Friday, June 1st, 2012

'Snow White and the Huntsman': Are Fake Little People Just Blackface?

People who've attended screenings of Snow White and the Huntsman have come away hideously disappointed. Once again, great trailer raised expectations way, way too high. (If this is going to happen with Prometheus, just kill me now and leave me at the side of the road.) But here's a question: is it also racist?

The dwarves are completely cranky-little-people-by-the-number and feel lifted from the LOTR movies. I understand, sort of, that if you want to make this a realistic/fantasy film (that new genre) you can’t have a character named Sneezy. But on the other hand, I can’t get over that we’re watching Snow White and there’s not a character named Sneezy. You’ve got the best monikered buddy team in fairy tale history and if you’re going to throw that away, you better have something good to replace it with, which this film doesn’t…. The dwarves are all played by great actors, with Ian McShane, Bob Hoskins et al’s heads superimposed onto dwarvish bodies…. In the LOTR movies, it’s perfectly fair and fine to superimpose Andy Serkis’ head onto Golem’s body, because there aren’t a lot of golem SAG members out there, so that’s what you got to do. But as we know from TLC, there are in fact little people on this planet. Some of whom are seeking out careers as working actors. It’s always great to see Bob Hoskins in a film, but in the end how is having him play a little person through the magic of visual effects any different than having a white actor play an African-American part in blackface and take a part away from a black actor? They couldn’t even give one of the dwarf roles to an actual little person?

32 Comments / Post A Comment

dado (#102)

First off, Smeagol wasn't a golem. But I hear what they're saying, it would be nice to toss a dwarf a role.

hockeymom (#143)

@dado I'm laughing and I know it's wrong. Damn you.

katerrific (#234,239)

I had a similar beef with Twilight. Not that I actually care about the movies or books, but it seemed a shame they couldn't trouble themselves to find a real Native American to play Jacob.

hockeymom (#143)

@katerrific Or a real werwolf.

skyslang (#11,283)

@katerrific OR a real heterosexual.

skyslang (#11,283)

@skyslang OR an actor who can convincingly play a real heterosexual.

atipofthehat (#797)

Because lord knows there aren't enough dwarf gigs for these men and women.

It's Mr. Roque. He's controlling everything behind the scenes, and something bad is happening.

Wait, was the same objection raised when John Rhys-Davies was cast as Gimli? I mean, isn't this an issue of casting well-known actors in significant roles v. casting a relatively unknown actor in the same role? That the role just happens to be a dwarf is kind of beside the point?

Or is the argument that, say, Warwick Davis or Peter Dinklage should have been given roles in this film?

deepomega (#1,720)

@Clarence Rosario Why can't that argument be made about yellow face Mickey Rooney?

jfruh (#713)

@Clarence Rosario I don't think the LOTR dwarves are supposed to be like actual little people, just kind of short (and stocky)? But I never read the books, what do I know.

Don't get me started on hobbit casting.

dntsqzthchrmn (#2,893)

@Clarence Rosario Say a word against Martin Freeman at your peril.

Peter Dinklage feels very strongly about this, but also said he didn't care when Gary Oldman did it, because, come on, Gary Oldman!

deepomega (#1,720)

What does a K Stew vehicle have to do to get people to go into the theater with realistic expectations?

GailPink (#9,712)

Dwarve authenticity aside, everyone I know who's been to a screening (friends and reviewers alike) loved the movie.

jfruh (#713)

I don't know why, but years later I'm still pissed about Charlize Theron's Oscar for Monster. Here's a meaty role for that rarest of birds in Hollywood — not an ethnic minority, not a little person, but someone who's actually ugly. Surely on the list of character actresses who've been toiling in the background of movies forever there was someone unattractive and talented who could have done wonders with this? But no, let's take one of the most beautiful women in the world and then make her sit for hours in a makeup chair every day to turn her into … the sort of ugly person who you could find on the street in real life. I mean, I get for financial marketing reason that Theron's turn made this into something people wanted to see, much more than if it had just starred some random uggo, but still.

(Also re: the trailer, thank you Choire for acknowledging that it made the movie seem awesome? Like, I watched it and thought "Jesus, do I really have urges to see a Snow White movie starring K-Stew?" Had the same expereince with previews for that Amanda Seyfriend Red Hiding Hood thing, which was apparently unwatchable.)

BirdNerd (#4,196)

@jfruh Agree. SW & Huntsman trailer has had me thinking about that film for months now. I think studios are uber aware of the internet buzz needed to create a blockbuster and are putting more and more emphasis on giving us kick-ass, thrilling 3 min trailers and maybe that's taking time away from them focusing on giving us 2 hour kick-ass thrilling movies. Maybe.
Hopefully Dark Knight Rises is an exception.

La Cieca (#1,110)

@jfruh The "Best Performance by a Gorgeous Actress in an Unglamorous Role" Oscar has a long and semi-distinguished history: Olivia de Havilland in The Heiress, Vivien Leigh in A Streetcar Named Desire, Grace Kelly in The Country Girl, Sophia Loren in Two Women, Elizabeth Taylor in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Jodie Foster in The Accused (arguably), HIlary Swank in Boys Don't Cry, Halle Berry in Monster's Ball, Nicole Kidman in The Hours and Kate Winslet in The Reader.

The reasoning seems to be that since, after all, the number one highest priority of any human lady is looking pretty for men all the time, for a diva to appear on the screen with her eyebrows unkempt, an askew wig, a few extra pounds packed on or even (horrors!) frocks bought off the rack at Sears Roebuck (Joan Crawford, Mildred Pierce, 1945) is the height of aestheric self-sacrifice. Such deliberate uglification is considered at least as big a deal as Tyrone Power chopping off his wang to act in The Sun Also Rises, which he didn't do, by the way, and who won the Oscar that year? Alec Guinness, that's who!

For a male actor, the ideal Oscar role is a falling-down-drunk gay racist with an accent and funny glasses.

City_Dater (#2,500)

@La Cieca

And/or an incurable disease.

@City_Dater : … that can only be cured by THE SELFLESS LOVE OF A DEVOTED WOMAN.

According to the movies, the selfless love of a devoted woman also cures crippling mental illness. Scientists should look into this.

Matt (#26)

Okay, but I want all of you to say the same thing when The Dork Knight Does Dallas comes out and there's a British guy playing a Latin dude.

Danzig! (#5,318)

@Matt My dudes were so pissed about that. I didn't even know Bane was Latino.


Viggo Mortensen?

Also, Al Pacino.

ejcsanfran (#489)

In France, Sneezy is called "Atchoum." And Dopey is "Simplet" – which doesn't have quite the same adorable ring as Dopey, does it?

stuffisthings (#1,352)

Wait, so the problem with blackface was that it took roles away from black actors? Oh, ok.

IBentMyWookie (#133)

@stuffisthings I was about to post this, nearly verbatim.

Danzig! (#5,318)

@stuffisthings *whoosh*

Amasa Amos (#9,654)

The screenplay for Prometheus was written by one of the guys who did Lost — so yeah, it's going to suck.

cherrispryte (#444)

@Amasa Amos Come over here and say that to my face.

Well, so much for my adaptation of "Snow White and the Seven Lawn Jockeys".

Balthazar (#7,006)

Choire, I have bad news for you about Prometheus…

Saw a preview last night, and just – ugh. TERRIBLE script, lousy acting. But the two and a bit hours did go by pretty quick, so there's that.

skyslang (#11,283)

@Balthazar I don't believe you!

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