Sexism and racism in Hollywood… still?

11 Jul

Shocking, right?

I happened across two different snippets of Hollywood chatter yesterday:

Lucasfilm has authenticated the leaked casting call for Star Wars VII (will it ever end??), which calls for:

Late-teen female, independent, good sense of humour, fit.

Young twenty-something male, witty and  smart, fit but not traditionally good looking.

A late twentysomething male, fit, handsome and confident.

Seventy-something male, with strong opinions and tough demeanour. Also doesn’ t need to be particularly fit.

A second young female, also late teens, tough, smart and fit.

Forty something male, fit, military type.

Thirtysomething male, intellectual. Apparently doesn’t need to be fit (http://io9.com/official-casting-call-reveals-the-characters-in-star-wa-517782093).

This prompted “science, science fiction, and the future” website io9 to trumpet that “while the general descriptions are fairly vague, we think it’s important to note the presence of strong, late-teenaged females.”

Strong, late-teenaged white females? I’m curious to see how open all of these roles, which are indeed “vague” regarding race, will end up being for people of diverse complexions. (And given Lucas’ track record with racial stereotypes, I’m also dreading it.)

And to io9’s point, yes, it’s hard not to note the emphasis on girl power. The question is what that means.

Right after I read the Star Wars news, I caught this Guardian interview with Ellen Page. When asked if she’s ever experienced sexism in Hollywood, Page responds:

Oh my God, yeah! It’s constant! It’s how you’re treated, it’s how you’re looked at, how you’re expected to look in a photoshoot, it’s how you’re expected to shut up and not have an opinion, it’s how you… If you’re a girl and you don’t fit the very specific vision of what a girl should be, which is always from a man’s perspective, then you’re a little bit at a loss (http://www.guardian.co.uk/film/2013/jul/03/ellen-page-interview-the-east).

Page’s perspective is no big surprise, and a poignant contrast to the desire to cast girls who look strong… even if they’re not supposed to be once the cameras stop rolling. And it makes me think about Anita Sarkeesian’s writings (http://www.feministfrequency.com/) about representations of girls and women created by and for men (see 6/24/13 post on female archetypes in video games). Specifically, how may the appearance of female strength subtly and powerfully reinforce gender roles, when all too often the girls/women in question are written into scripts where they need to be saved by men. In other words, no matter how strong, they’re never strong enough to be equal to men.

This isn’t meant as an indictment of Star Wars VII, a movie I know nothing about (and have no interest researching). Rather, it’s a more general question about appearance and substance when it comes to social progress in Hollywood, and beyond.

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