The Bad Decisions File: Hollywood Doubles-Down The Whitewashing

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The ink on the speech that Academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs’ made about racial diversity efforts in Hollywood isn’t even dry yet, and already the old guard are out there with the paint buckets, circling the neighbourhood ready to bring a fresh coat of white to a theater near you.

In what can only be considered the worst possible timing ever, today the people pulling the strings over at Charlie Hunnam’s PR machine decided that it was the perfect moment to announce that Charlie is slated to appear in the making of the true story of Mexican-American drug lord Edgar Valdez Villarreal’s life. The film will be called “American Drug Lord”. Because as we’ve all learned by now, “Americans” actually means “white guys”, right?

Valdez was Mexican-American, and was the only American citizen to ever rise to the level of cartel leader in Mexico. So yeah, as cartel leaders go, I suppose that’s kind of a big thing. While many have claimed that there is actually a great deal of similarity between Hunnam and Villarreal physically (and there is), most critics are claiming (quite rightly) that there is quite a bit more to creating a fully-realised character than physical resemblance alone.Screen Shot 2016-01-27 at 05.10.25

Villarreal was light-skinned and blue-eyed. Because of this, he was referred to as “La Barbie”. Hunnam is British, which on the scale of whiteness, I reckon is somewhere up in the top 5th percentile.

So can you see a resemblance between these two men? Of course you can. But are there also other actors out there in the universe that would equally be able to pull-of the role? Absolutely. Hollywood’s casting of Hunnam in this role just proves how absolutely tone deaf so much of the Hollywood establishment is. Granted, we (and I suppose the public at large) have nothing against Hunnam – the guy has to make a living too – but surely…surely there is an actor of Mexican-American descent out there somewhere who might also have been a good choice for the role.

April Reign, creator of the original #OscarsSoWhite hashtag that has been so hot of late, was asked about Hunnam’s selection in an interview with Vanity Fair, and had this message for Hollywood .

From the very start, don’t just assume that a white man or woman can play a particular role. Open your minds to exploring the same film with a different person

It also has to be said that this controversy is not going to do Charlie Hunnam any favours. Hunnam was already at the center of another questionable casting controversy when it was announced that he would play the role of Christian Grey in the 50 Shades of Grey movie. There were so much outcry, some good, some bad, but much of it centred around how awful of a book it was (…and it was. Awful. Seriously, I have a collie who has a better knack for prose). All of the hullabaloo led Hunnam to pull from the movie due to “work-related and schedule stress”. But then, if there are petitions being circulated around the globe to try and get you removed from a role you have just signed-on for, I suppose that would cause a certain level of stress. However, if a little angsty publicity sent him over the edge last time, I fear he may be in for yet another bumpy ride with this one. Watch this space, that’s all I’m sayin’.

If you found that last story a bit cringeworthy, wait until you get a load of this next one; it will take you from 0 to weird in about 6 seconds.

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This is the actor Joseph Fiennes. Fiennes has found himself in his own bit of controversy this week over a similar matter. But there’s a backstory.

Apparently not long after after 9/11, there was this weird rumour going around that on the day of the 9/11 attacks, Elizabeth Taylor and Marlon Brando were in New York City to attend one of Michael Jackson’s concerts. I know, right!? And that’s not even the weird part.

As the story goes, when the attacks happened, supposedly Jackson got a call from a “friend” (ahem) in Saudi Arabia telling him to get out of the city, because there were likely going to be more attacks. So allegedly, Jackson, Taylor, and Brando set off in a rented car, making it as far as Ohio (likely with many, many pit stops for Brando’s insatiable appetite for all things food). While Taylor’s PR machine long ago dismissed this story as myth, it is still apparently a fun and riveting tale for many people. So many in fact, that the British Sky Arts channel has decided to make the story into a mini-movie. The movie will star Stockard Channing as Elizabeth Taylor, Brian Cox as Brando, and….wait for it….Joseph Fiennes as Michael Jackson.

Whaaat the!?

Look I get it. It’s comedy and meant to be lighthearted. But in light of all the recent press, and…you know…the fact that Fiennes isn’t black…and I don’t even want to hear another “but he’s so light-skinned” whitesplanation for this most disturbingly odd of casting choices….I mean, is he going to wear blackface? Look…Shy Arts, I don’t see this working-out so well, but hey. It’s your funeral. I mean, what could possibly go wrong, right?Screen Shot 2016-01-27 at 05.39.28