Wow, looks like I may end up dragging this thing out into October, which is a new record for personal futility. Oh well!
Roger had a bunch, as always, so his constitute the bulk of the outstanding answers. So let’s get going:
How do you feel about casting folks who aren’t the category they portray? I was thinking about Johnny Depp as Tonto, but there are tons of other examples. Should only a gay man play a gay man, e.g. Related question: how do you feel about casting a character that had been traditionally white differently? I’m thinking about making Kingpin, the white villain in the Daredevil comic books as a black man, or the black Asgardian in the Thor movie that made parts of fandom apoplectic.”
I think it can vary from character to character, in a lot of ways. Generally speaking, if a character has a specific ethnicity or ethnic makeup, then surely you can find someone of that ethnicity to do the part. This is why it rankled me a bit to have Benedict Cumberbatch, a white Brit, playing Khan Noonien Singh, an Asian villain, in Star Trek Into Darkness. (And yes, it does kind of bug me after-the-fact that they had a Latino actor, Ricardo Montalban, originate the role — but that was in 1967, when views on such things were depressingly different.) I could go on and on about that particular casting choice, because it felt like (a) the producers just had to have Khan in their movie, and (b) the producers also just had to have the Flavor of the Month actor in their movie, so there it is. No, I don’t think it worked. (And I’m not being dismissive of Cumberbatch’s talent in describing him as the Flavor of the Month; he’s been a hardworking actor for a while who is now EXPLODING in popularity. That’s all.)
Perhaps the worst example of this is, of course, Mickey Rooney in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, in which he plays the Japanese Mr. Yunioshi in a racial-stereotype performance that has to be seen to be truly appreciated in all its awfulness. Another example that leaps to mind is Louis Jourdan, a French actor, playing “exiled Afghan prince” Kamal Khan in Octopussy. And if you really want to get right down to it, you could even make a case against Patrick Stewart, a Brit who played a Frenchman in Star Trek: The Next Generation, although with that one, the ethnic differences are lessened, and the showrunners oddly completely ignored Jean-Luc Picard’s French heritage most of the time after the first season.
On the flip side, I like it when ethnic actors show up in roles that make zero reference to ethnicity at all. I’m thinking of Native American actors Graham Greene and Wes Studi, in Die Hard With a Vengeance and Heat, respectively, for example. But making the Kingpin a black man in Daredevil? Well…I don’t know that that’s so much of a big deal. Changing the race of a fictional character for a movie doesn’t really bug me all that much. Denzel Washington cuts a nice figure in Much Ado About Nothing as Don Pedro, whom I’m sure Shakespeare didn’t envision as black. But then, in Shakespeare’s time, a man would have played Beatrice.
Where’s the line, then? Is it OK for a Japanese actor to play a Chinese character? I’m not sure. I can sure tell when the line is crossed, though.
I’m going to lump the next questions together, because they’re all shared topics:
Who will be the first woman President in the US, and when?
When will the first Hispanic be elected President? Any idea on who?
When will the SECOND black person be elected President?
Spitzer and Weiner are running for office. Why shouldn’t they, with former SC gov Sanford now a member of Congress?
I wouldn’t want to even begin to try picking future Presidents. I know that Washington media loves to talk about who wants to be President and all, but ten years ago I had never even heard of Barack Obama, and ten years before that, the idea that we’d give the keys to another member of the Bush family would have struck me as deeply silly. And just five years before that, you had the Governor of Arkansas giving a disastrously bad speech at the Democratic National Convention in 1988, which I would have thought would pretty much doom him from national politics forevermore.
Right now, I’d think that Hillary Clinton would be the most likely First Female President. I think we’ll have a Hispanic President within twenty years. The second black President? No idea whatsoever. Sorry, but these particular tea leaves are impossible for me to read!
As for Eliot Spitzer and Anthony Weiner, well…that shows how long it’s taken me to answer all these questions, because since Roger asked, both have been defeated! In terms of issues and views, I am actually pretty simpatico with both of those fellows, but their personal lives sure brought them down in a hurry. It does strike me as funny that marriage-based peccadilloes only seem to be politically fatal to Democrats. I do follow a couple of Republicans on Twitter who were endlessly crowing about how Democrats could POSSIBLY vote for anyone so VILE as these admitted adulterers — but when Mark Sanford got elected to Congress, one of them praised South Carolina voters for their “common sense”. So who knows.
(By the way, here’s my reminder to you all that the phrase “common sense” is one that you should never, ever use.)
Generally speaking, I try to never base voting decisions on candidates’ personal lives, unless they involve actual criminal activity. I didn’t marry these people, and I’ve read enough history to know the truth behind the great line of Captain Malcolm Reynolds in Firefly: “Seems to me that every man who’s ever had a statue built of him was one kind of sumbitch or another.”
Relatedly, though, I am starting to believe in term limits. But that’s for another time!
A few more to come, I think!