ENG 363 – Pop Culture & Diversity

The readings for this week were the “Race and Entertainment” section of Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay and “Moving Beyond Pain” by bell hooks. One of my classmates touched on a point I previously hadn’t considered regarding these two takes on pop culture representations of race and women. There is a lack of diversity while being diverse. Shows with a diverse cast but not diverse roles are often lamented by actors of color.

I am reminded of the plight of new actors, which I’ve seen explained by Carolina Ravassa on her youtube channel Hispanglosaxon. While most of the episodes focus on her issues with being “too white to play Latina, and too ethnic to play white,” she also discusses on, when being cast to play an “ethnic” role she is often expected to play a hyper-sexualized service role (see season 1 episode 9). While shows may be casting people of color, they’re still casting them into the same, tired roles. Though it may be the entire cast (in the case of Lemonade), hooks laments that they are playing a stereotypical role (the body as a commodity in the background). With Orange is the New Black, there is a diverse cast (some latina, some african american, etc) they are all, still, some sort of criminal.

Jonny Cruz, another actor of color, in an interview at a convention was asked what to do when offered a role that perpetuates a stereotype. He admitted that he once took a role of a “thug” or “gangster” early on because he needed the work, but it made him feel awful. He knows he took the role because he needed a job, money, experience, etc, but he’s refused to do similar roles ever again. His advice for other new actors of color is to know that if you don’t feel right about a role, you do not have to take it. If you do choose to take it, you do not need to feel bad about perpetuating a stereotype so that you can eat. It’s a difficult position that the media puts minority actors in, but there is some solidarity and understanding in the actor communities.

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