With the recent release and popularity of director Jordan Peele’s horror film “Us,” there has been controversy surrounding his decision to publicly announce that he likely won’t hire a white male actor as a lead in his movies.
An absolute uproar has labeled Peele’s decision as a racist gesture against white actors and actresses looking for major roles to play. However, this isn’t the first time something like this has been said by a well-known movie director.
Woody Allen has said almost the same exact thing, except he excluded black actors and actresses from his movies unless the role calls for it.
Both of these directors can be seen as saying something inherently racist, but only one has been called out on it and garnered negative attention and criticism.
The double standards that people of color are held to as directors and actors bring to light the issues that have gone unseen and largely ignored by the general public and movie fans for decades.
As the movie industry continues to remain predominantly white in actors and actresses who play leading roles in films and TV shows, the instances in which someone of color succeeds is scrutinized and dissected far more than their white counterparts.
White male actors have continuously been chosen to play ethnically diverse roles in movies over actors of the portrayed ethnicity and no one bats an eye at the usually white directors’ choices.
Tom Cruise in “The Last Samurai” and Jake Gyllenhaal in “Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time” are both perfect examples of white male actors being chosen to play ethnicities to which they do not belong.
This is the main reason why the public tends to overlook instances when white actors/actresses and directors do or say implicitly racist things, and instead point it out when people of color are put in the spotlight for doing the same things.
Fellow actress Lupita Nyong’o from “Us” commented about taking inspiration from a neurological disorder to base her movie character on, and like Peele’s comment, she is equally feeling backlash about her profiting off of someone’s real-life problem.
But again, this all seems like something familiar that has been done a dozen times before in TV shows and movies, and it has been.
In the movie “Forrest Gump,” a white male actor uses a physical handicap to further the plot as a heart-wrenching, coming-of-age story and in “The Good Doctor,” a white male actor uses a mental disability to prove the world wrong about his own potential and self-worth to heal people.
In these instances, capitalizing on real-life problems that people go through have made them audience favorites.
Ignoring the fact that mental illnesses and disabilities are accepted and praised by white directors while the same thing can be criticized and attacked by black directors makes the public blind to the implications behind what the movie industry is predicated on.