Movie studios are using people of color as props

Editorial+Cartoon

Jesus Alduenda

A Disney executive talks to Cinderella about how she’s fired from her job at Disney.

The upcoming live-action movie, “The Little Mermaid Remake” has drummed up controversy with its casting of black actress Halle Bailey to play the role of originally white character Ariel.

Disney has responded to the outrage over this decision by making claims to the moral high ground, they are in truth cynically monetizing the backlash to this diverse casting to market their next product.

While Bailey’s casting is the controversy on everyone’s lips at the moment, consider that she is only the first in a long line of similar decisions from Disney and other major studios.

There is of course the casting of Leslie Grace as Batgirl back in 2021, but these decisions predate simple races swapping.

The 2017 iteration of “Beauty and The Beast” reframed the character of LeFou, played by Josh Gad, as a gay man.

However, despite the media hooplah, in the end it turned out to merely concern a brief scene where LeFou is dancing with another man.

Disney and its imitators have fallen into a pattern of prompting a frenzy of controversy surrounding the race swapping and reorientation of classic characters, yet ultimately do nothing significant. Why?

Despite claims that may be made otherwise, the answer has proved itself time and again to simply be cynical corporate marketing tactics.

The novelty of a live action remake of an animated classic is long since dead and Disney needs something to prop up what they are hoping will be the next big blockbuster.

Regardless of one’s feelings on the matter, it is impossible to deny that the artificial diversity of these castings drum up conversation.

Many of today’s social commentators got their start dissecting yesterday’s “diverse” casting.

This ultimately leaves the people they claim to cater to with little more than table scraps that they are expected to treat like some great victory.

What message does this ultimately send?

Cleary not the one of diversity and inclusion that Hollywood is banking on.

Instead, they are telling this potential audience that they are no better than the leftovers of white characters.

Since creating an original character requires more work and has less potential reward, these audiences had better get used to being nothing more than props in a marketing campaign.

What potential ways forward are there in a situation like this?

Despite Disney’s ambivalence, original black characters have proven they can still rake in a considerable profit.

It was not long ago that Black Panther was dominating global box offices and that movie’s sequel is due soon.

Not to mention that many of the more creative voices around Hollywood have cast plenty of black leads in their own original stories.

The future is ultimately not lost yet and there is still plenty chance for actual diversity to win out, but that will only happen if people don’t keep deluding themselves that race swapping actually means anything significant.

Studios have proven continually that money talks and it is up to us to decide what our wallets say.

The studios should no longer force diversity to make more revenue and movie goers should boycott these movies that are lazy.