April 28, 2010

Denzel Washington as JFK?

A casting note on the History Channel's upcoming Kennedys mini-series:

Can Greg Kinnear cut it as JFK?Greg Kinnear will play JFK, with Katie Holmes as Jackie Kennedy, Barry Pepper as Bobby Kennedy and Tom Wilkinson as family titan Joe Kennedy.Comment:   Going by the "best actor" theory prevalent in Hollywood, how about Denzel Washington, Meryl Streep, or Graham Greene as JFK? Why not, if an actor's biological characteristics don't matter?

If the History Channel is going for audience appeal--the other oft-heard excuse--why didn't it cast Will Smith, Morgan Freeman, or Samuel L. Jackson as JFK? They're easily as talented as Greg Kinnear, as capable of playing the role.

No, casting decisions like this one make Hollywood's racism clear. Kinnear is reasonably talented and popular--but not as much as Denzel Washington or Will Smith. He was cast because he's reasonably talented and popular...and because he looks roughly like JFK. There's no chance in hell that audiences would accept a more talented black, female, or Native actor as the white male President Kennedy.

Why doesn't this same thinking apply to Native, Asian, and other minority roles? Because Hollywood believes that only mainstream (white) roles have to be cast authentically. Whites are distinct individuals, but minorities all look alike. As we've seen, anyone with a good tan--e.g., Taylor Lautner, Tinsel Korey, Boo Boo Stewart, Lynn Collins, Mizuo Peck, Ben Kingsley, Jackson Rathbone--can play a Native character.

This is another great piece of evidence that it's not the actors' talent or popularity that matters. It's primarily their race. Anybody can play a minority, according to Hollywood, because their personal characteristics don't matter. But only whites can play whites.

Ergo, Hollywood is racist. As I've said and proved many times.

For more on the subject, see Friday, Tonto, Jacob Black, et al. and The Best Indian Movies.

Below:  Which actor was cast as JFK and why?


dmarks said...

Jackson could easily own the JFK rule, like he effortlessly took over Nick Fury. There's even a bit of a resemblance with the intense eyes.

"Get these mother******* missiles off that mother****** island!"

Anonymous said...

So by your reckoning, Tom Hanks should have been Malcolm X? Paul Walker as Ray Charles? Stop trying to play some kind of race card where there isn't any.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, there isn't much of a race card there. For all it is worth, Denzel Washington, who is dark brown, should never have been cast as Malcolm X; a light skinned black man with reddish hair.

Laurel said...

Anon (1), do you really believe that stuff when you type it, or does it just somehow sound good to you? I find it hard to fathom you don't see any race issue in white people, who run Hollywood, taking almost all the POC roles for themselves FOR DECADES.

One cannot simply "flip the script" ("White Malcolm X! HA! Who's the racist NOW?"). Because in order to believe the two scripts are in any way equivalent, you'd have to either be ignorant of or ignore 500-odd years of history and almost everything about the present.

And that's not smart. It's not even possible. It's just common, butthurt white denial, and it makes you look infantile.

Anonymous said...

Laurel, what point have you made? Any? Just throwing stuff to the wind to see what sticks? White people run everything so there must be racism in the world... ah, there's an argument I've never heard before. I was commenting on THIS blog post. The idea that we should just have Denzel Washington play JFK because he's the best actor available is ridiculous. Under that theory he should be playing every role. To try and make Greg Kinnear playing JFK some kind of race issue is ridiculous.

Laurel said...

"The idea that we should just have Denzel Washington play JFK because he's the best actor available is ridiculous."

Why? (Apart from the fact that he can't be in every movie.)

Why is THAT ridiculous, but NOT white people playing Asians, Native Americans, etc.? The excuse usually given for that is "we picked the best/biggest box office actor available." This post simply points out that if that were true, we'd always pick the best/biggest box office actor for every role. And we don't: we cast by race. Ergo, it's a race issue. And that was the content of this blog post.

I hope you're not really arguing there is not "racism in the world," but [shrug].

Anonymous said...

