Earlier this week, Stephen King sent out the following tweet:
Diversity in entertainment – be it sexual, religious, racial, gender identity, or other – is a hot topic, and potentially a minefield of political correctness and sensitivities. It’s not really a ring I want to throw my hat into, but here goes anyway…
This King tweet wasn’t just a random admission to get a reaction. For context, King is on the judging committee for the Academy Awards, and has a voice in several categories. This is in response to there being only one nominee of colour for acting at the 2020 ceremony, to be hosted next month.
I don’t think King has anything to apologise for, but he has since walked back his tweet due to the resultant backlash he received. I thought it was fairly obvious what he was saying.
If I watch one hundred movies and pick the best ten performances from them, there’s a chance all of those actors will be white. Similarly, there’s a chance they will all be black. There’s also the chance that they will all worship the same God, or that they are all homosexual. Does it matter?
I don’t want to put words into King’s mouth, but as soon as I read his comment I knew he was talking about ability and skill, and that there was no underlying subtext about trying to keep ethnic minorities down. Frankly, I’m disappointed that he got so much heat about it.
All right, sure, the number of black actors and actresses getting (or even being offered) these roles is lower, so a great white role is quite simply easier to find. That’s not racist or discriminatory – it’s just a fact. I’m not a studio head offering actors these roles and similarly, I’m not taking them away either. I don’t think it’s fair for people operating under the rules of the game to be blamed for the sins of those running it.
In most cases, the person who gives the best audition should get the role, and there’s nothing else to be considered. I say most cases because obviously a movie about – for example – the 1936 Olympics, should not have Adolf Hitler played by a black guy any more than a white guy should be playing Jesse Owens.
But where colour is unimportant to the plot or the characters – and that is most things – the best actor should get the part.
Maybe that’s an oversimplification, and I really should be more cynical, but it’s also just common sense, right?