Choice of White Actress For Mixed-Race Role Stirs Debate on Insensitivity
But others argue that the Jolie naysayers are practicing reverse racism. Said a contributor on TheZeroBoss.com: "Mariane Pearl is mostly white . . . what are you practicing here, the one drop rule?"
(Jolie, it should be noted, claims some nonwhite ancestry. Her mother was reportedly part Iroquois.)
The debate is cast against the backdrop of the United States' troubled legacy of minstrel shows, where white actors slapped on burnt cork or shoe polish, the better to mock African Americans. Film stars Bing Crosby, Bob Hope and Eddie Cantor performed in blackface, as did actors in D.W. Griffith's "Birth of a Nation," using greasepaint and murderous stereotypes to reinforce America's worst fears about black men. Even as recently as 1993, actor Ted Danson donned blackface to roast then-girlfriend Whoopi Goldberg at the Friars Club.
Hollywood didn't confine this phenomenon to its depiction of African Americans. White actors including Mickey Rooney, Katharine Hepburn and Shirley MacLaine have donned the brown-, red- and yellow-face, too, playing Native Americans, Latinos and Asians, usually to stereotypical effect. Then consider that Forest Whitaker darkened his skin to play Ugandan dictator Idi Amin in "The Last King of Scotland," and the issue gets complicated: Does that count as blackface, or is it akin to Nicole Kidman's donning a prosthetic nose to play Virginia Woolf in "The Hours"?