Are There Too Many White People On Our Screens?
Are too many films and television series being dominated by an all-white cast, asks Neave.
Another production that features a white, often British, male as the leading role is James Bond.
We all enjoy watching a big screen production at the cinema, or maybe watching episode after episode of our favourite TV show on Netflix, but have you ever stopped to consider the amount different races you can count? How about in cartoons, how many different races can you spot then? (Though cartoons have become more accepting of different nationalities and colours. There’s Disney’s ‘Mulan’, Disney’s ‘The Princess And The Frog’, Disney’s ‘Moana’, it’s most recent box office hit, ‘Aladdin’… there’s a lot). Even over the years we still see racial discrimination in casts of our favourite productions. Doctor Who, James Bond, even our favourite Disney films (obviously excluding all of the films I just mentioned…) have all been dominated by a white cast. Unless you count all of the intergalactic beings and aliens Doctor who fights, but that’s a whole other can of worms.
Let’s take a look at Doctor Who, as I’m sure many people are excited for the announcement of the 13th doctor this Christmas. Doctor Who has been aired on the BBC since 1963, and has had a wide range of doctors. All of which have been white males… specifically white British males [edit: since filing this piece, we now know Jodie Whittaker will be the first female doctor]. Now I’m sure many people will argue it has become tradition for the doctor to be played by a white British male, and arguably the show is a British television series, and that perhaps a doctor of colour, or even a female doctor, would receive a large amount of negativity and hate from the Doctor Who fanbase (they do seem like a tough crowd, especially after Peter Capaldi, took on the role as the twelfth doctor. Check out this article explaining why. Mentions of the new doctor being a doctor of colour have also received a large amount of hate, and negativity, so it makes sense that they haven’t had a doctor of colour. But, The Doctor has the ability to change his appearance so he can look like anyone, anything even, why is there no doctor of colour? Or even a female doctor?
The Doctor has the ability to change his appearance so he can look like anyone, anything even, why is there no doctor of colour? Or even a female doctor?
Another production that features a white, often British, male as the leading role is James Bond. As of 2017 there have been 24 Bond films, all of which have a white male as their lead. Now again, there is still the argument of James Bond being played by an actor of colour, or even by a female, as not being “James Bond” for many fans of the film. Another argument against Bond being played by and actor of colour, or perhaps a female adaptation of the character (who would probably be a lot like Black Widow from the Avengers… Maybe they should stick with a male as the lead) comes from Bond’s origin…
The character was originally from a series of novels by Ian Fleming, which were then adapted for television, radio, comic strips, video games, and film. The character, as you may have guessed, portrayed a white British male spy, resembling, as quoted from Fleming himself, the American singer, Hoagy Carmicheal, and himself, Ian Fleming, both white males… So, changing portrayal of bond would be like changing the character completely!
So, what about your classic Prince Charming? Normally he’s portrayed as being a white male, and granted, Prince Charming couldn’t exactly be played by a female (the clues in the name, Prince Charming), but just because the media has planted this image of the perfect guy in our head, doesn’t mean that every actor who plays Prince Charming has to be a carbon copy of them. I mean, what was the last fairy tale that showed a prince of colour (or a female prince for that matter)? Excluding Disney’s adaptation of ‘The Princess A
nd The Frog’, which features a black-American cast, basically every prince has been portrayed as a white male. But why? Has the perfect image of our favourite fairy tale princes and princesses been drilled into us from such a young age, that we just don’t know any differently?
But if we look over the film industry as a whole, there has to be some actors of colour, right? And, almost surprisingly, there are. Despite the large number of classic white actors and actresses, with their perfect smiles and perfect hair, there are actually many diverse actors and actresses such as Will Smith, Morgan Freeman and, Halle Berry. And though they don’t play the ‘Prince Charming character’, and are normally type cast, they are out there. In fact, Star Wars actually featured a lead of colour, Finn, played by John Boyega. But are there any others? And more importantly, where is the 50/50 split? Though we may never get the answers to these questions, we can only hope to see more actors of different races playing our favourite characters.
Support more young people to have their voices heard
Rife is Watershed‘s online magazine created for young people, by young people.
We offer paid internships and publish work by young writers, photographers, illustrators, and filmmakers from all sorts of backgrounds, helping them get into creative careers. Rife has reached over 8,000 young people through our workshops, over 220 young people have made stuff for Rife on topics ranging from mental health to identity to baked beans, and last year, over 200,000 people visited our website.
In these complex and uncertain times hearing from and supporting young people who are advocating for social change and contributing fresh perspectives has never been so important.
Through supporting Rife you can ensure that this important work continues and that more young people have their voices heard.