For meget er aldrig nok

Image source.

Stupidity has metastasized in America.

We can start with an article from DR: “Slut med hvide stemmer til ikke-hvide roller: ‘The Simpsons’-karakter får ny stemme,” the upshot of which is that the role of Carl Carlson, voiced for more than three decades by Hank Azaria, will in the premiere of their 32nd season be voiced by Alex Désert.

Because he’s black, and Azaria is not.

But the multi-faceted Azaria isn’t only not black: he’s also not Indian.

‘The Simpsons’ er tidligere især blevet kritiseret for portrætteringen af den indiske kioskejer Apu. Det skete blandt andet i 2017, da dokumentaren ‘The Problem with Apu’ udkom.

Det fik i januar i år Hank Azaria til at trække sig fra rollen.

Nu kommer så meldingen om, at Azaria heller ikke længere skal lægge stemme til Carl Carlson. I hvert fald ikke i det første afsnit af den 32. sæson af serien.

The decision to stop doing Apu was apparently Azaria’s own. According to a February article in the Times, “It [was] a choice he said he made for himself after a years-long process of examining his own feelings and listening to others who explained how they had been hurt by Apu, who was for years the only depiction of an Indian person they saw on TV.”

The decision to recast Carl Carlson was apparently part of a larger decision by the Simpsons team to cast all their character voices with actors whose physical characteristics correspond to those of their characters.

I’m not sure they’ve thought that one all the way through, given that the characters of Kodos and Kang are drooling, one-eyed, tentacled aliens. (The opportunity for a cheap shot here is almost impossible to resist.)

And the trend is by no means limited to Springfield.

Beslutningen om ikke at lade hvide lægge stemme til ikke-hvide i ‘The Simpsons’ kommer i en tid, hvor der er stor fokus på racisme i USA og resten af verden, efter den sorte mand George Floyd døde, da en betjent pressede sit knæ mod hans hals i adskillige minutter.

Det har også skabt efterdønninger i kulturens verden, hvor streamingtjenester fjerner eller sætter advarsler på film og tv-serier, der kan fremstå racistiske.

Skuespiller Mike Henry har desuden besluttet ikke længere at lægge stemme til den sorte karakter Cleveland Brown i den populære tegneserie ‘Family Guy’.

Herudover har bands som Dixie Chicks og Lady Antebellum skiftet navne til henholdsvis The Chicks og Lady A for at fjerne ord, der henviser til de amerikanske sydstater under slavetiden.

They might also have mentioned the kerfuffle over Taron Egerton playing Elton John in Rocketman (2019) because he wasn’t gay, or over The Danish Girl (2015) casting a male actor as a trans woman. Or the outrage that arose last year when it emerged that the title role of Cleopatra might go to Angela Jolie or Lady Gaga. (An outrage that probably explains why that movie doesn’t exist and probably never will.)

Hollywood is no doubt feeling very good about itself for taking these steps to correct the horrible racism they’ve been perpetuating all these years, even though they’ve been telling us all these years how much morally superior they are to the rest of us. Consider George Clooney’s 2005 Oscar acceptance speech:

You know, we are a little bit out of touch in Hollywood every once in a while, I think. It’s probably a good thing. We’re the ones who talked about AIDS when it was just being whispered, and we talked about civil rights when it wasn’t really popular. And we, you know, we bring up subjects, we are the ones — this Academy, this group of people gave Hattie McDaniel an Oscar in 1939 when blacks were still sitting in the backs of theaters. I’m proud to be a part of this Academy, proud to be part of this community, and proud to be out of touch.

Wasn’t the whole problem with Harvey Weinstein how very touchy he was? Didn’t the whole #metoo movement reveal just how touchy the whole entertainment industry really was?

But I don’t want to get off topic (yet).

Now that Hollywood has decided that only black actors can play black characters, and only Indian actors can play Indian characters, and only gay actors can play gay characters, and only trans actors can play trans characters, can we declare Peak Stupid and move on?

If not, where does it end?

I mean, now that they’ve started it, how are they going to end it? What are the rules? Can any Englishman play Henry V, or only any English royal? Can a mixed-race actor play a character of either race, or only mixed-race characters? Can a bisexual play a gay character? And what’s all this nonsense of liberal actors playing conservative characters?

Who’s going to play a superhero? An alien?

And what are we going to do about the musical Hamilton? That’s how fast the stupid is moving right now: the (outstanding) musical about America’s founding fathers was celebrated upon its debut in 2015 for its “non-traditional” casting that had historical figures such as Alexander Hamilton, George Washington, Aaron Burr, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, John Adams, and the Marquis de Lafayette played by non-whites.

If we can’t have a white man’s voice behind an animated character whose skin is black, how on earth can we endure the horror of white historical figures being played in the flesh by non-whites?

So whither Hamilton now? Is it racist or progressive?

Be careful how you answer: if you say racist, then you’re on the side that says people can only portray characters of the same race, which is not only stupid but also at odds with nearly 3000 years of known theatre history. If you say progressive, then you’ve got to realize it’s the current backlash that’s insane and needs to be reigned in. This shit is like Wargames: the only winning move is not to play.

Don’t misunderstand me: I’m an old-school theatre guy. I studied at Carnegie-Mellon University when it was still the top-ranked performing arts school in the country; I founded two theatre companies; I wrote for the most popular radio show in America. I believe that any character can be played by any human being because that’s what acting is. It’s acting. It’s make-believe. I don’t believe anyone can act white or black or brown, because what does that even mean? But I do believe that any actor can play Henry V, or Cleopatra, or Princess Leia, or Carl Carlson. Because actors don’t play colors, they play characters.

If Hank Azaria can’t voice Carl Carlson or Apu, then shut Hamilton the fuck down. Immediately. In fact, shut Hollywood down entirely, because Tom Hanks never flew a goddam moon mission (or spent a single day alone stranded on a desert island or led a company through Nazi-occupied France), Will Smith is not a genie, Marlon Brando never ran a crime syndicate, Meryl Streep’s not Jewish, Mark Hamill didn’t grow up on Tatooine, and Arnold Schwarzenegger is not a cyborg.

And I’m pretty sure Emilia Clarke has never seen a fucking dragon.

But the stupidity doesn’t end there.

In the mad rush to End All the Racism Now!, American products have been dropping non-white faces from their packaging like mad. Uncle Ben’s Rice, Aunt Jemima maple syrup, Land O’ Lakes butter, Cream of Wheat, Mrs. Butterworth…. they’re all abandoning their familiar and iconic mascots because (it turns out) all mascots are racist and demeaning and horrible, unless they’re white people, in which case they’re not. Which isn’t racist at all.

Hey, everyone, we’ve ended racism in America! From now on when you go up and down the aisles of your local grocery store, you won’t see a single person of color on any packaging!

Racism BTFO!

Let me close with a Simpsons question: if Hank Azaria can’t voice Apu because he’s not an Indian, and can’t voice Carl Carlson because he’s not black, why is Nancy Cartwright still doing the voice of Bart?