Apr 292010
 

For quite a while it has been the practice in many Brit/American movies set in the distant past of Europe to include characters played by actors of seriously out-of-place ethnicity. Usually, these characters play travellers from distant lands, thus explaining why, say, Morgan Freeman would be romping around Sherwood Forest. But recently I’ve noticed an increase in the casting of non-Europeans in massively European roles.

One show that I’ve been wholly incapable of getting interested in is the BBC’s “Merlin,” which, from what I can tell, wholly mangles the Arthurian legends. On top of that, Guinevere looks *seriously* non-British.

Which one is Guinevere? Here’s a hint: she’s not wearing blue.

Additionally, the “Thor” movie currently in works will feature the Norse god Heimdall, who stands guard at Bifrost, the bridge between the world of men and the world of the gods. Heimdall is generally depicted somewhat like this:

But in the “Thor” movie, he’ll be portrayed by Idris Elba, who looks like this:

There are two points of view I can take on this:

1) The Norse gods were the gods of, surprisingly, the Norse people, and were envisioned by them as looking like them. Additionally… the Norse gods, Heimdall included, are actively worshipped by thousands of people today, mostly in Scandinavia, Iceland and the US (in the forms of Asatru and Forn Sed). While the followers of the Norse gods are few in number compared to, say, Hindus (who pitched a fit when “Xena: Warrior Princess” met some Hindu deities), they are nevertheless there.

2) On the other hand, this movie is not based on the actual lore regarding Thor, but on the comic book. Which has already taken a massive steaming dump on the Norse gods, so I guess some ethnic “confusion” ain’t much to add to it.

Of course, this sort of thing ain’t especially new. Blue-eyed Nodic-type Jeffrey Hunter portrayed Jesus Christ in “King of Kings,” which is about as accurate as having him portrayed by an Indian. But in this case, Jesus was being portrayed as envisioned by much of the target audience, not – as is the case with Guinevere and Heimdall – in direct contradiction to audience expectation.

And further of course, it wasn’t that long ago when Hollywood produced characters that were ethnically far from Nordic, but were portrayed by white actors.

charlie_chan_in_shanghai.jpg

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And these portrayals bring howls of dismay, even more than a half century after the movies were made. Hollywood basically would not dare make movies with characters like these today. And yet…

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And, yes, there’s a sequel to this in works.

 Posted by at 10:21 pm
  • 2Hotel9

    Far too many people get their “history” from highly distorted TV shows and movies, and trying to explain the actual facts to them is an act of total and complete futility, because they saw the “truth” on TV. This is just one indicator of the massive mental retardation that is so prevalent in the entertainment and journalism industries.

  • Griffith Ingram

    Actually, I kind of like “Merlin” – I even enjoy stuff like Merlin being pelted with tomatoes, which weren’t in Dark Ages Britain! I also think the armour and the castle are from different time periods – and the castle has glass in the windows! Stll, I recall a Hollywood Arthurian epic in which Lancelot’s kid sidekick gasped “Lancelot! You’re wounded!” and Lancelot replied, in broad Texan, “Aw, hawgwash, boy!”
    A friend of mine said that the bit he liked in that Robin Hood movie was when Robin and Little john came ashore under the White Cliffs of Dover, and Robin said “We’ll be in Nottingham by nightfall!” Not unless you can catch the train… 🙂
    Grif

  • Bernard

    Scott, you forgot as a recent example the movie “Tropic Thunder” that had a person with low melanin density made up to play one of higher melanin density, not that I saw it so I don’t understand the context.

    I don’t know if it is the newness of the day or that this issue just doesn’t strike a chord with me. Perhaps you’re being more subtle than usual and I’m used to you just getting to the point. It really doesn’t matter who is cast for what role because that the entertainment mogul behind the show is either: trying to make art, trying to make a buck, trying to get laid, or trying to make a political point. They will do what they will do and they don’t give two dingos kidneys what we think about it. The name of the racist game is to partition us into groups to fight against each other so our “champions” can have our adulation and can easily convince us to give them our money.

    I dont’ want to live my life within those constructs. My solution is simple. For the TV, engage the ON/OFF toggle. For movies, don’t see them. Pointing out that entertainers are hypocrites is a sisyphian task.

  • George Allegrezza

    Please please tell me they aren’t making a sequel to “Juanna Mann”.

  • admin

    > “Tropic Thunder”

    Ah, yes. And that was done specifically as a joke regarding the movie industry (as the whole movie was) and still that got some activities tighties in a twist.

    > Perhaps you’re being more subtle than usual

    Yes, I’m all about the subtle. This is all part of my devious strategy to gain funding for my own movie projects. Soon, you will get to experience the cinematic magic of my brilliant theatrical conceptions:

    “A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Jihad” starring Adam Lambert as the Prophet Mohammad and Jackie Mason as the voice of Allah

    “The War In Europe” starring Arnold Schwarzeneggar as Winston Churchill and Graham Norton as Adolph Hitler. With a special appearance by George Takei as Franklin Roosevelt

    “The War In The Pacific” starring Mt. T as Emperor Hirohito and Hulk Hogan as Hideki Tojo. Special appearance by Bill Cosby as Truman.

    “The Civil Rights Era” with Jack Black as Martin Luther King Jr. and Pee Wee Herman as Malcolm X.

    “The Conquest Of The New World” starring Jude Law as Cortez and Spongebob Squarpants as Montezuma.

    > Pointing out that entertainers are hypocrites is a sisyphian task.

    True, but it is also:
    A) an entertaining one
    B) an important one.

    Too many people listen to actors when it comes to forming their political opinions. Let me say that again: too many people listen to people who are PROFESSIONAL LIARS. I think that’s worth noting on occasion.

