“I don’t see myself casting a white dude as the lead in my movie,” he added. “Not that I don’t like white dudes. But I’ve seen that movie.”
This was a statement made by Jordan Peele in regard to the casting of all black actors in both of his movies. In my understanding of the statement, there was no malicious intent. However, many have received this a something negative, going as far as to call Peele racist. It should be noted that Peele did not say that he will never hire a white actor but that would be the lead of his movies simply because he has “seen that movie”. And in all honesty, we all too have seen that movie.
Black actors are very rarely the leads in movies and when they are the story is more often than not about race. Not that this is at all a problem, but it is the fact that in only casting black actors when you’re making a movie about race, you limit their option and opportunities. When I continuously watch movies that only feature black actors when talking about race, it has begun to feel as if the black actors are being used as props; being used when the story makes it convenient. There is an interesting thing that happens when you shift the focus of any film or Tv series. If the actors are white it is simple just a film, whereas, if they are women it is a feminist comment and if they are black it’s a comment on race. Creatives that aren’t white men are not allowed the same creative freedom, they are often forced into making a comment about their identity. In Peele’s continuous use of black actors in a narrative that doesn’t always revolve around race, it is my understanding that he means to disprove this preconceived notion that black actors can only make movies about race. and in this movement to normalise black actors within the film industry, having a white actor as the lead of his movie does not make sense.
The very fact that some thought it was appropriate to question his decision in casting an all-black cast speaks volumes about white privilege. When you are so used to be the centre of every narrative been purposely excluded feels like a personal attack. Such is also expressed within a Toni Morrison interview with Jana Wendt at moment 1:39.
What I found most interesting about the response to Peel’s statement and this video is that there is a common assumption that minorities must include everyone in their narrative. I think this idea has the potential to do something good but it is also quite dangerous in that is disallows each community their own space or their own voice.
But what do you think? Is Peel right to exclude white people from having the main parts in his movies? Does a greater conversation about representation need to be had?
by Gift Onomor