Where Was The Outrage For The Social Network's Race-Blind Casting?
The Social Network has become a well-night unstoppable awards juggernaut, picking up yet another accolade this weekend, this time from the National Society of Film Critics. Yet, despite all the kudos, I'm surprised that more people haven't complained about casting two white Englishmen in the roles of a Brazilian and an Indian American. Folks got worked up into a lather over The Last Airbender this summer; so where's the outrage now?
As a brief history lesson, there was a typhoon of outrage this past summer when M. Night Shymalan cast three white kids as the leads for The Last Airbender. Many believed that the original cartoon characters were Asian or Inuit, and to cast Caucasians was to needlessly whitewash the film and deprive minority actors from good roles. There were pickets and threats of boycotts and just a whole bunch of hullabaloo.
I certainly got where many people were coming from, but ultimately I thought it was a bit silly. These were cartoon characters set in a fantasy world that was not Earth. Make 'em Asian, white, black, Indian or Bjork, so long as the actors were good. And of course, we all found out that the casting was the least of the movie's problems.
So why has there been nary a peep over the casting of Andrew Garfield in the role of Facebook founder Eduardo Saverin, a Brazilian, and of Max Minghella in the role of Divya Narendra, an Indian American? If anything, I figure this would be more of a cause to protest; after all, these are real people who actually exist, not a pack of magic cartoon characters that seem ethnic. And while both Garfield and Minghella have dark features, I'm not sure they'd ever be mistaken for a Brazilian or, particularly in the case of Minghella, an Indian.
Where are the protests for this bit of race-blind casting? Where are the charges that such casting has deprived minority actors from roles in the most acclaimed movie of the year? The website Racebending.com led the charge against the Shymalan film, but hasn't utter a peep against The Social Network, though it did rouse itself to action when it seemed like Marvel Films might cast a non-Asian in the role of Nico Minrou, an Asian-American character from the Runaways comic book.
To be sure, I've got no problem whatsoever with the casting of Garfield and Minghella. They both turned in solid performances and were clearly the exact actors that director David Fincher preferred to use. I just think it's telling that the selective outrage that was ginned up against the casting of a quartet of cartoon and comic book characters, fell noticeably silent here. Perhaps they only feel compelled to act when the characters are fictional or fantasy-based. Maybe they thought there wouldn't be as much publicity in protesting a non-blockbuster movie. Whatever the reason, it would make me think twice the next time they work up themselves up into a foam of righteous indignation.