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Why Can't A White Man Play Martin Luther King Jr,?

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posted on Aug, 29 2013 @ 05:32 PM
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I've got a bone to pick. I'm in an acting class... And there's this play called the Vote.

Well, in the class, it came round to picking out characters. By the time my turn came up, there were three characters left. Doctor King, Frederick Douglas, and Young Man #1. Young man #1 has one stinking line.

I ask her why I can't be Doctor King, and her answer shocked me. Because of my skin color.
I thought we were better than that.

I know some of you might have the wrong impression, and think I would do something like that in malice, but I respect Doctor King. He was fighting for the same issues of freedom and equality that are so important today. I've memorized lines, practiced, studied the man himself... He was one of the most positive influences on politics in the 60s. King believed in equality, though. That the color of your skin didn't matter, just the contents of your heart, Well, I care about the same issues he did. Racism did not die after the civil rights movement, unfortunately. The nonviolent protests of the 60s did, however, change things.

People are equal now. I thought we were past petty things like color, or atleast I hoped we were..
Well, I felt insulted by what she had said. She specifically said, "You cannot play the role, because you are a caucasian.".

What if I said, "You cannot play a role because you're an african american"?

It'd be really racist.

At that point, I felt betrayed. I did the only thing I could think of, and called the ACLU. They should be sending me a packet in the mail to fill out any day now.



Well, the next class, we're doing the play. And I'm just rehearsing my one line as Young Man #1, all the while reading Doctor King's lines in my head, things about freedom, equality, the rights of man.

I speak with a fellow thespian in training.
"What've you been up to, this week?"

"Not much. Watching the Walking Dead. You?"

"Well, I've been reading up on the ACLU, online."

The teacher must of overheard, because after that, she said that I could atleast read it for that class period.
So I did... And I put my heart into it. I read those words as the truth that they were, with the emphasis and clarity they deserved.

At the end of class, I asked her, "Barring the controversy, how was my performance?"

"Pretty good. You're over acting, a little bit, but you could dial it back easy enough. But I'm afraid you can't actually be Doctor King."

"Why?"

"Because it would break suspension of disbelief." She sighed.

"But... You have a woman.. playing George Washington... That's progressive, I understand that. In this day and age, a woman should be able to play George Washington. But I don't understand why you refuse to allow me to read for Doctor King."

"Listen... I'm not looking for your "type" to play Doctor King. People have types..."
And all the while, I'm thinking to myself, "What type, white? Caucasian?"

"But there are some actors that are like chameleons, like Gary Oldman.."

"Listen... You're a Caucasian. I am not looking for a Caucasian to play Doctor King, alright?"
She didn't seem to see the irony in the situation. Her, refusing me an opportunity because of my race.

"Ms. ******... I can't help but feel sort of... offended.. at the implications of what you said."

The irony of the situation is that there are no African American students in acting class. She is bringing in a third party actor who is not part of the class. Because she believes that what was important about Doctor King ws his skin color.

What makes him more qualified for the role? I've read the script, dozens of times. Been watching hours of Doctor King, learning his mannerisms. Learning his ideals, beliefs in equality. I feel a sort of kinship to King, now, ironically.

Am I crazy for wanting to play Doctor King? If you asked Doctor King what he wanted, he did not just want equality for black people. He wanted equality for everyone. As King said, "Many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny."

We're all in the same boat now. White and black are just dividers that The Man uses to play us against each other. Race should not be an issue.

But, apparently in theater, it's okay for a woman to play George Washington, but a "Caucasian" as she so bluntly and racially put it... Is out of the question to play Doctor King. That's not what King wants.




posted on Aug, 29 2013 @ 05:49 PM
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In an acting class, color and gender should not be an issue. It's called acting for a reason.
I've seen hamlet with a woman as hamlet



posted on Aug, 29 2013 @ 05:56 PM
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reply to post by PtolemyII
 


You'd think so. And you'd think a woman doing a play about Doctor King would realize what she's doing by refusing a man not based on talent, but on race.

