Casting calls and racist undertones

Quick link: a casting call for a new Starz series about ballet dancers.

A dancer friend of mine posted this on Facebook, and it seemed pretty innocuous until I noticed the racial specifications for each character. Every “series regular” role allows any ethnicity, but the “series lead”? Caucasian (which is already a problematic term). The series lead is also the soft, delicate, beautiful one. Hmmmm.

  1. thinkdoc said:

    Lots to say about this and issues of representation/minority representation — when we look at large-scale statistics and see that there are so few people of color represented in classical dance, TV shows, film, etc. . . tracing this back to casting calls is useful I think to try to understand what kinds of assumptions and preferences are in play from the very beginning in imagining what the performance or role should look like. Often this comes up in historical period-based theater as well; should we limit casting to whites-only in these cases? I recently saw a production of Pippi Longstocking that really had a diverse cast across lots of different identity categories; in this case, Pippi was white but her father Captain Longstocking was African-American. It didn’t seem to matter at all to audience members, but perhaps this was also a function of the type of show we’re talking about — children’s, magical abilities, etc. . . anyway, I do think that race-based casting is extremely genre-specific, for better or worse.

    • Absolutely. I have enough material to write posts and posts on ballet and race… And that Pippi Longstocking production sounds really cool. It reminds me of the Cinderella movie with Brandy – everyone was different colors in the film (to the point where the families were biologically impossible) but nobody cared and I don’t remember race being mentioned once.

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