Has Doctor Who become too white?

Discussion in 'Doctor Who' started by Ryan Thomas Riddle, Dec 23, 2013.

  1. YellowSubmarine

    YellowSubmarine Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    The world being ready for a black Doctor or a female Doctor sounds to me like a wannabe bungee jumper waiting to get ready to jump for an hour, delaying all the other jumpers. We can't wait you to get ready, just jump.
     
  2. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    If you wait for the audience to catch up, nothing ever changes. It's the job of fiction to make people think, to inspire them, to expose them to new ideas. The reason many people are uncomfortable with those not of their own race is because they aren't exposed to them much, because they live in places that don't have much diversity. The only thing that will get them "ready" is more exposure. And unless they move to a big city, the only way they'll get that exposure is through TV and movies.

    So it's totally backward to say the audience has to be ready before the shows get more inclusive. Shows have to get more inclusive first, and thereby get the audience used to accepting greater diversity.
     
  3. Tom

    Tom Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Well where the Doctor is concerned, we have another 11 future incarnations to worry and debate about race and gender.
     
  4. Sci

    Sci Admiral Admiral

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    The idea that the entertainment industry is purely meritocratic in its casting decisions is fairly ludicrous. Whether we want to admit it or not, and whether it is CONSCIOUS or not, the entertainment industry in the U.S. and U.K. is based on the (racist) assumption that whiteness is the default setting for the human race, and that to be non-white is to deviate from what is normal, and that the casting of non-white persons must be justified -- while the casting of white persons never requires justification.

    From Catherine B.'s commentary on the casting of Jennifer Lawrence as the protagonist in The Hunger Games (dated 9 April 2011) on the website Racebending (photos from article included):

    (Full disclosure: An acquaintance of mine from adolescence became a contributor for Racebending, though I have not been in contact with him for over ten years. The author above was not him.)

    No, the entertainment industry is not purely meritocratic in its casting decisions. That does not mean that no white person should ever be cast, or that a person of color should be cast solely because of their race.

    But we as consumers, and they as producers, should give serious consideration to why it is that whiteness never needs to be justified, but non-whiteness almost always does. And to the idea that maybe if there's no particularly good reason for a character to be conceived of as white, then there's no reason to default to whiteness.

    And, most importantly, to the idea that maybe more characters should be conceived of as being persons of color in the first place -- because they have amazing stories to tell, too.

    Did Clara really need to be white, for instance? Is her whiteness an important part of her character, the way that, say, Rose's status as a member of the working class was an important part of hers? I don't think so. I adore Jenna Coleman, and it may well be that she was simply the best actress who auditioned -- but given that casting companies often default to using a "Caucasians only" requirement on their casting notices, it may well be that the deck was unfairly slanted in her favor, even if she did not know this and is in no way responsible for this. (I am not saying it was. I am saying that casting companies often do things like this and that there is no way to know if it was done or not.)

    I do happen to think that the Doctor is a prime example of a character who doesn't have to be white -- or male, for that matter. I don't think that the casting of Peter Capaldi is necessarily a bad thing, especially since Steven Moffat has in essence said that he was conceived of as being the man to play the Twelfth Doctor from the start. But I do think that the Thirteenth Doctor, when it comes time to cast him or her, should be conceived of by the producers as being non-white from the start.

    ETA:

    Further reading: "The Future Can't Be All White: Why Uhura and Beetee Matter" by Alexis Charles.

    And:

    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Dec 30, 2013
  5. DWF

    DWF Admiral Admiral

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  6. Sci

    Sci Admiral Admiral

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    And that's part of why I don't think it's entirely fair to condemn the decision to cast Peter Capaldi as the Twelfth Doctor. But by the same token, I don't think that invalidates critiques that Doctor Who needs to feature more diversity in its casting, either.
     
  7. Alidar Jarok

    Alidar Jarok Everything in moderation but moderation Moderator

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    Yeah, I'm not blaming them for the casting of Capaldi. I don't think there should be any mandate that a specific casting decision must be done at this very moment. On the other hand, I do think it should be considered as part of the factors that go into deciding who to cast (for the Doctor, the Doctor's companions, and important guest stars).
     
  8. Mr. Adventure

    Mr. Adventure Admiral Admiral

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    Reading that article I see one unnamed black actor, possibly Paterson Joseph, was offered the role and turned it down. His statement that he was "disappointed that Paterson Joseph didn't get it last time" seems to suggest he didn't turn it down unless he's being coy in his wording.
     
  9. Ubik

    Ubik Commodore Commodore

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    A wonderful article. Thank-you very much for that excerpt. It says it far better than I had the energy to muster.

    And I second the motion that to cast a television show using the majority colour because of a belief that the majority audience will more easily empathize with that colour is, indeed, abhorrent. It is ethically abhorrent. My evidence for that assertion (so ludicrously demanded by that poster up there) is the same evidence I would use for any common sense ethical assertion, as, for example, "to assume that white people are the default race and all others are variations is abhorrent," which it is. The evidence is the common sense and moral compass and social awareness that one finds, if one has it, in one's own mind.

