This week, Neil Calloway questions whether casting in movies need to be more diverse…
Tim Burton has been defending Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children and its apparent lack of diversity. Personally, I can’t believe people are complaining about a lack of diversity in a Tim Burton film; he’s been making the same movie for more than 25 years (sometimes he does it well, and sometimes he does it badly). The problem is, Miss Peregrine… is a film set in rural Wales during the 1940s, and that wasn’t exactly a diverse place.
This follows a recent piece (subsequently removed) in NY Magazine calling David Lean’s Lawrence of Arabia sexist because it didn’t feature a single woman in a speaking role. Initially that’s a shocking fact, but the more you look at it, and the more you think about it, the more it’d be strange if the film did have women playing prominent roles. There is much discussion about T.E. Lawrence’s sexuality, but if he was intimate with anyone, it was men, and the film deals with the Arab Revolt; battles that took place in the Middle East during the First World War; not exactly a time or place where women had much power. Adding a female character would actually make the film less true to life. There’s enough examples of the lack of diversity in films without manufacturing outrage over non existent cases.
The problem with claiming a lack of diversity in cases such as these are that they allow critics to paint you as cranks, and when you do have legitimate complaints your argument is lessened by ridiculous examples such as this. The fact is there are enough examples of the lack of diversity in films without manufacturing outrage over non existent cases.
A world where Matt Damon stars in a film about the construction of the Great Wall of China is not ideal. Even the acclaim for A United Kingdom, which is the first film directed by a woman of colour to open the London Film Festival, feels slightly misplaced. It tells the story of the first President of Botswana but you do wonder if the film would have been made if it wasn’t for the presence of the blonde hair, blue eyed, Oxford educated Rosamund Pike; as happens all too often, the story still unfolds from a white, Eurocentric perspective.
I’m a white, Western male; if I go to the cinema there are literally dozens of films aimed at me, but people like me are becoming an increasingly smaller part of cinema audiences. I don’t need to be represented on the cinema screen – or anywhere else for that matter – any more than I already am.
If studios aren’t going to make more diverse films do this because it’s the right thing to do or because of a need to prove how diverse their output can be, they should do it for cold, hard reasons; the more your films represent their potential audience, the more people are going to pay to see them.
Neil Calloway is a pub quiz extraordinaire and Top Gun obsessive. Check back here every Sunday for future instalments.