It was just a few days ago that I posted an item here on S&A (read it HERE), about a Brazilian TV show broadcast by Globo TV, that featured a white woman who "becomes" a black woman in order to live out a bucket list fantasy to have sex with a black man. Needless to say, comments around the web in response to that piece of news weren't exactly endearing.
I think I can sum up reactions with a single acronym: WTF?
So I'm dying to read your reactions this today's news, reported, once again, courtesy of the Black Women Of Brazil blog (a blog that I'm glad Tambay introduced, and that I read regurlarly, and recommend).
Here's the short story:
The production of the Disney musical O Rei Leão (The Lion King) sought black or brown children to play the protagonists Simba and Nala in the Brazilian edition, which debuts in March. But most of the child actors in the final phase of auditions are white. Two finalists declared to the Folha news column that they are using tanning spray to darken their skin to suit the production. The T4F company, which is assembling the show, says it didn’t recommend the procedure to applicants. In American and English versions of the show, the protagonists are black.
So the casting call requested black and brown kids for the lead roles, BUT, for some reason, most of the kid actors in the final stage of the auditions are white. And that's just half of it; the other piece to this is that the white kids are essentially spray-tanning themselves to suit the parts that they just might get – parts that originally called for black and brown kids.
My first question to this is, if the casting call asked specifically for black and brown kids, why are there white kids who made it this far into the audition process? It tells me that, from the get-go, white kids also responded to the casting call, and auditioned for the parts that have always been set aside for black kids. Or I guess it could also be that there was a second casting call, that didn't specifically ask for black and brown kids?
Secondly, I wonder why, if black and brown kids were sought from the get-go, there are a majority white kids in the final stage; are the producers saying that there aren't any qualified black kids? I really doubt that.
When I first read this, I thought I'd just let it go, and not write about it, because I thought maybe I'd wait and see who ends up being cast in the roles, because they actually may be from the small pool of black kids who made it to the finals.
But then as I sat and thought about it, the final casting decisions aside, I just couldn't shake the fact that the white kids (the majority of the candidates left) are actually getting by, moving from one stage of the audition process to the next, using tanning spray to darken their skin, so that they can pass as black/brown kids.
How are the producers letting this slide? The report says that the company behind the production says it didn't recommend that the kids do this, but it doesn't further elaborate. So they aren't recommending that the kids do this, but the kids are doing it anyway. And the fact that they are apparently getting through the audition process, and the majority of the finalists are white kids, suggests that the company is perfectly fine with this! I guess they are saying that they didn't recommend the procedure, so as to relieve themselves of any criticism?
I don't get it.
When the South American production opens, it will mark the 6th continent in which The Lion King will have played. The premiere will happen in São Paulo, Brazil, on March 7th, 2013 at the Teatro Abril.
The previously-mentioned T4F (Time For Fun) production, will mark the largest stage musical ever presented in Brazil and the first time the show has been performed in Portuguese.
But maybe we can add a third "first" – the first time it's been performed with white kids in spray-tanned darkened skin in the lead roles.
I should say in closing that this is the second post from me that's shining a negative light on Brazil, and I didn't want it to seem like we're just Brazil-bashing, because we have written about other works of film and TV from Brazil positively and enthusiastically. And also, it's not like we here in the USA don't have our own race/color issues as well.
Please read the full report from the Black Women of Brazil blog HERE, where you will find not just critical observations of Brazil, but also posts that celebrate the country. I'm Just saying… if only for balance.
From what I understand about representations of blacks in Brazil in the media, depictions are limited and narrowly-defined (not-so unlike here in the USA, although it's worse), which is problematic when you consider how significant the African-descendant population is in that country (compared to the USA).