    And I also believe that, for the 13th Doctor, after Cipaldi, if the powers that be cast yet another white male for the part, that would also be abhorrent, and inexcusable. Star Trek had the courage to put a black man as the lead back in 1993 (and I guarantee that Deep Space Nine didn't pass any "Star Trek fans are ready for this" statistical surveys before it was produced), and a woman just a few years later. Doctor Who's conservatism and cowardice seem, at this late date, laughable by comparison.
     
    Last edited: Dec 31, 2013
  10. JoeZhang

    JoeZhang Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Race more certainly plays a part in casting but Sidbe is a weird one to use as the example, given that her obesity and Hollywood's ossebession with body image is likely plays a significant part if not bigger in casting decisions - especially for something like hunger games.

    It's weird to me how much criticism Doctor Who is getting from Americans when taken in context with the rest of UK programmes given how racially segretted American TV is.
     
  11. Edit_XYZ

    Edit_XYZ Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    So - you are in favor of introducing blatant racism in casting because of your 'common sense' and 'moral compass'.
    Well, I'm not impressed by your common sense and moral compass, Ubik.

    BTW, there are a lot of productions made in South America, India, China, etc that have few to no caucasians in their cast.
    I assume you welcome introducing racism in their casting process as well, in order to 'help' the integration of the caucasian minority in those regions of the world, yes?
     
  12. Ubik

    Ubik Commodore Commodore

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    Oh, I'm not an American. I'm Canadian. And you are correct - American television is certainly not perfect. I'm just using Deep Space Nine as a particularly admirable example of open-minded casting (the two leads are a black man and a white woman - there are, in fact, very few white males in the main cast, when you think of it.)

    You are also right that weight certainly is a factor when comparing the opportunities of these two actresses. But I am certain that, if we were to compare two slim and attractive actresses, one white and one black, the same variation in opportunities would be found.
     
  13. Ubik

    Ubik Commodore Commodore

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    The quick answer to your question is yes. Yes, I do.

    Look - I don't have the energy to put together a lecture on white hegemony and power in the Western World. I'll just say my piece, which will serve nothing because I have a feeling, from your tone, that you are not in a position where you would be willing to even minutely alter your opinion regardless of anything I say (if I am wrong in that assumption, I apologize.)

    I just wish you would stop using the term "racism" to describe a process of casting decisions. Have you ever seen a casting call? The very first descriptive words have to do with the sex and race of the character. And the vast majority of characters begin with the description, "male, white." You are now suggesting, by what logic I have no idea, that to instead write, "male, black" deliberately, because the producers are deliberately seeking out a black character, is "racist." Casting sheets often describe physical details. Often, it will say, "male, white, mid-thirties, brown hair, very handsome." That's standard practice. What myself, and many others on this thread, are trying to communicate is simply that, for the first time in 50 years, on the casting sheet for the next Doctor, they have the imagination and courage to actively write, "female, white," or "male, Asian," or something, anything, other than "male, white." No, despite your earlier assertion, not all choices have "equal artistic validity." Doing what one has done, over and over, repeatedly, without end, for 50 years, does NOT have the same artistic, or any other kind, of integrity as making a NEW choice, doing something different. Art is about surprise, and risk, and change, and shaking up your audience, maybe even making them uncomfortable, not giving them what they want. That is, as I'm sure you would agree, product, not art.

    This is my point: it is not racism to deliberately seek out a particular race for a particular part. Were the all-black Hamlet, or the all-black Wizard of Oz racist enterprises? Of course not. They were deliberate attempts to tip the balance in the other direction, away from the way things have always been.

    Anyway, I'm done here, I think. What I am saying is so uncontroversial, and so common sensical, I honestly don't know what else I can say to make it more convincing. Instead of trying to find the pieces of my argument you can poke holes in, which I'm sure you're perfectly capable of, why don't you, just as an intellectual exercise, see if you can find places in my argument that you can agree with? Because, I assure you, there is absolutely, objectively, a strong case to be made that Doctor Who, as the original poster suggested, is "too white," and since you're clearly an intelligent person, there is no reason at all for you not to be able to see that, if you choose to.
     
  14. Edit_XYZ

    Edit_XYZ Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Ubik

    I am most definitely willing to change my position on any given subject. If you come with arguments that convincingly prove your point, as opposed to dogma I'm supposed to believe in; sadly, your posts are lacking in the former and rich in the latter:


    First - I use the words 'blatant racism' because what you are advocating IS blatant racism:
    You want to give a category of contenders an a priori advantage based strictly on their ethnicity, NOT based on the raison d'etre of the contest.
    You don't believe this is racism?
    Look up the definition of the word 'racism' in a dictionary then.

    As opposed to using pretty euphemisms in order to feel good about yourself, as you do - racism as a 'superior' artistic choice. WOW.
    You crossed the bridge from 'artistic choice' to 'discrimination' when you went from ~'I prefer productions with cast members from the minorities' to ~'advantaging cast members from the minorities is proper and correct; as such, for everyone it's moral to do it and immoral to do anything else'*.

    Indeed, Christopher came up with the best justification for your proposed policy: machiavelically using discrimination in order to further an superior objective of his, 'integration'. And coating this in pretty rhetoric.