If she had said, "Grifter, your performance was awful. Sorry, kid, you just ain't got it.", I'd be disappointed. Depressed. But I wouldn't be mad, like I am now.

She refused me specifically on race. In a play about racial equality. Now, that's offensive.

I would understand if there were African Americans there, to play the role. But that's the thing, there aren't any. And she's already got a woman playing George Washington, the father of our nation. Once again, very progressive, and I'm sure that girl has her acting chops to play Washington. I don't doubt a person based on gender.

How is it she can be so blind, while doing a play on the very subject material at hand?



posted on Aug, 29 2013 @ 05:56 PM
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Personally, I think it's like Johnny Depp recently playing Tonto to the Lone Ranger. Some roles and acting is so deeply and totally defined by race or ethnicity, it's not really appropriate to do it other ways, unless there is some good reason. Men played all the roles in Shakespeare's time, if I'm not mistaken? It was how it was done generally, where gender and race transposition isn't necessary for practical reasons these days....and seems...wrong somehow.

At least on SOME things, it seems wrong. I wouldn't want to see an African American playing General Lee in a movie, unless we're talking Blazing Saddles type of comedy. (I can hear the P.C. Police sirens outside for even saying that title...lol). I can't help but laugh a little to imagine Christian Slater playing Obama, for instance. Hmm.... Even with the absolute best acting and intentions to the role..

nawww... wouldn't work. (and Obama actually IS half white to make it race 'proper'....still wouldn't work)



posted on Aug, 29 2013 @ 06:04 PM
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reply to post by wrabbit2000
 


Acting class, and movies the politically correct will see and comment on, are two very different things.
I felt he was miscast, and not necessarily because hes not iIndian. He is actually.
He's part native American.

Acting class is for real acting, not will it make the box office bigger money or cause a controversy .



posted on Aug, 29 2013 @ 06:05 PM
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I'm thinking only people who have studied acting will really get why this seems so stupid.



posted on Aug, 29 2013 @ 06:07 PM
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Just imagine Kevin James playing Shaq in The Shaquille O'neal Story. As hilarious as thta would be it wouldn't win any awards. Some people just fit a role better than others and physical appearance plays a huge part. Are you one of the people who are pissed about Ben Affleck playing batman? That's a white guy playing a white guy and people still aren't convinced he's right for the role.



posted on Aug, 29 2013 @ 06:11 PM
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Maybe it's because your teacher or whatever it is feels this play will be based on real events...and MLKJr was not a white man? Are you going to try and pull a Sambo ala the 19th century (the blackface actors)?

Why is this even an issue?

Seems to me you're the one being "racist." So intent on "equality."

Bull dump, imo.



posted on Aug, 29 2013 @ 06:12 PM
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reply to post by wrabbit2000
 


Tonto's a racist stereotype to begin with.

I knew people would call me crazy. But his message is universal.

I know my convictions must seem bizaare to you folks. But I want this. I want to walk in Doctor King's shoes, and become him in the art of theater.

And if you guys are gonna start talking about "imagine this guy who's totally not like that guy playing him", or hypothetical Batman situations, that's a hypocritical issue, seeing as how she has a woman who is mostly Portuguese playing Washington. I think that's actually pretty cool. I just don't understand how she can do that, yet not see the cognitive dissonance in denying me the opportunity.



posted on Aug, 29 2013 @ 06:19 PM
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reply to post by Hushabye
 


No. I did not, as you put it, "Pull a Sambo".

I spoke those words with conviction, with cadence and reverence. I had a dream, to play one of my heroes, but this dream might be deferred.

I would NEVER put on some sort of Minstrel show. Do you have any idea how tasteless that would be?

I am firm in my belief that it's King's message, character, and integrity that characterize him. Not his skin color.

Anyone willing to defend their fellow man, and treat people equal, and fight for their freedoms, and rights can be like Doctor King. You could be black, white, green, or purple. It simply should not matter.