  • Pat Flannery

    I keep wanting to warn Tony Stark that that’s not really Nick Fury he’s talking to, but a poorly disguised Hydra agent, probably out to destroy the SHIELD Helicarrier before it can be finished.
    I assume the black Heimdall is to take the whole Wagner/Nazi curse off the thing, and the gay scene between Baldur and Frey should help in that regard also.
    I keep wondering if they are going to give Loki that loony-tune helmet he wore in the comics that looked like it was inherited from Tim The Enchanter from “Monty Python and the Holy Grail”.
    Anyway, here’s the first photo of Thor in his armor from the movie:
    http://splashpage.mtv.com/2010/04/30/thor-picture-chris-hemsworth-in-costume/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+splashpage+%28MTV+Splash+Page+Blog%29
    Looking less like a gay blond surfer covered with disco ball mirrors than he does in the comics.
    In fact, it almost looks like he has red hair, which would be correct from a Norse mythological point of view.
    So… is he going to battle frost giants, Fenris Wolf, or the Midgard Serpent?
    Get real.

  • 2Hotel9

    I, too, think this bears repeating.

    “Too many people listen to actors when it comes to forming their political opinions. Let me say that again: too many people listen to people who are PROFESSIONAL LIARS. I think that’s worth noting on occasion.”

    That should go on a montage poster filled with political and environmental activist actors. Yes indeed.

  • Brianna

    ” Let me say that again: too many people listen to people who are PROFESSIONAL LIARS. I think that’s worth noting on occasion.””

    I never thought of it that way. I’ll have to use it the next time I hear someone defending the fact that Sigorney Weaver was brought into Congress to testify on global warming.

    http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5jP65Efg8svomQbVp2njvtxbOyehwD9F8A5BO2

  • admin

    > I’ll have to use it …

    Feel free. However, consider that there may be more diplomatic ways of phrasing it. Attend:

    Actor = Professional Liar. True, but negative connotation.
    Actor = Someone Paid To Pretend
    Actor = Someone Paid To Make You Think He’s Someone He’s Not
    Actor = A Professional In The Art Of Making You Believe In Make-Believe
    Actor = Someone Who Spends So Much Time Pretending To Be Someone Else That You Have To Wonder How Strong Their Grip On Reality Is

    And so on.

    To me, there are two kinds of actors in politics:
    1) TV/Movie actors who just get on a soapbox and bleat. These schmoes earn no more respect than, say, bloggers (yes, that means me too). Society should just ignore them.
    2) TV/Movie actors who actually make a serious run for office. This means anybody from B-movie actors who become Governors or even Presidents to even Z-movie “comedians” who make it to the Senate. These guys gain more respect… right on up to the base-level respect due to that class of person known as “Politician.”

  • Brianna

    “the base-level respect due to that class of person known as “Politician.””

    Lately the base level of that respect seems to be approaching negative values. Say, six feet under?

  • Pat Flannery

    Of course, any writer of fiction of any sort is a paid liar also.
    I’ll still stick with Jean Shepard’s (?) definition of a politician, given to him by his father: “Son, that is a politician…a politician is someone who will lie even when he doesn’t have to.”

  • admin

    >any writer of fiction of any sort is a paid liar also.

    Sure, but the ability to write a convincing lie does not imply the ability to *tell* a convincing lie. In my years in aerospace, I saw a whole hell of a lot of proposal writing and proposal presentations (far, far more than I saw of actual engineering work). And those who could write well were not necessarily the ones who could present well.

    Which is why this commerical makes me damn near wet myself with laughter.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QVruqFDmbyU

  • Pat Flannery

    Particularly in regards to science fiction, the ability of an author to beat any lie that that an actor would tell stands paramount.
    An actor must only make his watchers suspend disbelieve for an hour or two; a science fiction writer must make them step into a world of the author’s own creation for an entire story (or several), where the author themselves gets to decide exactly how things work like.
    Can the author make the reader believe that one-plus-one equals their version of two… if this really were to occur?
    The ones who actually manage to do that make a living off of writing science fiction.
    Remember Asimov’s “Three Laws Of Robotics” that he put into his stories because he was sick-and-tired of reading stories about killer robots?
    You might want to take that comforting possible future up with DARPA, because they are doing their level best to get killer military robots online ASAP, even though we have shown sad lack of progress towards developing a sentient positronic brain.

  • Milkman

    The first thing I thought of concerning the Guinevere facet of this post is this, snagged from the first google result (to illustrate the point) thinkbabynames.com

    The girl’s name Guinevere \
    gu(i)-neve-
    re,
    guin(e)-
    vere\ is pronounced GWIN-a-veer. It is of Welsh origin, and its meaning is “fair one; white and smooth, soft”. An early form of Jennifer. Mythology: King Arthur’s queen.

  • Jason Bontrager

    “I assume the black Heimdall is to take the whole Wagner/Nazi curse off the thing, and the gay scene between Baldur and Frey should help in that regard also.”

    Tell me that this is all chain-yanking, and entirely untrue! I was thinking _Thor_ might not suck…but if the above is actually in the movie, I’ll just save myself the price of admission.

  • Randy Campbell

    Griffith Ingram wrote:
    >Stll, I recall a Hollywood Arthurian epic in which Lancelot’s kid
    >sidekick gasped “Lancelot! You’re wounded!” and Lancelot
    >replied, in broad Texan, “Aw, hawgwash, boy!”

    “Prince Valiant” with Robert Wagner in the role of the Prince who was the “side-kick” of Sir Gawain actually played by Sterling Hayden.
    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0047365/fullcredits#cast
    http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0001330/

    Randy

  • Looks like this “Robin Hood” movie would be a great movie to watch just like the movie about King Arthur.*`*

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