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Home :: Archive :: 2001 :: June ::
Re: Colorblindness
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.1497  Thursday, 14 June 2001

[1]     From:   Mike Jensen <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 13 Jun 2001 08:33:44 -0700
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.1486 Re: Colorblindness

[2]     From:   Graham Bradshaw <
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        Date:   Thursday, 14 Jun 2001 01:33:17 +0900
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.1486 Re: Colorblindness


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Mike Jensen <
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Date:           Wednesday, 13 Jun 2001 08:33:44 -0700
Subject: 12.1486 Re: Colorblindness
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.1486 Re: Colorblindness

>I would be very interested in the
>opinion of the list upon the topic of representation of race in both
>Branagh films and in the media through which the films are "sold" to
>cinema audiences.

>Emma French

It's just one lad's opinion, but I say race was not marketed.  Denzel
Washington was hired because he could do the job, he added a starry
presence, and possibly Branagh wanted to work with him.

Similarly with LLL, I don't think the black actors were cast for race,
as much as to be pretty.  Adrian Lester may have been cast for his
talent to handle Shakespeare as well as sing and dance, since his was
the only musical performance among the 4 men that didn't put me off.

If there was anything racial in the marketing of the film, I did not see
it in the campaign in the U. S., which was different than the campaigns
in other parts of the world.  Except for the fact that the three black
actors were in photos, nothing was made of it.  I never thought I'd live
to see the day when that would happen, but I'm glad I did.

Mike Jensen

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Graham Bradshaw <
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Date:           Thursday, 14 Jun 2001 01:33:17 +0900
Subject: 12.1486 Re: Colorblindness
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.1486 Re: Colorblindness

One thing is puzzling me in this long thread, which I confess I haven't
read through, so maybe I missed the answer.

There are various references to how "embarrassing", "unacceptable",
etc., it is to see blacked-up white actors like Olivier (or Burbage?)
play Othello: is this the point where we must NOT be "colorblind"?

If so, is that because "we" are more comfortable, and less strained,
when Othello is played by a BLA rather than WHI? (I borrow these
categories from Governor Jeb Bush's system of fouling elections: who
dares wins.) And, if so, is there is ANY play where it is LESS
appropriate to feel more comfortable and less trained? (Tr.: I mean,
like, "Othello" isn't, y'know, a kind of feel-good, dumbed-down
Hollywood thing?) It might be good (though it wouldn't feel-good) to
work out a short list of the Top Ten things that are politically correct
but otherwise wrong.

I've just been looking at Francois-Victor Hugo's quarrel with Schlegel
again, and wonder which is the more alarming.

Schlegel (rather unnecessarily, I suspect) ties his "two spheres" view
of Othello's inner division to a "burning climes" argument that implies
that no cool-climes white man could ever suffer or  behave like Othello.
Hugo vigorously protests, citing Coleridge (bad move): SINCE (?!?!?) no
pure (and for Hugo "spiritual and almost mystical"!) white woman would
have chosen a "veritable negro", Othello MUST HAVE BEEN a tawny.

Maybe that seems funny, since "colorblindness" has no place for tawny in
its focal, BLA-WHI categories. Yet the tawny view still has its
champions, like Barbara Everett: the issue is anything but dead,
although tawnies don't usually have thick lips and sooty bosoms, etc. If
we were marking Schlegel vs Hugo in terms of their "attitudes", and much
contemporary criticism consists
of giving marks to attitudes, who scores worse?

Before shutting up, let me add a "rider": if our own attitudes are
already formed and in place before we go to the show, can literature or
drama ever teach us anything? If the answer is No, what do Eng.Lit
departments do that couldn't be better done in History or Anthropology,
etc? Might handsaws be better than Hawkes?

Ora pro nobis,
Graham Bradshaw

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