In this day and age, race should not be an issue. It's all too tragic that it still lives, rearing it's ugly head every now and then, to remind people that they've got to stay divided when they should be united together in solidarity.



posted on Aug, 29 2013 @ 06:21 PM
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Originally posted by homeskillet
Just imagine Kevin James playing Shaq in The Shaquille O'neal Story. As hilarious as thta would be it wouldn't win any awards. Some people just fit a role better than others and physical appearance plays a huge part. Are you one of the people who are pissed about Ben Affleck playing batman? That's a white guy playing a white guy and people still aren't convinced he's right for the role.


I agree, I mean how often have you heard the phrase "He doesn't look right for the part."?



posted on Aug, 29 2013 @ 06:25 PM
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reply to post by Grifter42
 


Performing arts is the one industry that can still hire strictly on physical appearance.
Sometimes it's skin color. Sometimes it's height or hair color or how good someone will look with their shirt off.
If you're serious about acting you will have to learn to deal with not getting the part, for whatever the reason may be.



posted on Aug, 29 2013 @ 06:27 PM
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reply to post by ProfessorChaos
 


Everybody said "Heath Ledger was wrong for the Joker. The guy from "How to Lose a Guy in Ten Days"? That pretty boy actor? Him as the Joker? That movie's gonna suck."

But he nailed it. He put the work into the role, and got into the character's head...

If given the opportunity, I could do it. And I wouldn't make a joke out of it.

When I called the ACLU, they said I probably DID have cause for complaint. At first, they were a little confused, but when I explained it all out, they were very supportive. Good folks, the ACLU.



posted on Aug, 29 2013 @ 06:31 PM
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Originally posted by Grifter42
reply to post by ProfessorChaos
 


Everybody said "Heath Ledger was wrong for the Joker. The guy from "How to Lose a Guy in Ten Days"? That pretty boy actor? Him as the Joker? That movie's gonna suck."

But he nailed it. He put the work into the role, and got into the character's head...

If given the opportunity, I could do it. And I wouldn't make a joke out of it.

When I called the ACLU, they said I probably DID have cause for complaint. At first, they were a little confused, but when I explained it all out, they were very supportive. Good folks, the ACLU.


The Joker wears face paint and gloves, race could be disguised in a lot of cases, but a white guy playing MLK? Sorry dude, if you're going to call the ACLU for every part that you don't get, you're going to have an extremely short acting career.



posted on Aug, 29 2013 @ 06:35 PM
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reply to post by Grifter42
 


I certainly don't mean to ridicule your effort or intent. I think you sound very sincere to really wanting to have played the part for all the right reasons. I can also see the instructor's point though. How many stories, out of classrooms, cross ATS and major media over perceived insults or slights on things as innocent? Just one person gets a giant stink up about it and everyone has major problems these days.

I also don't mean to suggest type casting across all roles, as much as those where the race isn't incidental to the part, but is the whole definition of it. I could never, for obvious reasons, take a white person seriously as expressing from the heart of cultural identity, the way a black person could. Perhaps some day society will change so totally, as to be Star Trek like in it's color blindness...but that's almost what I think some roles, like MLK, would take.



posted on Aug, 29 2013 @ 06:39 PM
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I feel some of you are missing one of the points here...
Namely, this is an acting Class. Not a film going out for international release. If there are no black people in the class to play Dr. King's role, what is the harm in using available acting students?

This should be about learning theatre and nothing more. By denying a student some role, and going behind them to bring in a separate 3rd party, this teacher is stifling someone's ability to learn. If we already have a woman playing the part of George Washington for the purpose of learning how to act in theatre, why should someone be unable to play the part of Dr. King for the same reasons?



posted on Aug, 29 2013 @ 06:43 PM
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Originally posted by wrabbit2000
reply to post by Grifter42
 


I certainly don't mean to ridicule your effort or intent. I think you sound very sincere to really wanting to have played the part for all the right reasons. I can also see the instructor's point though. How many stories, out of classrooms, cross ATS and major media over perceived insults or slights on things as innocent? Just one person gets a giant stink up about it and everyone has major problems these days.

