say that the character should be true, same as there is nothing wrong with those that donít care. Why can you not see it, and see only that the person who fought segregation is more important to the Rosa Parks story, than the person who was executed for having a miscarriage is to the Anne Boleyn story. Itís history, and history happened (although mostly in the way recalled by the winners). If you want to write a story about a black lesbian Queen, then do so - just give her a name that is made up - like in the Prince of Persia films.

 
Alexander Howard
1383403.  Fri Jun 18, 2021 3:32 am Reply with quote

CB27 wrote:
I've fallen foul of saying things in the past that were pointed out to me as being racist or sexist, and it's sometimes a surprise and very disconcerting when it's pointed out because it's not the intention...


Nothing I have read in your comments has struck me as being racist or sexist, or any sort of -ist, by sensible definition. If you have been accused of an -ism, it might just be someone playing a game of oneupmanship against you, or misunderstanding the finesse of your argument. I tend to ignore that sort of thing.

 

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