Is Orange the New Black?

Slant News is going out of business.  I am therefore reposting my Slant articles on my personal blog, lest they be lost to posterity.

This article was originally published as “Why Don’t We Talk About Redheads When We Talk About Diversity in Hollywood?” on March 3, 2016.

It’s happened again. Another redhead “bites the dust.” Sarah Shahi has been cast to play Nancy Drew in a new CBS show. Cue the soundman: someone start playing Queen.

 

Hollywood claims they want more diversity. Yet it seems like every time Hollywood engages in “racelifting” or “racebending,” it’s a redhead who’s forfeited in favor of an actor who is a “person of color” (POC).

 

Half-Iranian, half-Spanish, most people would not consider Sarah Shahi a POC. However, she’s certainly not the plucky titian-haired teenager whose adventures we all read in our younger days. CBS Entertainment President Glenn Geller announced that he wanted the star of the new show Drew to be “diverse” and that when it came to casting actresses, “I’d be open to any ethnicity.” In fact, Drew will focus on Det. Nancy Drew, now grown up and working for the New York City Police Department, not a teenage amateur investigator assisting her lawyer father.

Race-lifting has made a fair amount of headlines lately, ever since Netflix announced it was casting British actor Finn Jones as Danny Rand, the superhero code-named Iron Fist.

 

 

Many fans thought it was past time to correct the problems of cultural appropriation by having Iron Fist played by an Asian American actor. A letter to the editor that Hugo-nominee William F. Wu wrote in 1974 has been making the rounds on Twitter, complaining then that Marvel had missed an opportunity by not making Iron Fist of Asian heritage to begin with.

There have been complaints that Iron Fist isn’t being played by an Asian or Asian-American actor and there have been complaints that people are complaining about a blond, blue-eyed character being played by a white actor.

Had Netflix chosen John Kim or Godfrey Gao to play Daniel Rand, would it have been any worse than Samuel L. Jackson playing Nick Fury? There’s been quite a few characters who were white in canon, but are now African-American. Most of them were redheads originally: orange is the new Black.

 

Who’s been transmogrified from redhead to African-American?

 

 

Pete Ross, Smallville (redhead)

 

Jimmy Olson, Supergirl (redhead)

 

Little Orphan Annie, Annie (redhead)

 

Ellis “Red” Redding, The Shawshank Redemption (redhead)

 

Harvey Dent, Batman (reddish-brown, depending on the artist)

 

 

Other characters who’ve been race-bent in the name of diversity include:

 

Nick Fury, MCU movies (brown hair or auburn-brown, depending on the artist)

 

Aqualad, Young Justice (black hair)

 

Heimdell, Thor (brown hair)

 

Kingpin, Daredevil (bald)

 

Human Torch, Fantastic Four (blond hair)

 

Redheads aren’t the only group being race-bent into African American characters, but despite making up roughly 2% of the world’s population, redheads seem more likely to be the characters retconned in the interest of diversity. Why?

{The spacing isn’t quite right on this version of the article, but I’ll try to tidy that up later.  Right now I’m just trying to preserve the words and thoughts.}

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