I’m still sometimes a little uncertain about how to understand the concept of privilege in some situations, so please tell me if I am mistaken here.
My current understanding is this:…
This is all very awesome, and it seems to me that most people don’t know that Blaine isn’t white. Rachel, remember, has a black dad, and is part of the Black Students Union.
I wanted to go back to one of the earlier comments in the reblog chain and pull out something vis a vis Darren’s ethnicity vs Blaine’s ethnicity:
Also, the idea that Blaine is mixed race because Darren is mixed race is just wrongheaded, and I’ve seen it again and again in posts. Actors play characters, and a considerable percentage of the time the racial/ethnic backgrounds of those characters do not correspond to the person themselves. (It’s really true when you have actors playing a completely different race, like Rita Moreno playing Tuptim in The King & I, or Marlene Dietrich playing Tanya - a Hispanic woman - in Touch of Evil.)
There’s a couple of problems with this argument. For one, it’s becoming increasingly rare for actors to play outside their race, and there’s more of an outcry when it happens — look at the response to M. Night Shyalaman’s Avatar, or the Wachowski’s Cloud Atlas. Or the eyebrows raised by Johnny Depp (who at least has a little Native heritage) playing Tonto. Casting across racial lines is rapidly becoming a relic of times past, and that’s probably for the best, since so much cross-racial casting involved giving roles to white actors at the expense of actors of other ethnicities, who were barely represented in Hollywood in the fifties, and still aren’t very well-represented now. Non-white actors deserve to have good roles, and people of all races deserve films that reflect the spectrum of human diversity, and not some weird, all-white parallel dimension.
And non-white actors deserve to have roles that reflect their ethnicity, rather than being whitewashed to fit. And people of all races deserve the chance to see those characters, rather than being told to just assume everyone is white.
And I, personally, would like to hope that the writers of Glee are keeping that in mind at least a little bit when they write Blaine, rather than just sort of assuming that since he hasn’t been specifically written to fill one of the “ethnic” slots, he’s gotta be a white guy.
(And to get back to the subject of passing privilege again — look, I obviously don’t know Darren Criss in real life. I don’t know his feelings on this, and I won’t pretend to. But I can’t help but feel that it might just be a little weird for a guy who once did a music video wearing a t-shirt that said Hapa on it to continually be read as white, to the point where it’s considered strange that he might play a character that reflects his actual, real-life background.)
I also believe that the Glee writers are completely aware of the fact that Darren Criss has positioned himself in terms of race/ethnicity quite explicitly (e.g. that Hapa t-shirt). And if we consider how often Glee cast members have talked about Glee stories being inspired by what happened in their lives, how often the actors blur the line between their roles and themselves (or rather, their public personas), and how much Glee plays with this blur (see my recent comments about Jane Lynch playing Sue in the bathroom scene with Unique and Marley) I’d be surprised if Blaine’s race/ethnicity wasn’t alluded to by the things we mentioned earlier very much on purpose.
And speaking of Darren Criss and race: is it selective perception on my part (due to being white and watching DC more closely than, say, Dianna Agron or Cory Monteith) or does he end up in pictures with people of color a lot more often than other Glee cast members? At any rate, I’ve noticed this, and I wouldn’t be surprised if DC didn’t create these associations on purpose (which is nevertheless pure speculation on my part).
Lookninjas: You’re completely right about the need for non-white actors to have good roles, the horrible lack of representation of actors of other ethnicities in a younger and less inclusive Hollywood, and that we all need films that reflect the wonderful diversity of human beings. I don’t disagree at all. What I was trying to get at was the problem I see in what you said here: “it’s becoming increasingly rare for actors to play outside their race, and there’s more of an outcry when it happens.” Isn’t that problematic as well? If actors are limited only to roles that fit their race/ethnicity, doesn’t that also limit them as actors and as people? Actors are in the business of trying to portray the human experience; they try to walk in the shoes of other people for a living. If people were upset when Johnny Depp played Tonto, when he does in fact have some Native American blood, what on earth would they say if Naya Rivera wanted to play a Native American or Spanish character? She could; I’m sure she would be wonderful at it. She might not get cast, though, because she’s Puerto Rican, African American, and German. To go back to my earlier thought, what happens if Darren wants to play someone who is German or Scottish, and people say, “Oh, well, we can’t cast him for that; he’s Filipino”? If we start assuming that every character is the same race or ethnicity as the person portraying them, it’s another kind of limitation, both for them and for us. Many people, like Johnny and Naya, come from multiple ethnicities. Darren is Irish as well as Filipino. I myself have about six different ethnicities in my family bloodline, though I look primarily English and Irish. Categorizing people as one race or ethnicity (and categorizing characters according to the races and ethnicities of the actors) seems as though it could be just as problematic and reductive as Hollywood whitewashing.
All of this is not meant to diminish the fact that Darren has done wonderful things through openly acknowledging his Filipino background and being proud of who he is, as he should be. He has done amazing things, and we all love him for it. The same can be said of many, many other actors who have broken new ground in the profession by deliberately advocating for and celebrating diversity. They should be proud; they should advocate for diversity; they should want to see it celebrated and portrayed onscreen. All of this increases awareness about the world and the beautiful reality of living in a multiracial and multiethnic society. Representation is essential; allowing people to see and identify with characters who are like them is essential. I just worry that Hollywood (and by extension, fandom) is trading one kind of stereotyping for another.
Leaving aside the question of a non-Native actor playing a Native role for a second (I live in an area with a heavy tribal presence; I have a lot of feelings on that one):
I guess my answer to any questions about Darren or Naya or whoever playing a Spanish or a Scottish or a German role is — who says that you have to be white just because you’re Spanish or Scottish or German? Unless the role is that of a historical figure who was known to have been white AND Spanish, or white AND Scottish, or white AND German, what the fuck does it matter, you know? There is this sort of pervasive belief, particularly in the United States, that all characters default to white unless there’s some kind of huge deal made about the fact that they’re not I think that’s shit. Like the nerds who blew up over Donald Glover as Spiderman — what the hell is specifically white about Spiderman? He is specifically from New York. He is specifically a nerd. He is specifically a guy who lives with his aunt and uncle. There’s no reason for him to be white. There really isn’t.
But straight-up cross-casting as historically practiced by Hollywood is not about giving roles like Spiderman to actors like Donald Glover (who would have been perfect, but I digress). It’s casting Mickey Rooney in yellowface in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, and Leslie Caron as a black woman in The Subterraneans. It’s M. Night Shyamalan deciding that Avatar: the Last Airbender should have a mostly-white cast even though inspiration for the characters was drawn from East Asian and Inuit traditions. Cross-casting, in movies, tends to go one way and one way only — taking roles that could go to Asian or Latino or even Black actors, and giving them to white people. So it wouldn’t benefit Naya to bring it back, and it probably wouldn’t be that great for Darren either, in the long run.
(And in terms of giving Native roles to people of other ethnicities who “look” Native… There has been a long, shining tradition in Hollywood of hiring Native people to stand and warwhoop in the background while non-Natives get the speaking roles, and it really has not changed that much since the early 1900s. So with all due respect to Naya and other actresses like her, I personally am of the belief that Native roles should go to Native fucking people. What few Native roles there are, anyway.)