Just Say No *Updated*

Attention Actors of Color: As we enter a new decade in this fine 21st Century ours, do your kinfolk a tiny favor and say no to shitty roles.

Now...I know you need a paycheck.  I know you've got bills.  I know you want to work out your childhood traumas with some fame therapy.  And while I feel you and understand you, I still have to tell you: boo-fucking-hoo.  Get over your damn selves, you shiftless attention whores.

You can't have your cake and eat it too.  You can't say you want to represent your skinfolk, and then turn around and take roles your skinfolk don't want to see you in.  And if you can't get decent roles, then maybe showbiz in America ain't for you.  Maybe you should go to school, settle down, get a damn day job and learn to survive like the rest of us.  Fuck...some of you already have a decent amount of money.  Retirement at this point wouldn't kill you.

We've all heard the usual "reasons", aside for the money.  The "I thought the role could become more" lie.  The "I signed a contract and the script was switched on me" excuse.  The "I was just playin'; this wasn't a serious film to me" backpaddle.  I'm not buying it.  I smell desperation.  I sense spotlight addiction.  You may be makin' money and gettin' fame, but you ain't gettin' no respect.

Especially since some of you are wealthy enough to bankroll your own damn films.  Will and Jada showed us this when their son wanted to be a movie.  They made it happen.  They even got Jackie Chan to go along with that ish.  So I'm not understanding why POC actors and directors can't mine the wealth of modern POC literature and create something meaningful, something powerful.

Speaking of which...POC stop selling your stories to the highest bidder and then going along with the inevitable racebending with a great big shit-eating grin.  Exactly what part of  "we are trying to make some progress here" are you folks not getting?

Where are your priorities?  Have POC become so desperate for a Hollywood paycheck that we're willing to throw out every last shred of dignity, self-respect, and common sense?  Seriously...is it worth it?  Do you beam proudly when you see yourselves on the big screen?  Are you still proud when fellow POC cringe in the movie theater at the sight of you?  When the blogosphere's ablaze with wrath and the online new articles are having a WTF moment, are you still proud?

I'm just saying we got to get our ish together.  That's all.  The old reasons have just become really bad excuses now and they will no longer fly in the new century.  Y'all don't really have excuses anymore.  People want to see POC in films - trust.  This gives you leverage.  If you grant, say, America it's supposedly fondest wish of seeing only white folks on TV and film, the studios in Hollywood would burn to the ground.  So start folding your arms across your chests and saying, "Hell, no."  Demand that rewrite; get that script change.  And if it still reads like shit, tell the director to go fuck him/herself.

*Update*  And another thing.  A POC actor who can pull a passe blanc and play a white character is not "subversive" or "revolutionary" or "radical" or "progressive" in any way.  That's yet another lie used to pacify POC and keep them in their place.  Take Mr. Man here, a veteran passe blanc idol.  If actors like Keanu were so "subversive", why hasn't the Asian presence [positively] skyrocketed in the American mainstream?

I'll tell you why.  Because actors like Keanu don't open white minds to the aesthetics of POC.  They just make white folks (most of which don't know his father is Asian and don't really want to hear that part) think "oh look...white folks can be 'exotic' too!  Why cast all those 'other' people when we're already so diverse-looking?"

Kid yourselves not, children; there's a reason why we have sayings like, "They want all of the dark and none of the nigger."

I made an additional point about this on the Narrative which I need to relate here.  Notice that in films, etc. where Asian-Americans are doing the writing, directing, casting and basic funding, the primary cast isn't white, nor even passe blanc.  They're Asian, and unmistakably, unapologetically so.  The same thing happens with black films.  The same again with Latino films.  Fuck...when Robert Rodriguez filmed El Mariachi for $7000 - his first film ever -  he filmed that shit in Spanish and originally intended to release it Mexico only.  See a pattern?  Any pattern at all?


  1. You should try posting this to Ars Marginal!

  2. Thanks Ank, this is a great post.
    I have the tendency to be very judgmental, to call racefail on a heap of Hollywood films. Some people have made the argument to me, though, that some films featuring POC may be problematic in their representations but AT LEAST do have POC in important roles (Blood Diamond, Avatar etc).
    What's your take on this argument?

