Archive of topics from before June 2012. PM a mod to get one reopened.
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#227254
ezinra wrote:It's not about accuracy, it's a question of inclusion. Nobody gets together to re-enact the daily lives of medieval washerwomen, so if a woman wants to participate in a re-enactment, there are few alternative opportunities. In those cases, I think 21st century values (eg, diversity, inclusion) should take precedence over historical accuracy, which is going to be relative anyway.
Yes they do. I've seen it and so have you....
ezinra 11/02/12 wrote:I've been to a couple of 'typical day in a medieval village' type places, where folk dress up as ye fayre wench and show the punters how they used to treat wounds, prepare food, and possibly even make quilts back in ye day. They're good at emphasising how women's work was a) skilled, b) knackering, and c) absolutely critical to the functioning of society.
#227255
The Ermine Street Guard speak Latin...

Some are looking for considerable accuracy. The jousters you are talking about seem likely to be staged theatrical re-enactments at stately homes etc as part of the summer tourist trade. I can't see the Ermine Street Guard or the Sealed Knot (which has a lot of women in non-combat roles) or the White Company (ditto) playing so fast and loose with fact.

In fact I think most re-enactment is pointless, for the reason I'd hoped you'd come up with, that there is no prospect of agonising and bloody death by the end of the day, a fact which somewhat coloured most soldiers' experience of war and which means that no-one can really experience what they went through.
#227256
Can we get back to hueism?

I'm still wondering why Depardieu was unsuitable to play Dumas, when Dumas was a lot whiter than any 'black' actor, and in many photographs appears to be white, caveats accepted.

I'm put in mind of the American academics who claimed that Cleopatra was a black African.
She was certainly African, as she was born in Egypt, but she was Greek, and had nothing but Greek ancestry for generations. Yet they portrayed her as a negroid ethnotype*. Egyptian civilisation was an African achievement, but not all Africans are all that black...

*Whilst leaving African civilisations such as the Benin Culture to the world of academia.
#227257
ezinra wrote:As you point out, the line has to be drawn somewhere — why should gender be a determining factor? Why allow men with Irish surnames to take part or anyone over about six feet tall?
It's about creating an illusion. That's what acting is. The nationality of people taking part makes no difference to the illusion, gender and race can.
I recently watched the 1970 Soviet-Italian film "Waterloo". It features huge panoramic scenes of the battlefield, very impressive for the days before CGI. Only the Russians could have made that film as only they had sufficient cavalry (the cossacks). According to the credits 15,000 Soviet foot soldiers and 2,000 cavalrymen were employed as extras to portray both the British and French armies. The fact that all these soldiers were Russian did not detract from the film because they looked British and French. The same would not have been true of Asian, African or female troops which would have interfered with the credibility of the film.
#227258
Apologies if some of this has already been answered, I'm a slow thinker and an even slower typist.
Malcolm Armsteen wrote:Is it about gay teens having to watch gay actors or else they aren't engaged?

No.

Because that would be a silly argument, wouldn't it?

Yes.

How would it play in reverse - didn't any straight people like Buffy?

Lots of straight people liked Buffy, as far as I can tell.

Do you think most viewers cared about the sexuality of the actors? Or the characters (you have me at a disadvantage here because I've never seen the thing).

I don't think I've ever seen a whole episode either, it was an example off the top of my head. I'm told it's popular with the young people! I think the fact that Buffy has 'strong' (ugh) gay and female characters is an important part of the appeal. I don't know any of the actors except Sarah Michelle Gellar who is a right-wing republican — her politics didn't seem to prevent viewers, gay or straight, from enjoying the series.

There are four separate elements about representation of minorities, which are being mixed up in this thread:

— opportunities for minority actors, writers, directors, etc
— creating minority characters and narratives that challenge stereotypes and offer new perspectives
— identification of the viewer with minority character(s)
— identification of the viewer with minority actor(s)

All of these are progressive and valuable. Audiences of all stripes can enjoy a film or a programme that provides none of these things, and they have done so since the invention of the moving picture. However, my viewing experience is never harmed, and is generally enhanced, when one or more is achieved — and the more the merrier. Commissioners and film producers, though, are very timid — they do not believe that audiences will watch a film where the lead character is a black lesbian with superpowers, played by a black lesbian actor (without superpowers). Such a film has never been made. I have, however, lost count of the number of films in which the hero is a straight white male with superpowers, played by a straight white male actor (again without superpowers). Yet I'm being asked to suspend my disbelief and stop fixating on politics and sexuality? Not one single film in the history of filmmaking? Eventually one will be made, and I will feel as though we have achieved equality, even though the ratio will then be something like one out of 1 million, and the film will probably be rubbish anyway.