This blog is seriously good for a laugh. I hope it's just satire. Denzel as JFK would be fine, but, but, who would they hire for the romantic scenes with Jackie O, since, Denzel doesn't do love scenes with white women? Oh snap.
Wait, Jackie O can be played by Michelle Yeoh(not sure if denzel would lower himself to kiss an asian though) We could make her latin maybe.
Interestingly enough, Nick fury was white in the comics for about thirty odd years. They created a new universe with a black Nick fury a few years ago, so of course, any movie representation of him will be black.

Never stop posting even if this is actually "for real."

Anonymous said...

So it's okay to cast Mickey Rouke as Genghis Khan because "he's the best available", but a white actor must be used when casting white people?

Do you know how racist and stupid you guys sounds like? Hollywood isn't racist? Are you all out of your fucking minds?


Hollywood contribute to the brain-washing of entire nation into believing that "white is beautiful" and "white is the default". Anyone who supports their actions IS A RACIST.

Anonymous said...

As already mentioned, Mickey Rourke as Genghis Khan came to mind immediately. That some people try to defend that choice is sad and ridiculous. Almost as ridiculous as Tom Hanks playing Malcolm X, except that one of these terrible casting choices is actually about to happen.

refresh_daemon said...

Anonymous (1-?): I think you've failed to read the entire article, or, if you have, you've failed to comprehend it. The suggestion of Denzel playing JFK was made to highlight what happens in one racial direction (white people playing characters of other races), but not in the other direction. Rob is pointing out, satirically, how ridiculous such a suggestion would be and comparing it to what already happens in the business that people accept.

M. said...

I agree with what you're saying, and I wonder why so many of the dissenting opinions are from anonymous posters? But yea, look at Mickey Rourke as Genghis Khan, and seriously say that it doesn't matter if a non-white person portrays a POC.

There is an exception to this: Idris Elba as Heimdall, and there is some backlash (some have called the casting out as wildly inappropriate and racist), but I think its more proving the rule than being an example of racist casting. It seems that Kenneth Branaugh chose who he thought could best represent the character, regardless of race.

Anonymous said...

To anon
Who in the BLEEP do you think you are kidding?!! Noone had a problem with Elizabert Taylor as Cleopatra or Mickey Rooney's buffoony character in 'Breakfast at Tiffany's' or Clint Eastwood playing a cowboy who in REAL life was black or Angelina Jolie playing the VERY brown skinned Marianne Pearl WTF?! Or THREE Italians playing Cubans in 'Scarface' or Katherine Hepburn playing a Japanese woman or Jeanne Crain in 'Pinky'. And John Wayne also slated to play Genghis Khan or Charlie Chan being played by actors NON Asian yeah I'll bet you were 'rushing' to say something about that. The problem is Laurel was schooling you on your ignorant privilege but you are either too dumb or too blind or BOTH to see it. And Katie Holmes isn't he like 16 years older than her?!!

Rob said...

I wasn't exactly making Greg Kinnear's casting a race issue, Anonymous. I was using Greg Kinnear's casting to make a point about Hollywood's casting practices in general.

If Mickey Rourke can play Genghis Khan, then yes...let's cast Tom Hanks as Malcolm X and Denzel Washington as JFK. All these choices are equally good or bad.

Did JFK ever meet Malcolm X? Maybe Denzel Washington as JFK could play opposite Greg Kinnear as Malcolm X. Wouldn't that be something?

We don't need to limit this discussion to JFK, of course. Denzel Washington could play George Washington or Abrahan Lincoln too. Yes, why not?

Since Denzel Washington was only an example, it doesn't matter whom he does love scenes with. We could cast Will Smith, Jackie Chan, or Wes Studi instead. And don't forget all the talented female actors who could play JFK.

Aishyo said...

white acotrs palying roles as POC is racist plain as simple. The last airbender those characters are clearly native american inuits and asian but nope on the big screen they get to be white. WHY? The movie 21 based on real events but in real life it was Asian students but no the only asians in the movie was a love intrest a nd a looser

Ask yourself when is the last time you ever saw asian american actors in a hollywood movie remeber I said asian american not asian.

Jake Gyllenhal as Prince of Persia WTF

the white washing of hollywood is severe and hurts impressiobale minds of children if you have not seen it check out the doll test on youtube in the documentary "a girl like me"
As an aspiring film maker of colour I know it will be hard for me becasue I am black and a female. However I will cast actors and actress of colour in my films.

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