So the other day I was having a conversation with my Dad about films (one of the only things we ever talk about), and he asked me if I would like to watch The Lone Ranger. Forgetting momentarily, as I often do, that my dad is an aggressive racist (Yes, I’ve tried to tell him. No, it hasn’t stuck.), I said that I felt funny about watching that film because they cast Johnny Depp as a Native American and I think, isn’t it bad enough we committed a genocide against them? Now we have to have Willy Wonka/Captain Jack Sparrow/Hot Gypsy from Chocolat essentially in blackface in a Hollywood film as a hideous parody of their dying culture? Or something along those lines. Realizing that I was going all social justice warrior and that this conversation usually ends with me fuming and him becoming even more smug in his blatant racism (like a microcosmic lampoon of American politics) I quickly changed the subject*. I thought that the problem would end there, but little did I know that the argument was far from over. I soon received a snarky email with something along the lines of: ‘Dahling. Understand perfectly how you felt about the Johnny Depp flick. I felt exactly the same way when they cast a black guy as Heimdall in Thor.’
Now if you’re currently engulfed in flames, screaming ‘WHAAAAAT’ and flipping every table in sight, fear not. I too, have been there. If it was just my dad who felt this way, I would be happy to let it go, but unfortunately I repeatedly read and hear very similar opinions ALL THE TIME, and it’s driving me mad. If, in contrast, you are wondering why the hell anyone would get mad about that, or even worse wondering the same thing about Fantastic Four or any film that has cast a black actor in a ‘white’ role, don’t worry because I’m going to break this down for you. We are, together, going to explore the line between representation and appropriation until we can all be screaming angrily about institutionalized racism. And for those of you who need a definition of either, I will give you helpful links here and here.