Stunning generalisation alert! Perhaps, just perhaps, there were other qualities which caused the casting of Renée Zellwiger, like her acting ability, the range of expressions she can manage. Perhaps her being overweight and unhappy with it would bring something to the character. After all, would we cast Dustin Hoffman for a John Wayne rôle? Cathy Burke playing Marilyn Monroe? Because that's what you're saying.
Ah, the 'best suitable candidate' argument. You may well be right. On the other hand, it's the same argument Mail readers use to explain why politics and industry are still dominated by white men. It seems improbable to me that there were no actors capable of taking on the role of Bridget Jones without having to alter their body size — and as I said Hollywood isn't exactly drowning in size-12 starlets. In the end it doesn't matter whether Zellwegger was objectively the best candidate for the role, she was (as oboogie notes way down the page) the most commercially viable. Choosing a lesser-known actor with fewer product endorsements would have increased the risk. The producers chose the safe option. The safe option reflects the dominant values and identities of the audience. That's how minorities get excluded in the first place — as actors, as writers, as characters, as viewers.

In order to break out of their exclusion, minorities have had to apply political pressure to Hollywood — which involves pointing out racism and ableism and the rest. Where we should draw the lines that decide who may represent whom on celluloid continues to be a big question — and one which, I feel, I've talked about as a question in this thread, by alluding to hueism and throwing up for debate the issue of how trans people are represented. My personal position is that minority groups need to be listened to on matters regarding their own representation in the media, not that they are necessarily correct. I'm not persuaded that this thread has been a good starting point.
#227265
Malcolm Armsteen wrote:And you mean Depardieu playing Dumas?

Dumas was, I believe, one eighth black - he had one black great-grandparent. So on average he should be played by a white, rather than black, actor, yes?
We don't — and never less than during Dumas's lifetime — judge ethnic affiliation in this way. In the nineteenth century, a person was white or he was not. As I argued earlier in the thread, there is now a hierarchy of blackness which values lighter skin over darker. But back then racial purity was idealised. To have even a drop of black 'blood' was enough to make a person an outcast. Dumas suffered racial discrimination and abuse, and thought of himself as un nègre.
Quick translation: By whitening Dumas, the film … passes up an opportunity to fill a gap in the knowledge of those who will watch it and, for most, not realise that the author of the Three Muskateers was a 'negro'. Did this 'detail' risk upsetting the audience, thus affecting the commercial viability of the project? That's not impossible, for we know that in the French film industry a French actor who is black or mixed-race is not 'bankable'…
#227267
We don't — and never less than during Dumas's lifetime — judge ethnic affiliation in this way. In the nineteenth century, a person was white or he was not. As I argued earlier in the thread, there is now a hierarchy of blackness which values lighter skin over darker. But back then racial purity was idealised. To have even a drop of black 'blood' was enough to make a person an outcast. Dumas suffered racial discrimination and abuse, and thought of himself as un nègre.
'Fraid not. But the quote does try to have it both ways.

There was a huge interest in fractions, mulattos, octoroons, mischlings in the eighth degree. Whilst at the same time there was a belief in purity of blood etc. which made those with it 'incasts'. Those without that purity (which at its depths was calculated by the Nazis to one sixteenth) were outcast. In that sense Dumas was black. Except, how outcast was he?

The second quote I would dismiss as pure bollocks except that I can't think of any French actors of mixed race. There must be some, they just didn't work with François...
#227283
oboogie wrote:
ezinra wrote:As you point out, the line has to be drawn somewhere — why should gender be a determining factor? Why allow men with Irish surnames to take part or anyone over about six feet tall?
It's about creating an illusion. That's what acting is. The nationality of people taking part makes no difference to the illusion, gender and race can.
I recently watched the 1970 Soviet-Italian film "Waterloo". It features huge panoramic scenes of the battlefield, very impressive for the days before CGI. Only the Russians could have made that film as only they had sufficient cavalry (the cossacks). According to the credits 15,000 Soviet foot soldiers and 2,000 cavalrymen were employed as extras to portray both the British and French armies. The fact that all these soldiers were Russian did not detract from the film because they looked British and French. The same would not have been true of Asian, African or female troops which would have interfered with the credibility of the film.
It's been ages since I saw that (It used to be shown at Christmas day during my childhood for some odd reason).
However I recall a school friend complaining about the "chinese" actors in the part where French cavalry attack and
Wellington's troops form squares to defend. I didn't see it, but another friend who knew "everything" about stuff like that
stated that they were from a division raised in the Kazakh SSR.
Later I learned that the cast of the film could lay claim to being the 7th largest army in the world.

