Hollywood should embrace POC, women in popular roles

Courtesy of Esquire
Kelly Marie Tran has been harassed by racist “fans” via social media.

09/27/2018

By Zoe Stratos | Staff Columnist 

Known for its glamorous stars throughout the years, Hollywood never had trouble casting the perfect person for the perfect role in films and TV shows. However, after recent controversies in the acting industry surrounding fan outrage at casting people of color (POC), moviegoers need to leave their ignorance and hate in the past where it belongs.

Fans being upset about a book or cartoon turned movie character that didn’t turn out exactly how they wanted is nothing new in the entertainment industry, but that’s not the problem. The real issue is outrage toward POC receiving major parts in said films and TV shows, even though the part never belonged to a caucasian person.

One example is Anna Diop of the new Titans live action TV show due to air in October. Based off of the 2003 animation Teen Titans, the TV show follows the adult version of the team including leader Robin, Starfire, Raven, Cyborg and Beastboy. Diop plays the orange skinned alien from the planet Tamaran named Starfire.

After a trailer release of the highly anticipated show for DC and Marvel fans alike, the reaction seemed to be overall disappointment in the casting and costumes of the heroes: specifically Starfire. Fans took to Twitter coining the hashtag “notmystarfire,” and one fan said Diop was “too fat and dark to be Starfire.”

Not only were there tweets harassing Diop, some fans even took it as far as commenting hateful things on Diop’s Instagram posts. It’s disturbing to know the “fans” have no problem harassing her to the point of her turning off comments on Instagram.

“Too often social media is abused by some who find refuge in the anonymity and detachment it provides: misused as a tool to harass, abuse and spew hatred at others,” Diop wrote. “This is weak, sad and a direct reflection of the abuser. Racist, derogatory and/or cruel comments have nothing to do with the person on the receiving end of that abuse.”

It’s understandable that people want a person with the “correct” skin tone playing a role, but in this situation it’s completely absurd. How can someone assign an ethnicity to an alien with glowing orange skin? It’s unfair to a talented actress like Diop, who would play the part of a strong heroine well. It’s 2018 — it’s about time Hollywood chose POC to act in films, and the public should accept it, too.

Unfortunately, racism from fans doesn’t stop with Diop. Star Wars: The Last Jedi star Kelly Marie Tran faced similar, arguably worse harassment from rude fans on social media. The Star Wars franchise began casting POC in their recent movies, including star John Boyega, as well as Tran herself: The first woman of color cast in the franchise. Tran played Rose Tico, a mechanic in the resistance against the First Order.

Tran, a well respected and talented actress, received hateful comments on her Instagram, including slurs like “ching chong.” One fan even went as far as changing the “Wookiepedia” description about her to one with a plethora of profanities and stating that she “better die in a coma.”

In what world is this acceptable? When did someone’s ethnicity become grounds for death threats and putrid insults? People like this aren’t really fans anymore, they are disgusting hateful people who attack innocent actors and actresses who are trying to bring joy and entertainment to the public. Somehow, Tran, like Diop, stayed strong through the hate.

“I avoided social media for a long time purely because I was afraid. I was terrified of being picked apart, of being scrutinized, of being seen,” she wrote on one post. “I’m an incomplete, imperfect, broken mess, and I’m here to say that it’s OKAY to be imperfect.”

The one thing these fans fail to realize is parts aren’t given to actors just out of pity for their lack of representation in the film and TV industry, they’re given to them because they are talented, strongwomen of color who deserve a chance at stardom. They have a voice for those minorities who want to become stars, too. Bringing them down only makes the fans look idiotic and, quite frankly, not look like actual fans, either.

A fan is someone who is excited about a film or TV show; they devote themselves to what they love, and a POC playing a certain character shouldn’t change that. That POC deserves all of the respect and support that white actors and actresses receive. Hollywood doesn’t “whitewash” characters as frequently, which is one step in the right direction.

In no way is the industry near perfect, but public acceptance of POC will take the proper casting of characters to the next level. Inclusion is important in this day and age, and women of color like Diop and Tran are inspirations to all of the young ethnically diverse children dreaming of making it big. It’s not fair to tear down the actors and actresses who were once those kids dreaming of where they are now.

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