  3. @ RVCBard

    I could. Lemme do some editing and I'll get back you.

    @ rayuela

    That argument is shit. POC aren't scenery or set decorations. It's not enough for us to just "be" in a film. We need to be doing something, accomplishing something. This isn't is a weekly college course, you don't get points just for attending.

  4. Ankhesen Mié said…
    “I'm not buying it. I smell desperation. I sense spotlight addiction. You may be makin' money and gettin' fame, but you ain't gettin' no respect.”

    That’s it in a nutshell…
    If I were a conscionable black actor/actress I would insist upon a comprehensive script review to see whether I died first, or if I’m cast as the protagonist’s comedic sidekick. And please don’t pair me with a white damsel, because you know Hollywood won’t let me touch her. Notice I said ‘conscionable,’ for in many cases the paycheck is mightier than the sword. White Hollywood wants team players in black performers; conformists not rebels. Hollywood relegates them to a certain hierarchy, and unless it’s a tragic mulatto, a magical Negro- the noble savage, or mammy; they’re not going to get much work. We’ve come a long way from buggin our eyes out and saying, “feets do yo stuff!” much to the amusement of whites. We shouldn’t have to play the coon in this day and age.

    Formulaic tokenism works for whites; hence we’re cast in the roles ‘They’re most comfortable with’. Compromises black actors are forced to make in a world of white shadows; but it shouldn’t have to be this way. Yes POC are rich enough to bankroll their own projects and we must support them more if we’re to see an end to these bigoted tendencies. If whites had more “Empathy for the other,” this conversation wouldn’t even be taking place. Empathy is caring enough to tell our stories right alongside yours; empathy lends worth to our experiences because you feel our pain as if it were your own.

    Ankhesen Mié said…
    “If you grant, say, America it's supposedly fondest wish of seeing only white folks on TV and film, the studios in Hollywood would burn to the ground.”

    Pleasantville comes to mind. That’s what happens when intolerance takes hold and cultural diversity is repressed under fixed delusions of some great expectation. Whites are saying in essence yes, we’ll let you in the door of this acting thing, but you must adhere to the guise we’ve crafted for you; the stereotypes we’ve honed especially for you. If you do well we’ll reward you with a statuette or two. We don’t want too many of you, for that would alter the complexion of this noble craft. Alternatively, when we finance own narratives we take back ownership of icons that have empowered white folk for so long.

  5. Or the "If I didn't do it someone else would have so I tried to bring some dignity to the role." (Also known as the Halle Berry monsters ball gambit.) There are no dignity in these roles. Maybe if list actors stopped playing these roles then they would stop being written at all. I would rather watch a movie with no POC at all than to see stereotypes onscreen.Which is what inevitably happens when POC are onscreen with white people. Not always but often. And it's like you said. See how much people will go the movies once there are no POC in them. POC need to start creating our own stuff. Like yesterday!

  6. So...over the Narratives, the comments are seriously threatening to make me vomit.

    Folks are pouring in to defend - of all actors/films - Keanu Reeves in motherfucking Street Kings.

    This is what happens when white directors/casters try to be "clever" and "subversive", and POC buy into it. You get all the little vaunted biracial babies flocking around a passe blanc idol and defending some of his worst work - just to stave off criticism of said idol.

  7. Ankh,

    You know folks need their pat on the head from Whites to feel like they're somebody.

  8. @ Witchsistah

    It's beyond disgusting. *shudders*

  9. It's funny, I did I similar post awhile back highlighting some similar points. You've gotta laugh at the fact that some POC will take any role they can get simply for a little notoriety and a nice paycheck, because if you don't laugh you're bound to cry. However, I'd like to point out that POC allow other POC to exploit them as well. The extraordinarily talented Angela Bassett in the horrible Tyler Perry movie "Meet the Browns" anyone?

    Great post btw.

  10. @ Dr. Vagrant X

    I did I similar post awhile back highlighting some similar points.

    Links, please!!!

    The extraordinarily talented Angela Bassett in the horrible Tyler Perry movie "Meet the Browns" anyone?

    *shudder* I think Perry has overstayed his welcome and needs to head on home.

  11. @Ankhesen:

    My pleasure.




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