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Sunday
Nov282010

'The Hobbit' Casting Accused of Racism

A British woman of Pakistani descent has accused Peter Jackson's casting management to be racist because she wasn't "pale-skinned" enough to be an extra.

This woman goes on to say, "It was the opportunity of a lifetime. I would love to be an extra. But it just seemed like a shame because obviously hobbits are not brown or black or any other colour. They all look kind of homogenised beige and all derived from the Caucasian gene pool."  So wait a minute.  You knew what type of people they might be looking for and you still think it's racism?

Okay, first of all there's a difference between hating or judging someone by the color of their skin vs. not looking the part of a cast member which best conveys the story and the environment.  I mean, you can't cast a Caucasian guy to play the role of Shaft just like you can't cast a black guy to be King George VI (King's Speech). 

Now this isn't something new, people make racism claims on casting in movies all the time.  But it was a big enough incident to have Peter Jackson respond to these ridiculous accusations.  His spokesperson says, "It is not something the producers or the director of The Hobbit were aware of; they would never issue instructions of this kind to the casting crew. All people meeting the age and height requirements are welcome to audition for The Hobbit."

What they forgot to add is, "You're welcome to audition for The Hobbit as long as you're not an idiot who has no f#cking idea what appearance would fit the role of an extra in the film."

Reader Comments (17)

Well said.

Monday, November 29, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterrk

WOW, stupidity never stops to amuse me.

Monday, November 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMr.K

The key difference between genius and stupidity is that genius has its limits. There's proof!

Monday, November 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMr. M

Guess you forgot that they cast Samuel L. Jackson in the part of Nick Fury. Of course they did reinterpret Fury in the comics after the Iron Man movies had already cast Jackson.

Monday, November 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMr. N

no
fury showed up as Samuel L Jackson in a "different" universe called the ultimates
as far as I know Fury is still a white guy , who fought with cap in WW2, love to she how they deal with that in the cap movie

Tuesday, November 30, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterPsyko Tek

So did you make a post in this same vein when whites were cast in The Last Airbender?

Tuesday, November 30, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRenard

ETA: Or 21, or Prince of Persia, or Dragonball: Evolution, or Akira?

Tuesday, November 30, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRenard

well put Renard

Tuesday, November 30, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRAJchr

What irritated me about this is that the lady said she was a fan of the stories -- a fan of the stories, surely, would know that Hobbits are heavily, heavily based on ye olde English folk. Plump, short, hairy-footed and pale. I think people too easily pander to political correctness over logic or faithfulness to the brief. And, naturally, all the reporters flock to the "OMGRACISM" bandwagon, because, if they didn't, surely they'd get the sack, too? Grrr!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMyrenna

Renard, was there news of this type of thing for any of those other movies? You seem to be angry with the messenger here. In fact, it's pretty clear from the post and ensuing comments that everybody is on the same page and thinks this is stupid. GTBP is simply reporting the news. That's what we're here for.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010 | Registered CommenterMike Chesnut

Well said unbelievable, however how would they cast the lead in "The Michael Jackson Story" I mean as he grew older he grew lighter, its a fact.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterthe jla

Yeah, what's the big deal? You need to be the right ethnicity to play an ethnic part. For instance, if you want to play the Prince of Persia, you have to be Persian. Morons.

Oh. No, wait. That was Jake Gyllenhaal.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterTruemoboy

Dear Mike Chesnut: Actually, we're not all on the same page here. The messenger isn't just a messenger when it's adding its own ignorant commentary. A website called getthebigpicture can't get the big picture about racism in casting? Ironic.

Hey you know what would be good casting for a guy named Goku in a film based on a Japanese comic book? A white guy!

I know the Avatar's supposed to be an Asian guy named Aang, and his friends are all Asian in an Asian-themed world...but you know what would be good? A white guy!

