In Natives on Non-Native Casting, someone mentioned Taylor Lautner's "tween" following as if that justified casting him as Jacob Black in Twilight. Uh-huh, sure it does. Does Lynn Collins also have a tween following that justified casting her as the Blackfeet woman Silver Fox? Does Tongayi Chirisa have a tween following that justified casting him as the Caribbean Indian Friday? How about Elijah DeJesus in Pearl?
What's the difference between "Lautner has a tween following" and "Lautner and other white actors have a tween following because tween-oriented movies feature only white actors like Lautner"? Isn't this "tween following" argument just another excuse for following the historical pattern of hiring only white actors? How exactly will non-white actors gain a tween following if movies like Twilight don't give them a chance?
Blame the financiers again?
In the same posting, someone named Jet claimed the investors, not the studios, make the final decisions. Does that mean foreign movie moguls are following the American teenybopper market? Did some Asian or Arab high-roller say, "I won't put a penny into Twilight unless you hire that cutie-pie Taylor Lautner. My granddaughter will die if he isn't in the movie"?
I doubt it. Rather, I'm guessing the studios presented a proposal to potential investors. It probably went something like this:
"Ignore the fact that Twilight is already a hit among teenage girls and will attract viewers no matter whom we cast. And the fact that Taylor Lautner is a complete unknown except for the forgettable Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl. We have no evidence of it, but we believe Lautner will bring in the tween audience. We must have him as part of the package."
How to pitch Native actors
In contrast, the proposal could've said this: "The teenage market is already sold on Twilight, so there's no need to hire non-Natives for the Quileute roles. By hiring actual Natives, you'll attract the 4.5 million members of the 'niche' Native audience. You'll also attract broader American audiences aching for multicultural movies that reflect reality. And you'll appeal to all the European and Asian markets that love Native Americans.
"Moreover, you'll reap a huge amount of positive publicity. And you'll earn praise from critics like Rob Schmidt who look for authenticity in Native-themed movies. So this casting decision will be win-win for everyone."
In short, I doubt any foreign investors required the casting of Taylor Lautner as Jacob Black. I suspect these investors know only what the Hollywood studios tell them. Therefore, the onus rightly belongs on Stephenie Meyer and Twilight's producers for hiring Lautner.
The big picture
One could go down the line of successful youth-oriented movies and disprove the need for teen-heartthrob actors. Harry Potter, Spider-Man, The Princess Diaries, Scary Movie, American Pie, Back to the Future, etc. Even in Disney's High School Musical series, I don't think the actors were teen heartthrobs until the movies made them ones.
Therefore, my message to our anonymous reader is this: You're missing the big picture if you try to excuse or rationalize these casting decisions one by one. Hollywood execs aren't making rational decisions to cast non-Natives in Native roles. They're making irrational, racist decisions and then using phony excuses and rationalizations to justify them.
Some of them probably don't even realize the racist subtext of their decisions. "Taylor Lautner has a tween following...and I doubt any Native actor could do as well. Lautner's tween following will make Twilight a success...or it'll cover my ass if the movie tanks. Therefore, I'll make the (racist) decision to cast non-Native Lautner as Jacob the Quileute Indian."
Below: "Dude, I was Sharkboy! What have Tobey Maguire, Elijah Wood, and Daniel Radcliffe done compared to that?!"