So everybody in “Noah” is white…
I haven’t seen Noah. I’ve heard a lot about it, though. Not much of it has been good. I’ve heard that it was made by a guy who happens to be an atheist. I’ve heard that the story of the movie takes so many liberties with the biblical story of Noah, that there are few similarities. The latest thing I heard about the movie is that there are no people of color in it… like, at all. In fact, many of the people in the movie have British or Australian accents. Interesting, huh?
Normally, this type of thing doesn’t bother me. In college, I remember having arguments with one of my frat brothers because he refused to see The Passion of the Christ because Jesus appeared to be a white man. While I agree that Jesus was not white, I also maintained that it didn’t matter. Jesus could have been black, purple, blue, green, yellow, or white. The important thing is that He gave His life to cleanse us from sin, then rose from the dead. Who cares what He looked like when He did it?!
This thing about Noah is different, though. In a blog written on indiewire.com about the film’s lack of diversity (read it when you get the chance), there is a quote from co-screenwriter, Ari Handel, taken from an interview he did with The High Calling. The question was asking Handel to speak to the lack of racial diversity in the movie. His response was as follows:
From the beginning, we were concerned about casting, the issue of race. What we realized is that this story is functioning at the level of myth, and as a mythical story, the race of the individuals doesn’t matter. They’re supposed to be stand-ins for all people. Either you end up with a Bennetton [sic] ad or the crew of the Starship Enterprise. You either try to put everything in there, which just calls attention to it, or you just say, “Let’s make that not a factor, because we’re trying to deal with everyman.” Looking at this story through that kind of lens is the same as saying, “Would the ark float and is it big enough to get all the species in there?” That’s irrelevant to the questions because the questions are operating on a different plane than that; they’re operating on the mythical plane.
I’m going to go ahead and ignore the comment about the Benetton ads or the Starship Enterprise and the idea that diversity would’ve been so striking of a distraction that it would’ve taken away from the film. I think it speaks for itself for how weak a claim that is. The issue I want to discuss is the part that says, “…the race of the individuals doesn’t matter. They’re supposed to be stand-ins for all people… we’re trying to deal with everyman.”
It bothers me to no end when white people are seen as the standard, as the norm. There is this general understanding that white people represent everybody, especially in this country. Don’t believe me? Okay, fine. If someone tells you that his/her young son is just an all-American boy, what do you picture? If someone is described to you as being a “red-blooded American”, what image comes to mind?
When I was in middle school, I grew my hair out so that I could have braids. I would have my hair straightened so that it could be braided. It looked a lot like the dude in the TV sitcom, The Parent ‘hood. Before you start with your jokes, let it be known that I made them joints work for me! A brotha was getting some play! In seventh grade, I pulled the baddest eighth grade girl in the school. Her and all her friends used to tell me how cute I was… The problem is that I was far too lame to know what to say back to them, so I usually smiled and walked away. To this day, I wish I could go back in time to punch seventh grade Erik in the throat, and tell him to man the heck up. Freakin loser… Smh… but I digress… One day one of my white classmates noticed that my hair was pretty straight. He looked at me and said, “Aren’t you black?”
“Uhh, yeah,” I answered.
Then he said, “Oh… So you just have normal hair?”
Normal hair. As if every other grade of hair on the planet not consistent with Caucasian is abnormal.
My point is that there is no race of people who are the average of all humanity. There is no “normal”. And in the case of Noah, there is no group of people from whom you can choose to represent “everyman”. And if you’re a black person in America, the absolute last person that you could even attempt to use to represent all people would be a bunch of white people. It just doesn’t work that way. In general, we just don’t experience life in the same way. Racial/cultural diversity is a beautiful thing. Let’s not ignore it or run from it. Let’s not be ignorant enough to believe that we can average all people into one race. Just tell the truth. Just say, “We were lazy. Rather than trying to find people of color to play these roles, we elected to just fill them with people who all looked the same.” Because in the end, that would be more acceptable than comparing the use of diversity to a Benetton advertisement. That’s insulting.
Agree or disagree? Let us hear from you below in the comments.
That’s it for now. I’ll catch you next time…
*Note: If you’re unfamiliar with Benetton ads, give it a Google image search. Benetton is a company known for using shocking or jarring imagery in they’re advertisements… Yep. And this dude equated that to having people of color in this movie, because that’s clearly the same thing… Ugh.