If anybody complains, they're just being politically correct and stupid. Because this makes perfect sense.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterTruemoboy

Hey guys, love the exchange and I certainly see Renard's point and yes, there are instances where non-ethnically correct actors/actresses have been cast for certain roles. I guess my rebuttal is that this lady isn't Jake Gyllenhaal. Listen, the film business is exactly that, a business. If you have the star power to bring in sales of tickets, they'll make exceptions. Everyone else like EXTRAS or little known grade C or D level actors need to fit the roles extremely well. This not only includes race, but acting styles, personality, and on screen chemistry with other cast members. So no, it's not really racism when a Pakistani woman who is an unknown doesn't get casted because she doesn't have the "look". There is no hatred or judgement in her acting ability as an extra, she just doesn't fit the role and doesn't achieve the primary purpose of being an extra which is creating a credible environment so that the primary actors can deliver a great performance to the audience.

To reply to Truemoboy's comments about GTBP not being able to "Get The Big Picture", let me be the first one to say that we're not always right, and sometimes we'll miss the big picture. But really, the "Big Picture" here is that WE don't consider this racism. There are far more serious and blunt examples of racism in show business and this isn't one of them.

I went to a high school where they filmed American Beauty. Growing up in LA, there were a lot of minorities at my school. A lot of Asians, Hispanics, and blacks. Guess what? The white kids were favored to be the extras for the basketball game scene. Guess how many 13-17 year olds thought that it was racism. NONE. We understood the scene and knew we didn't fit the role.

Finally, I'd like to say that I appreciate the back and forth exchange. Yes, even you Truemoboy, who thinks our commentary is ignorant. Because first and foremost, this is what the GTBP is all about...maybe sometimes finding out the Big Picture together. People might not realize this, but we never delete ANY comments (as long as it doesn't contain profanity or it's an advertisement) because we enjoy having discussions and conversations with people who read our blog. But everyone would benefit if the commenter are just a little bit more thoughtful before you trying to just manufacture an argument and completely disregard the true point and thought that went into the article. We're not knowledgeable as film historians, but we do know a little bit about films. Some writers work in Hollywood, some on the creative side, and some on the business side. We've all seen more than a thousand films. That being said, you might be more knowledgeable. In that case, you should start your own blog and share your insights for everyone to see. Thanks guys and keep it coming!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010 | Registered CommenterGet The Big Picture

I completely agree with what Tae says above, but would just like to make one additional clarification for Truemoboy. The question posed by Renard was, "So did you make a post in this same vein when whites were cast in The Last Airbender?" All I'm saying is, was there a news-worthy story about such an accusation being made? Because if so, we probably would've covered that, too.

The point of this post wasn't to be an opinion piece, it was to share a news-worthy item about an in-production film along with some personal commentary from the poster. Note that this is the point of pretty much every single news piece we post on this site.

In fact, the article even mentions that "it was a big enough incident to have Peter Jackson respond to these ridiculous accusations," and that's it in a nutshell: it's a big enough incident to be news-worthy, so we reported on it... and the person doing said reporting thinks it's pretty ridiculous. Do I agree? Of course. Do you have to? Of course not. But the question of why it was posted in the first place is not the one to be asking, as I think the answer to it should be self-evident.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010 | Registered CommenterMike Chesnut

Some pretty half-hearted Googling suggests that race controversy was indeed reported in the media for all the films I mentioned, though it may not necessarily be on the websites you read. One privilege of being white has to do with being free not to have to think about race until something on the internet makes stop to think about it.

The Last Airbender: http://www.racebending.com/v3/
21: http://web.archive.org/web/20080401011250/http://www.enterprisenews.com/entertainment/x1565506635
Prince of Persia: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/kety-esquivel/race-the-prince-of-persia_b_599492.html
Dragonball: Evolution http://www.channelapa.com/2009/04/dragonball-evolution-controversy.html
Akira: http://www.racialicious.com/2010/11/08/akira-american-style/

I'm not Asian, Persian, or Pakistani. I'm not even British or American (if it's not obvious from the name, je suis français). It's still pretty obvious to me that Americans are pretty comfortable with blacks entertainers (particularly black actors playing roles about their own histories--like Precious) but for whatever reason they seem rather uncomfortable with giving other minorities that same chance. I'll let you ponder why that is and whether it's newsworthy enough to talk about.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRenard

I hope she at least made some money out of it.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterTjei

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