Elvis Mitchell sat down with veteran screenwriter Wesley Strick for a recent episode
of his KCRW radioshow The Treatment
. They dicussed Strick's debut novel, Out There in the Dark
, and in the course of the conversation they teased out the nature of Hollywood from the production and audience perspective and really spoke to the fraught American character.
I mean I think the mistake that everyone in the book makes is that they mistake the glittering images on the big screen for reality. Those images are more beguiling than real life. And just as Ronald Reagan ultimately conflated, and quite successfully, the roles he had played in Hollywood with his career to the point where I think most of the American public would assume that Reagan himself had been a war hero simply based on the fact that he made war pictures when he was here in Los Angeles during the forties. The fact is, and I discovered in researching the book, he never left Los Angeles. Not only did he not serve as an active member of the armed forces. He never left L.A. He didn't even go on a U.S.O. tour. He stayed in the boundaries of L.A. county for 4 years.
...Best of all having not even left L.A. during the war, he would talk in interviews after the war, "when I came back." He would say, "Jane and I had a hard time adjusting when I got back." Back from Culver City? Exactly what was he talking about. Back from Burbank?
Strick couldn't have better elucidated how the artifice of Hollywood and, by extension mass media entertainment, permeates and confuses identities and realities. It's not a game when activists protest, speak out, abstain from the consumption of Film, TV, Music, etc., or when organizations Boytcott networks that refuse to represent America in their programming. It's strategic, politically, and defensive, even a question of self-preservation, psychologically which leads me to this B.S.:
Jolie to play widow of journalist Daniel Pearl
Thu Jul 13, 2006 4:28 AM ET
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Actress Angelina Jolie will star in a movie as the widow of murdered Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, trade paper Daily Variety reported in its Thursday edition.
"A Mighty Heart," adapted from Mariane Pearl's memoir of the same name, will begin shooting within the next five weeks, the paper said. The book details Pearl's search for her husband, who was abducted and beheaded by militants in Pakistan in early 2002.
"I am delighted that Angelina Jolie will be playing my role in the adaptation of my book," Daily Variety quoted Pearl as saying. "I deeply admire her work and what she is committed to."
English filmmaker Michael Winterbottom, famed for such war-based films as "Welcome to Sarajevo" and "The Road to Guantanamo," will direct. Jolie's boyfriend, actor Brad Pitt, will serve as a producer of the project, which is set up at Paramount Vantage, the art-house arm of Viacom Inc.'s Paramount Pictures.© Reuters 2006.
What better example of our (and by "our" I mean people of color) erasure from the big screen. I remembered seeing a picture of Ms. Pearl
and recognized her to be a woman of color. I was a little aghast at her ecstatic reaction to Jolie's casting but figured she was undoubtedly flattered and honored that an actress with her box office draw would be playing her but after Googling her I can see why Pearl, according to the above report, is unconcerned that in a disturbing ahistoric turn a white woman is playing her colored behind.
With regards to Ms. Pearl's
ethnicity: her father was Dutch and her Cuban mother, Marita Van Neyenhoff's
ethnicity is obliquely accounted for in this feature
penned by Pearl for Glamour
"She grew up with a father who was a handsome mix of Cuban and Chinese, and who, one day, decided to stop talking altogether, although he wasn't mute. Her mother, meanwhile, was a hard-core gossiper who spent the entire day with rollers in her hair and loved nothing more than makeup, clothes and sexy jokes."
It is unlikely that Van Neyenhoff's father was the descendant of a mainland Chinese and a "Cuban". I suspect that he was the product of a Cuban of Chinese descent and a Cuban of African descent. Notice the decision to refer to race
with regards to the non-Black lineage and nationality
with regards to the Black lineage, a choice that obfuscates her own visibly dusky descendancy. I do not know if Pearl has discussed the Black part of her ethnic make-up and being that she is a French citizen with Latin American parentage it is understandable why she doesn't want to go there since both cultures, for decidedly unprogressive reasons, don't like to talk about Blackness. I honor the right of all people to honor and live in the fullness of their complex idenities but the diminishing of her Blackness is annoying if expected given enduring and virulent anti-Black racism. Maybe that is why she was so crunk upon having Angelina Jolie play her in an upcoming adaption of her memoir, A Mighty Heart
. Wouldn't Thandi Newton be better suited? Salli Richardson, Carmen Ejogo, Michael Michele, or the host of talented bi-racial, black and Latina actresses of her complexion (and notably, in a number of the stated cases lighter with less kink in their hair) who can't get a job to save them from the black Church play circuit or a greasy Playboy spread? You think Eva Mendes would ever be cast as Nancy Reagan? What about Lucy Liu as Teresa Heinz-Kerry or Salli Richardson as Anna Wintour? Colorblind casting generally ensures people of color won't be in movies even to play characters of color. It scarcely works vice versa. Still if not for the few times a casting agent cast Don Cheadle for a role (as a cop or a crook) written for a White he'd barely break even. All the actors are White, all the movies are wack and some of us are dead tired of the whitewashing of our consciousnesses and imaginations. I can't wait for the day M. Night Shyamalan enacts his vision with American actors of South Asian descent but damnit noone, not even South Asian Americans, would probably watch. Folk wouldn't be so eager to pronounce his name correctly. He'd be comparatively broke. He woudn't be in American Express ads
. I know he threw Sam Jack in Unbreakable
and even underemployed Sarita Choudry in his new pic
but the Sam Jack casting doesn't count on account of his horrible flat top wig.