Of course there are other grosser inaccuracies in the film.
Napoleon is played by an American with form for also masquerading as Mussolini.
Wellington by a Canadian also known to pass himself off as an Austrian U-boat commander.
Blucher by a Georgian, not a Swede, Meklenburger or a Prussian (Great whiskers though).
#227292
Oof, there's more!

oboogie, on the washerwomen parallel — fair point, I'd forgotten about that thread! I'm sure you see it's not the same experience, though. A reconstructed medieval village, to use that as an example, is a living museum. One of the things people will be interested in 'curating' and learning about is how medieval living arrangements and labour were gendered. Everyone knows (or thinks they do) how armies were gendered.

Equally, unless perhaps it's a women's history project, there will be roles in the village for both men and women. It's one thing to say that female re-enactors should not be allowed to carve weaponry (or whatever tasks medieval men kept for themselves), quite another to say they shouldn't take part at all.

I'd imagine that the most fun bit of a military re-enactment is the action, where you might take part in a mass charge towards the local rotary club or get yourself beheaded by the nice chap who works in Boots. (I have no idea what happens in a military re-enactment.) That must take a bit of suspending disbelief in itself.
oboogie wrote:
ezinra wrote:As you point out, the line has to be drawn somewhere — why should gender be a determining factor? Why allow men with Irish surnames to take part or anyone over about six feet tall?
It's about creating an illusion. That's what acting is. The nationality of people taking part makes no difference to the illusion, gender and race can.
That's what minority activists are fighting. It's deeply ingrained in the dominant culture that gender and ethnicity are meaningful and inescapable categories which, more than any other, define and divide us. But there's no basis to that other than 'it's what we're used to'. Minority activism seeks to change and diversify the signifiers we're attribute importance to, so that in future differences in gender and ethnicity are no longer perceived as having any deeper basis in reality than those of nationality or height.
Malcolm Armsteen wrote:I can't think of any French actors of mixed race. There must be some, they just didn't work with François...
Truffaut? You must have seen a French film since then!

Jamel Debbouze is mixed race — but it's the 'wrong' race for Dumas. Questions to be asked there, too… .

Slate has a good summary (in French) of French cinema's lack of ethnic minority roles and actors.
#227302
ezinra wrote:
O'Boogie wrote:It's about creating an illusion. That's what acting is. The nationality of people taking part makes no difference to the illusion, gender and race can.
That's what minority activists are fighting. It's deeply ingrained in the dominant culture that gender and ethnicity are meaningful and inescapable categories which, more than any other, define and divide us. But there's no basis to that other than 'it's what we're used to'. Minority activism seeks to change and diversify the signifiers we're attribute importance to, so that in future differences in gender and ethnicity are no longer perceived as having any deeper basis in reality than those of nationality or height.
Palpable nonsense, it's not because 'it's what we're used to' but because it's historical fact. The soldiers who fought at Waterloo were white European men and to suggest otherwise is to rewrite history which is a very dangerous road indeed. If, for example, the film were to be remade with large numbers of female soldiers it might suggest that 200 years ago women had a degree of equality which we both know they didn't. That may lead the historically ignorant to query the subsequent struggle for women's rights and wonder what all the fuss was about.
If a film were to be made about the slave trade would you, in the name of inclusiveness, support the use of white actors to play slaves?
To apply 21st century values to earlier ages is revisionist, confusing, potentially offensive and dangerous. You can't change the past and you shouldn't try. Instead we should be celebrating the progress we've made so far, aided by the benchmark of the bad old days, and focusing on further improvement for the future goaded on by the terrible lessons of the past.
#227319
My point wasn't clear at all.

I simply meant: if you search for a marker of difference, you'll find it. If enough people say that getting gender right is essential for accurately re-enacting battles, it will become so. If the focus is on preparing the uniforms and retracing the manoeuvres correctly, then gender might not matter.

With regard to your examples, it's undeniable that gender was a determining factor in becoming a soldier and that race was crucial to slavery. Ordinarily, then, any retelling of those stories has to respect those details. However, it can occasionally be interesting to subvert them. I remember seeing a theatre production of Henry V in France where the English characters spoke in French and the French ones in Occitan. Of course, this changed the whole meaning of the play — historical accuracy was abandoned in order to bring out some of Shakespeare's themes and make the audience interrogate them. My point? Historical truth is not the only truth in a piece of historical fiction.

Filmed recreations of historical events are right at the top of the scale when it comes to valuing realism in fiction. Our collective historical knowledge is (inescapably) dominated by the actions of white men, though, so it's important to provide minorities with the space to write themselves into our (and their) history. That's what underpins multiculturalism — and it works. We need more biopics of the Gandhis, even if that means fewer of the Kennedys. Ideally there'd be money for all.
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