Hot off the presses: Warner Brothers is currently working on Pan, a “very international and multiracial” Peter Pan remake directed by Joe Wright. (Appaently Channing Tatum and Disney are also working on Peter Pan adaptations—how many do we need?!)
Anyway. This particular project purports to be a prequel to the well-trod and much-beloved Neverland tale, taking place long before Wendy ever saw Pan’s shadow flicker across her bedroom floor. The Wrap reported that the film will be so far from the traditional milky and proper English cast that it will “effectively challeng[e] audiences' preconceived notions of Neverland and reimagin[e] the environment.”
That's all well and good. But we're confused. If this a new multiracial manifestation why has Rooney Mara, an American actress of Irish descent, been cast as Princess Tiger Lily? Last we checked, the Girl With the Dragon Tattoo was not Native American. Not even close.
As Ravishers, we dream in every color. We’re eye-wide-open optimists with our feet on the ground, ever-hopeful that the next great breakthrough in societal equality is just around the river-bend. (See what we did there?) But when people say we’re living in a "post-racial America" and this kind of casting is still taking place (remember all those circa 1950s spaghetti westerns whose "squaws" wore um, three inches of dark brown bronzer and a black braided wig?) we can’t help but poke at the outright flimsiness of that statement.
Hollywood plays a clear role in the realization of a truly post-race nation. One of the biggest faux pas Hollywood makes is casting European descendants/light skinned actors and actresses to play roles of traditionally dark skinned characters. It’s called racebending, and it happens in Hollywood all the time.
We don’t meant to suggest that light-skinned actors should be passed up for roles because of the color of their skin. Not at all! We love Jennifer Lawrence as the “olive skinned” Katniss in The Hunger Games. We get it, talent is talent.
And racebending can obviously go the other way too. In fact the new Annie movie coming out this Christmas takes the classic curly red-haired orphan and bald Mr. Clean-esque Daddy Warbucks and replaces them with Quvenzhané Wallis (of Beasts of the Southern Wild) and the one and only Jamie Foxx.
It’s essential that we don’t reject the idea of (gasp!) a brown person playing a brown character. (For the same reasons we celebrate Black and Latino, and not White History, month.)
For now, we’ll just have to wait and see what further casting decisions Wright will make (Hugh Jackman has been cast as the pirate Blackbeard). The parts of Pan and all his lost boys are still wide open, which means there's still ample opportunity to add some color to the (seemingly) monochromatic film.