When we talk about race, it can be seen as quite a touchy subject due to the fear people have of offending others. However, it’s pretty clear that set stereotypes have been put in place that we, as a whole, accept because it’s been part of convention for so long.
Prime examples of this would be: the Indian/ Pakistani cab driver, white people having no rhythm, Asians being geniuses in school, and black people liking fried chicken. These elements can be seen in most cases on television and there’re plenty more stereotypes in the world that we subconsciously accept today because they show a reflection of the world we’ve already seen in past years.
The topic of race and ethnicity within media was wonderfully challenged in the new series from Aziz Ansari: ‘Master of None’ episode 4 ‘Indians on TV’. The series tells the story of Dev, a 30-year-old second-generation immigrant (his parents moved to the USA from India, whilst he was born and raised in The States) pursuing an acting career in New York. The comedy show demonstrates how stereotypical the television and film industry can be for actors and actresses, as only some ethnicities with stereotypical mannerisms would be considered for certain roles.
Controversial debate arose when there were rumours of having actor Idris Elba take on the James Bond role after Daniel Craig. Many people weren’t happy with the idea of possibly having a black James Bond, as some would only consider a white actor for Bond, as all the previous Bonds have been white, and in order for continuity to play out it makes sense to keep him the same ethnicity. In some respects, it can be quite important to keep in mind the story when casting – could you imagine a black actor playing a Grand Wizard of the KKK in a story based around the slavery era? It just wouldn’t make sense.
Another example of this topical issue is within the new Star Wars film trailer. The trailer shows a Stormtrooper that takes his helmet off to show John Boyega (a black actor) taking the role. This caused major uproar across social media with some people not understanding the difference between a clone and a Stormtrooper, and those that were just not happy with a black man taking the role of a Stormtrooper. If there is an entire galaxy far far away full of aliens from various planets, is it really so odd to have a Stormtrooper that is black?
In today’s era, it’s fair to say the world is slowly changing into a more diverse society as a whole, so is it time for the television and film medium to reflect that? I’d say so, providing that it doesn’t compromise the story or theme of the screenplay. So is the television and film industry racist, as many have been claiming as of late? I don’t think so. These shows and movies where these stereotypes are used are generally replicating what life was like historically. Perhaps in the future, if the world continues to change as it is, we should start to see a change in these stereotypes to reflect our progress.