a thought on racebending and genderbending

Which is to say, casting female performers for characters who are canonically male, or actors of color for characters who are canonically white.

Look at Hollywood. Look at TV. Look at how frequently they remake or reboot or sequelize existing narrative properties (for a host of reasons, not all of them terrible, but we won’t get into that here). For crying out loud, we’ve got three separate Sherlock Holmes franchises in progress right now.

If you don’t turn Starbuck female — if you don’t cast Lucy Liu as Watson — if you don’t make Idris Elba Heimdall — if you don’t break the mold of those existing texts in ways that will let in under-represented groups — then your opportunities for having those groups on the screen in the first place drop substantially. You’re basically left making them minor new characters, or else cracking the story open to stick in a major new minority character (and people will complain about that, too). Because all those stories we keep retelling? They’re mostly about straight white guys. And the stories that are new, the ones that aren’t being retold from one or more previous texts, can’t pick up all the slack on their own. You make Perry White black, or you make a Superman movie with no black people in it above the level of tertiary character.

Which isn’t automatically a problem when it’s one movie. But it isn’t one movie: it’s a whole mass of them. Including most of our blockbusters.

So either we chuck out the old stuff wholesale (and as a folklorist, I entirely understand why we don’t do that), or we rewrite it to suit our times. (And as a folklorist, I entirely understand that too — and I cheer it on. Go, folk process, go!)

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0 Responses to “a thought on racebending and genderbending”

  1. martianmooncrab

    one of the “new” TV series is a reboot of Ironside, with him being black this time..

  2. raktajinos

    roohaha! Completely agree.

    The same situation can be seen recently when Andrew Garfield (Spiderman) said that MJ could be a guy in the next film, why not, and that Peter Parker could be exploring his sexuality. And the internet exploded. But we need to be changing these old narratives to more fully express the reality of today.

    I can’t say enough wonderful things about Elementary. Their modernized take with gender/race bending Watson, what they did with Moriarty, and then with Miss Hudson being trans. And doing all of them actually pretty well. Far exceeded my expectations.

    Another problematic example I think is the recent Star Trek reboot. The film was diverse, but it was forced to be that way because of the original material (which is rare). Its sad when the most ‘diverse’ big-budget film in the last few years was only that way because of a concept from the 1960s.

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