Jamie Foxx, Idris Elba, and Why Everyone Needs to Shut Up About Black Actors Playing "White" Characters

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Everyone needs to shut up about black actors playing "white" characters.

Over the last few weeks, there have been a couple reports of black actors in consideration for roles that have been traditionally cast as white. We discussed how Idris Elba was considered for James Bond, and that Jamie Foxx is in talks to play Electro in The Amazing Spider-Man 2. This opened up the usual string of comments about how "James Bond is white!" and "Why are they changing what I love?"

Here's why it doesn't matter a lick: James Bond is zero percent (ZERO! PERCENT!) defined by his whiteness. He is defined by his bad-assery. He is defined by his Britishness. In the same way that there can be blond and brunet versions of Bond, or brown-eyed and blue-eyed versions, or Scottish and English versions, there can also be black, or Asian, or Pakistani, or one-armed, or bald, or vegan versions. As long as those versions are British bad-asses.

Idris Elba in Thor

The entertainment industry is finally beginning to embrace the idea that minorities (whether racial, or religious, or sexual, or any other type of minorities) need not be constantly defined by their "otherness." A black character on a TV show can just be a guy. He doesn't have to be a "black guy." A gay woman can just be a woman. Racial and sexual characteristics surely help to build the identity of the people who possess them, but in most cases people are just people. It frustrates me immeasurably to even have to write that phrase.

One of my favorite examples of this is Aziz Ansari playing a character named Tom Haverford ("white" name much?), on Parks and Recreation. Does anybody watch that show and think, "why isn't that Indian guy speaking with an Indian accent?" or "Why isn't his name "Patel?" No (if you do, you shouldn't be allowed to watch TV). Because "brown" is about 12,000th on the list of adjectives that describe the extremely well-defined and hilarious character of Tom Haverford. Aziz Ansari FTW.

When people hide behind the "comfort" of "Bond has always been white," or "Electro has always been white," they're just being flat out wrong, disrespectful, and shortsighted. These characters have never been white. They've never been any race. Sure, perhaps when an artist had to draw them for the first time they defaulted to "white." But "defaulting to white" is an old mentality in the entertainment industry that is finally beginning to erode. So shut up about black actors playing "white" characters.

Samuel L. Jackson is Nick Fury in The Avengers

Samuel L. Jackson makes a great Nick Fury. Elba made a great Heimdall in Thor. Donald Glover probably would have made a pretty awesome Spider-Man. There is such a thing as a character with race. And those characters are important. But chances are, the character you're defending as having "always been white" would be better if Idris Elba or Aziz Ansari played them. Because those guys are awesome.

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12.16.10 at 7:52 pmLance Manning@ LarryBrings me to my point.*In mock Farrakahn voice* White people had White Jesus this whole time that leokod nothing like the real one. Now they're getting mad because a comic book character isn't white!? See this is what I'm talking about. First ya'll take people's land, then our freedom, then you take rock and roll, and now you want to You know what? Forget this! *takes out gun. fires shot in the air* Everybody On The Ground! Empty Your Pockets And Drop It In The Bag!!!

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STOP using the Shaft excuse please... first off all that's a "Blaxploitation" character look It up! James Bond Is not a "WHITEPLOITATION" character get over It! He can be any color, AND IF THEY DID MAKE A SHAFT MOVIE WITH A WHITE GUY I WOULD GO SEE IT MICHAEL CERA AS SHAFT WOULD BE EPIC! And FRED get out of here with that Obama bull wake up! The world Is full of diff colors and nationalities get over IT!
They made Spiderman a black kid, Nick Fury a black guy. You think Avengers and Ultimate Spiderman are doing horrible with sales?? NOPE!

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STOP using the Shaft excuse please... first off all that's a "Blaxploitation" character look It up! James Bond Is not a "WHITEPLOITATION" character get over It! He can be any color, AND IF THEY DID MAKE A SHAFT MOVIE WITH A WHITE GUY I WOULD GO SEE IT MICHAEL CERA AS SHAFT WOULD BE EPIC! And FRED get out of here with that Obama bull wake up! The world Is full of diff colors and nationalities get over IT!
They made Spiderman a black kid, Nick Fury a black guy. You think Avengers and Ultimate Spiderman are doing horrible with sales?? NOPE!

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Pete you need to shut up. It's just like saying since society thinks Jesus is white its so wrong to say that he's black-middle eastern. What you said is racist and despicable. Broaden your mind. Tom Hanks didnt play a black panther, he went to a black panther party in Forrest Gump.

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Pete you need to shut up. It's just like saying since society thinks Jesus is white its so wrong to say that he's black-middle eastern. What you said is racist and despicable. Broaden your mind. Tom Hanks didnt play a black panther, he went to a black panther party in Forrest Gump.

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Excuse me but let me remind you Davida that Malcolm X is a historical figure. It would be historically inaccurate to cast a White actor as a Black man. I agree with this article completely and I believe that casting different ethnicities in movie rolls would be amazing. There are many amazing actors that aren't white. To many movies have been white-washed. Add some color to the big screens.

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Excuse me but let me remind you Davida that Malcolm X is a historical figure. It would be historically inaccurate to cast a White actor as a Black man. I agree with this article completely and I believe that casting different ethnicities in movie rolls would be amazing. There are many amazing actors that aren't white. To many movies have been white-washed. Add some color to the big screens.

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you what all this is b.s cause the biggest lie ever told was elizabeth taylor playing the role of nefertit in the ten commandents and everyone knows that nefertiti was black egyptian and she defenitely was not white!!!! and moses who she took in as her own son was black also, thats why he was able to passes as an egyptian for all those years until he found out that he was an hebrew, which also was black!!

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you what all this is b.s cause the biggest lie ever told was elizabeth taylor playing the role of nefertit in the ten commandents and everyone knows that nefertiti was black egyptian and she defenitely was not white!!!! and moses who she took in as her own son was black also, thats why he was able to passes as an egyptian for all those years until he found out that he was an hebrew, which also was black!!

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@ tell the truth

Tell the truth is the wrong name for you, apefrocentrist. Tell the lies is more accurate.

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@ tell the truth

You're an idiot. The Ancient Egyptians were not black. Nor were the Hebrews. Get your facts right.

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With the exception of the comics, (visual) and Malcolm X (a real person), the others are book characters that can be left up to the imagination. Judging from the comments, most people don't read, so of course they haven't made this distinction. Then there is fact that white people have played every race since the beginning of cinema. Why is it so impossible for anyone of another color to do it? It's called acting for a reason.

The Avengers Quotes

World Security Council: Director Fury, the council has made a decision.
Nick Fury: I recognize the council has made a decision, but given that it's a stupid-ass decision, I've elected to ignore it.

Security Guard: Are you an alien?
Bruce Banner: What?
Security Guard: From outer space, an alien.
Bruce Banner: No.
Security Guard: Well then son, you've got a condition.

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