    Second - Apropos this question:
    "I assume you welcome introducing racism in their casting process as well, in order to 'help' the integration of the caucasian minority in those regions of the world, yes?"
    I'm glad you at least answered it with 'yes'.
    At least your belief is not completely the stereotypical far left doctrine. You're getting pretty close to it, what with your "white hegemony and power in the Western World".

    *Do you even realize how similar this sounds to 19th century speeches pro black slavery? Only the euphemisms differ.
     
    Last edited: Dec 31, 2013
  15. Timelord Victorious

    Timelord Victorious Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Ok, anyone have any statistics on, let's say, Zoe Saldana?
    She is a pretty successful actress, I'd say.
    But has she been type cast as a black woman, she certainly had roles that had black as a (semi)requirement like Uhura or could she also convince as just a female actress for color blind parts?
     
  16. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    It sounds to me like people are forgetting that we already have a number of successful shows with diverse casts. Look at Sleepy Hollow. Of its four regulars, two (Tom Mison and Katia Winter) are white and two (Nicole Beharie and Orlando Jones) are black. But Winter tends to be in a peripheral role (only in flashbacks and visions, since her character is dead), so the main hero team consists of Mison, Beharie, and Jones, sometimes assisted by Lyndie Greenwood as Beharie's sister. Which makes for a hero team of one white Englishman and three black Americans. John Cho also has a recurring role as a sort of "antivillain" character forced to work for the evil forces, and Latino actor Nicholas Gonzales plays a supporting police character who's Beharie's character's ex-boyfriend. So at least half the show's regular and recurring cast is nonwhite, and sometimes the majority of the prominent characters in an episode are nonwhite. And yet that hasn't driven away the American audience; on the contrary, the show is a hit.

    One can also cite the CW's more mediocre Beauty and the Beast. Of its current five leads, only two, Jay Ryan and Austin Basis, are Caucasian, the others are Kristin Kreuk (Chinese-Caucasian blend), Sendhil Ramamurthy (Indian), and Nina Lisandrello (whose ethnicity is an unidentified mix but whose character is Latina). Then there was Eureka, with a diverse cast including Salli Richardson-Whitfield, Joe Morton, Erica Cerra, Tembi Locke, and Trevor Jackson in later seasons. There are a number of US dramas these days that often have scenes where every character in the room is nonwhite, or where the nonwhite characters outnumber the white ones. And it's not an issue. It's just life. This has already happened and has been happening for years. And these shows have all been at least moderately successful. So all this rubbish about how "the audience isn't ready for diverse casts" is an outdated and solidly disproven argument. There certainly could stand to be more shows with casts this diverse, but they absolutely do exist and have succeeded.
     
  17. JoeZhang

    JoeZhang Vice Admiral Admiral

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    But she's the "right type" of Black women in terms of skin tone, so colourism is a factor - moreover, in comparison to JL she's not getting the star parts.
     
  18. Rincewiend

    Rincewiend Vice Admiral Admiral

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    A non-white Doctor Who?
    Yeah, no problem...
    Though i think/guess people will be less willing to accept the Doctor becoming a woman...
    Personally i don't think it fits the character, just like it doesn't fit Romana to choose a male form...
    Besides, some Gallifreyans do change sex or even species and others might never...
    Still, what are some male non-white/caucasian British actors between the ages of 25 and 55 that could play a future version of the Doctor?
    The British thing is most likely also a must for most fans...
     
  19. Sci

    Sci Admiral Admiral

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    But you could compare any black actress's career to Lawrence's, and none of them have the same opportunities Lawrence has. Kerry Washington is thin, and just as beautiful as Lawrence, has a hit TV show -- yet her career demonstrates far fewer opportunities in a longer career than Lawrence has enjoyed in a career spanning just a few years.

    I do think that American commentators sometimes project American racial issues onto British media without pausing to consider the different roles race and racism have played in their respective countries' histories.

    But I think that, for the most part, Doctor Who attracts this criticism because one of the (supposed) themes of the show is the idea that difference is not necessarily bad, that we should see past surfaces. The Doctor is supposed to be a character who embraces and celebrates diversity and learning -- much like the Federation in Star Trek. So when a show celebrates a theme yet its casting decisions don't reflect that theme, that attracts criticism.

    And to Edit_XYZ: It is not racism to deliberately decide it's time for one race to have time in the spotlight after the dominant race has monopolized it for fifty years, because seeing a black Doctor Who in a mostly-white Britain does not perpetuate the idea that the dominant race is "normal" and other races are "deviations from what is normal," and therefore implicitly support racial supremacist systems. You are confusing sharing the wealth with racism.
     
  20. Edit_XYZ

    Edit_XYZ Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    This is just ridiculous.
    I will tell you what I told Ubik - look up word 'racism' in a dictionary, before attempting to change its meaning beyond recognition. And beyond distorting facts to suit your dogma.

    Considering your post, I'm interested in your response to the following question, as well:
    There are a lot of productions made in South America, India, China, etc that have few to no caucasians in their cast.
    Would you welcome introducing racism in their casting process as well, in order to 'help' the integration of the caucasian minority in those regions of the world, or not?