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