Hollywood’s transrace hypocrisy

10 September 2020

2:30 AM

10 September 2020

2:30 AM

It is an article of fashionable faith that genetic differences in sex are meaningless and malleable, but genetic differences in race are so profound and meaningful that they must not be tinkered with at all, even though race, we are told, is a ‘social construct’. Hence it is positively progressive to sneak a cheeky penis into a women’s changing room, providing the penis is attached to a ‘trans woman’. But it was despicably racist of the disgraced professor Jessica Krug, who was born white and Jewish, to have masqueraded as a woman of color.

The gaps in this logic are so big that you could drive a bus through them, whether you’re sitting at the back or the front. Everyone recognizes the absurdity, but hardly anyone in the upper echelons of American life dares to mention it in public. Not in politics, not in most of the media, not in industry, and certainly not in the academy. It is a scientific truth that hereditary differences in sex count for more than hereditary differences in race, but these days even scientists are afraid to state that in public.

Fortunately, Hollywood is filling this moral vacuum. Unfortunately, Hollywood is filling it with moral ordure and doing what it does best, which is making America look stupid in front of the entire world. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has decreed that by 2024, all entrants for the Best Picture category must either have at least one lead or ‘significant supporting’ actor from ‘an underrepresented racial or ethnic group’.

If the studio cannot foreground the underrepresented as stars, at least 30 percent of ‘secondary and minor roles’ must be played by members of at least of the following groups: women, ‘racial or ethnic group’, LGBTQ+, or ‘People with cognitive or physical disabilities, or who are deaf or hard of hearing’. This practice shall, or should, be known as ‘blackgrounding’.

If the studio fails to blackground, it can also wriggle its way to a nomination by ensuring that the ‘main storyline or theme’ of the film is ‘centered’ on ‘an underrepresented group(s)’. The failure of grammar reflects the collapse of sense. But that is no reason why we should not be pressed to applaud it.

Under these terms, Gone With the Wind would still have won Best Picture in 1940. Paradigms of the cinematic art at its most sensitive that failed to win due to systemic racism in the Academy — Trading PlacesBlazing SaddlesStir CrazySoul Man, Blaxploitation films and so on — would still be eligible for retroactive Oscar justice, or cinematic reparations, as they should properly be known. But Parasite, the Korean supremacist winner of last year’s Oscar, would not be eligible.

If we are to live according to the high ideals we espouse, all past Best Picture winners that fall short of these standards should either be stripped of their Oscars or — as is already traditional in Hollywood — be remade for a new generation.

The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938) is a subtle attack on Nazi race policy, with the Normans as the Germans and, confusingly, the Germanic Anglo-Saxons as the English. Unfortunately, the only color that Errol Flynn’s Robin Hood goes in for is Lincoln Green. So the outlaw Oscar goes to the vastly inferior Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, which had the foresight in 1991 to cast Morgan Freeman as Robin’s Moorish merry man Azeem Edin Bashir Al Bakir.

The first two Godfather movies get to keep their double Best Picture awards, as the Corleones, we now realize, were Latinx immigrants, and Fredo was Q or possibly +. Braveheart, a fantasy of Scottish apartheid, will have to be remade. The Battle of Bannockburn will now be determined by the English wheelchair cavalry getting bogged down in the moors, and a deaf transsexual not hearing xer orders. Historical accuracy will, however, be maintained: the villains will still be played by Brits.

As we already know from the farce that is college admissions, this kind of race law creates a profit motive for falsification. In this case, Hollywood is already profiting. A 2017 Johns Hopkins study noted a correlation between the opening of Chinese markets to American movies, and the whitening of Hollywood’s lead actors. The authors looked at more than 3,000 films made between 2009 and 2015, and noted an 8 percent increase in the number of ‘very light-skinned’ stars.

This shift occurred only in action movies and blockbusters, the genres most likely to be allowed to screen in China. The researchers attribute ‘the more frequent casting of pale-skinned stars in films targeting the Chinese market’ and ‘Chinese society’s aesthetic preference for lighter skin’.

So, Hollywood is lecturing its domestic audience about the positive racial symbolism of POC, but manufacturing negative racial symbolism for its biggest export market, the CCP. Before we dismiss this as the worse kind of hypocrisy, consider its beneficial, albeit unintended side-effects.

Hollywood has created a powerful incentive for non-white actors to become ‘white’ for the foreign market, and another powerful incentive for white actors to ‘present’ themselves as POC for the domestic market. We know from the carnival of affirmative action what will happen next: a wave of transracial transgression.

Hollywood will make it acceptable to be transrace, because there is money in it. At the same time, certain kinds of race-switching will be unacceptable, because there is money in it. That’s showbiz, but what we call fiction in the movies is a lie in reality.

Dominic Green is US Life & Arts editor of The Spectator.

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