I also don't mean to suggest type casting across all roles, as much as those where the race isn't incidental to the part, but is the whole definition of it. I could never, for obvious reasons, take a white person seriously as expressing from the heart of cultural identity, the way a black person could. Perhaps some day society will change so totally, as to be Star Trek like in it's color blindness...but that's almost what I think some roles, like MLK, would take.


It's not just the MLK thing I have an issue with, if the role was Samuel L. Jackson, I'd say he's wrong for the part. I do understand where he's coming from at the root, but his complaint is a childish one to be honest.

Not to mention the protests that will occur when it is announced that a white man is playing the role of MLK, the ACLU will get involved on that end as well and he won't think they're such "good folks" then.

Ted Danson was dating Whoopi Goldberg, he'd had a decent career and was extremely well known and thought of for the most part, but the moment he donned black face and went on stage with his lady love, his was a pariah for nearly ten years. His heart was in the right place according to Whoopi, but yet, Ted was attacked from every direction.

I'm just stating it like it is.



posted on Aug, 29 2013 @ 06:45 PM
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Originally posted by Negotium of Verum
I feel some of you are missing one of the points here...
Namely, this is an acting Class. Not a film going out for international release. If there are no black people in the class to play Dr. King's role, what is the harm in using available acting students?

This should be about learning theatre and nothing more. By denying a student some role, and going behind them to bring in a separate 3rd party, this teacher is stifling someone's ability to learn. If we already have a woman playing the part of George Washington for the purpose of learning how to act in theatre, why should someone be unable to play the part of Dr. King for the same reasons?


You're minimizing the role because it's in a class, but this guy has already spoken to the ACLU, Say what you want about it being just a class, he is dead wrong to think he lives in a world where a white guy playing Martin Luther King Jr. is acceptable on any stage.



posted on Aug, 29 2013 @ 06:48 PM
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This is not a money making production. It is a community college, beholden to the state. I came to learn there, and I felt betrayed when I was given the role of "Young Man" with one line.

It's a real double standard she's allowing to continue. If you did a play where people of every nationality came together, and acted it out, regardless of race, I bet it'd be good, as long as they were capable actors. I personally would not mind a black Batman.

I think a black General Lee would be interesting aswell, but the actor would have to be very serious indeed. You see, General Lee believed slavery was immoral. He was twisted up inside, divided by his duty to the South, and his morals. I think an African American would have that sort of duality in them as well, playing a figure who was so involved in the civil war on the side of the confederacy.

I feel like this experience with racial discrimination actually makes me more qualified to play King. Don't get me wrong, I'm not being blasted with fire hoses, but it's a sad thing to be judged on your skin color.

People are too stuck in primitive tribe-think mentality, where they only care about people like them. But Doctor King actually gave a crap. He cared so much for his fellow man that he died for it, shot by the Government, or a bigot, depending on who you believe.

So it goes...



posted on Aug, 29 2013 @ 06:50 PM
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Originally posted by Negotium of Verum
I feel some of you are missing one of the points here...
Namely, this is an acting Class. Not a film going out for international release. If there are no black people in the class to play Dr. King's role, what is the harm in using available acting students?

This should be about learning theatre and nothing more. By denying a student some role, and going behind them to bring in a separate 3rd party, this teacher is stifling someone's ability to learn. If we already have a woman playing the part of George Washington for the purpose of learning how to act in theatre, why should someone be unable to play the part of Dr. King for the same reasons?


Part of learning acting is getting used to rejection.
With that said, you and the OP have a point, in that if this is a class assignment there is no issue with a cross-ethnic casting. If there is any public viewing of it I can see someone in the audience getting offended if MLK is not cast true to life ethnically.





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