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Will Smith has been slated to play the role of Richard Williams, the father and first coach of tennis sisters Venus and Serena Williams, but his casting has sparked controversy, as some purists say his skin is “not black enough.”
‘King Richard’ will tell the rags-to-riches story of Williams, who began training his daughters in tennis from an early age to see them become two of the most successful players in history.
But the fact that Williams happens to have a darker skin tone than Smith has broken political correctness rules in Hollywood and online, where a certain cohort who appear to be permanently offended by one thing or another, are complaining that Smith is the wrong shade of black. Yes, really.
Hollywood is no stranger to race controversies. Everyone already knows that it’s probably best if white actors play white roles, black actors play black roles and Asian actors play asian roles. Actress Emma Stone found that out the hard way after playing an Asian role in ‘Aloha’ in 2016 and facing major backlash for the misstep. But now it seems that choosing a black actor for a black role is not quite good enough — and even promoting “colorism.”
What’s next? Australian actors won’t be allowed to play American characters? (Sorry Nicole Kidman and Cate Blanchett, new rules!) Older actors won’t be allowed play younger roles? Straight actors won’t be allowed to play gay characters? Gay actors won’t be able to play straight roles?
Identity politics does seem to be pushing things in that purist direction. Scarlett Johansson recently abandoned a transgender role after serious backlash from the outrage police because she herself is not transgender. Similarly, black actress Zoe Saldana was accused of wearing “blackface” for her use of makeup when she played jazz musician Nina Simone in a 2016 biopic.
In the case of Smith, some Twitter warriors even offered that an “unknown” actor should be given a shot in the major Hollywood biopic. Another suggested that “literally any actor” with the correct shade of skin should have been given the role — suggestions sure to appeal to the production studio, which no doubt only cares about the artistic value of the movie and not the fact that Smith is one of the most acclaimed and bankable actors in Hollywood who can attract a wide audience.
But the complaints about Smith went even further than his race. There were actually complaints that Smith’s personality does not quite match that of Williams — but, is that not the whole point of “acting?”
Luckily, others did inject some logic and reason into the debate, pointing out that there was no discussion about “colorism” on other occasions when Smith played the roles of real-life people with darker skin than his.
Adding some much-needed humor to the ‘scandal’, one commenter joked that Smith, who has also been cast for a role in Aladdin “can’t possibly play the role of a fictional blue genie.”
Indeed, totally outrageous. Where are all the blue actors?