Whose Lives Matter?: Discrimination in the Arts
By Casey Bell
America has started a craze that is now world wide. Everyone is so insecure that they all want to matter, they feel left out. They all want to feel wanted. People are trying to find out how to include all. In the art world, especially theatre, film, and television, presidents are trying to find ways to include all artists. They even now have webinars on how to create a diverse work experience. No offense, but it goes to show school makes no one smart. Being diverse has always been easy, but due to focusing on the wrong thing, the performing arts world has always been segregated.
How do we include everyone in theatre, film, and television for the new way of living that is on the horizon? It is simple. Go back to the old way of doing things. For those who took theatre in high school or took theatre history in college, our ancestors (ancient theatre) did something completely different from us. Our ancestors made the message of the play the star and not the messengers. Due to award shows, accolades, and honor, the artists have made art about themselves. They have forgotten that they are not important when it comes to art, but the message is important. If you make the message the star of the show and not the messenger, it is easy to create an amazing show with a diverse cast.
Black Lives Matter. This is not even about black lives. Theatre, film, and television, have forever discriminated against all sorts of people.
Not only are people of color of all shades discriminated against in the performing arts world, but so are so many others. Just to give you a short list: the disabled are often left out in the performing arts, aging women, plus size women and men, short people, and the not so breathtaking gorgeous, are usually only given stereotypical roles. But if you choose to make the message of your show the star then you can easily make a diverse cast. Let’s look at some examples.
Why are Tony and Maria of West Side Story never actors who do not have six-pack abs? Neither one of those character’s height or weight size matters for their roles, however, if you are not a certain height and weight, you can never be cast in those roles. But what is more important in West Side Story, the magazine type model actors, or the message? What about Mean Girls and Legally Blonde? Both films and Broadway shows had predominantly European-American casts and all the actors were of certain age, weight, and height. But why? Both story lines take place in school. Why is the cast not diverse? The description of many of the characters, especially the extras have nothing to do with the plot or the story. And what about little people? Why do they only get to play fictional characters (munchkins, Oompa-Loompas, leprechauns, elves, dwarfs, etc.)? It’s as if we are telling them they are not good enough to be human. And of course, the aging. After a certain age you can no longer be the leading role, unless that role has something to do with aging.
Why can’t we create art that has nothing to do with the actors and everything to do with the story and the message?
Then we can cast according to talent and not looks. As human beings, which is what we all are, we all go through the same things, funerals, weddings, births, deaths, depression, suicide, abuse, neglect, rejection, birthdays, celebrations, and the list goes on. Our skin color, ethnicity, religion, zodiac sign, gender, age, and so on, never has anything to do with the wonderful and not so wonderful events in our lives. So, why do we still feel the need to cast a show by discriminating, instead of casting according to talent and talent alone?
It is now time for us to change how we see each other. Not by how we look on the outer, but how we are on the inner.
The more we can care more about the message of our art and less about the messenger, then it will be so much easier for us to finally not have to deal with the discrimination that destroys our medium. It is time to go back to making the message the star of the show.