This Noah Writer’s Lame Excuse For Using Only White Actors Is Aggressively Ignorant

Russell Crowe and Jennifer Connelly in Noah still 2014(Photo: Niko Tavernise – © 2012 Paramount Pictures via IMDb)

If you saw Noahyou might’ve wondered why, in a world where an immensely diverse range of species are represented —  literally every single one on the planet, if you really want to get down to it — there was absolutely no diversity shown in the cast. Well one of the writers has an answer for you, and it’s so aggressively stupid that I honestly can’t believe he let anyone write it down.

Or maybe you didn’t wonder about the lack of diversity at all, which wouldn’t surprise me, given that it’s fairly in keeping with the white-washing trend so prevalent in Hollywood right now and also always. With the exception of a few directors or producers and a handful of more A-list people of color who can command the same respect that their Caucasian counterparts are given, if there’s a role to fill, it’s gonna go to someone with white skin.

Even if it’s a character that’s written with a specific ethnicity, it’ll be appropriated by a white actor. Just think of Johnny Depp as Tonto in The Lone Ranger, Jake Gyllenhaal in The Prince Of PersiaBen Affleck as Tony Mendez in ArgoRooney Mara as Tiger Lily in the Peter Pan remake…I could go on, but I shouldn’t because I’m getting off-track.
The point is, the movie Noah would’ve been a great opportunity to work with a diverse cast, don’t you think? It’s a mythical, biblical story, so there’s no precedent as far as the race of the people involved other than what we have in our minds. And yet, of the twenty-six cast members whose photos are shown on the movie’s IMDb page, all twenty-six appear to be Caucasian. All of the people from whose loins the entire population of Earth sprung…were white! Apparently. Even though that causes some serious issues for the theory of evolution. 

Ari Handel attending Tribeca Film Festival April 2011(Photo: Mike Coppola / Staff / Getty Images Entertainment)
But don’t worry guys, one of the film’s writers, Ari Handel, says it’s no big deal. And he should know — he’s white!

“From the beginning, we were concerned about casting, the issue of race. What we realized is that this story is functioning at the level of myth, and as a mythical story, the race of the individuals doesn’t matter. They’re supposed to be stand-ins for all people.”

Yeah bro…it doesn’t matter to you. You made that clear when you cast the movie. But to casually say that a lily-white cast is supposed to be stand-ins for all people is something that only a middle-aged white guy could say with a straight face. But don’t worry, there’s more.

“Either you end up with a Bennetton ad or the crew of the Starship Enterprise. You either try to put everything in there, which just calls attention to it, or you just say, ‘Let’s make that not a factor, because we’re trying to deal with everyman.’”

Ugh. Again with that ‘everyman’ thing. Thank goodness that people of color have Russell Crowe and Emma Watson to represent them in your mythical epic! I’m so glad you didn’t call attention to it by calling out brands like United Colors of Bennetton and Star Trek that have been making a conscious effort to further the cause of diversity for decades now. I’m sorry that that was so distracting for you.

“Looking at this story through that kind of lens is the same as saying, ‘Would the ark float and is it big enough to get all the species in there?’ That’s irrelevant to the questions because the questions are operating on a different plane than that; they’re operating on the mythical plane.”

Again, dude, listen to what you’re saying. These issues are irrelevant to you because you are a white male and you’ve never been underrepresented. You’re so far removed from that situation that you LITERALLY THINK IT OPERATES ON A MYTHICAL PLANE. We’re talking white privilege in biblical proportions here, and it’s making me feel like a goddamn lunatic.

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    • CMJ

      Wait, so the everyman is white?

      He’s just digging his own hole to bury himself in….

      http://i.imgur.com/2f8VAQj.gif

      • Alexis Rhiannon
      • Bee

        Noah co-stars Jennifer Connelly, whose mother is Jewish, and Logan Lerman, who is 100% Jewish. If anyone can play “Old Testament” (Torah) characters, it’s them.

      • Alexis Rhiannon

        An interesting point, but not the subject of the post.

      • Bee

        Well, I think if we’re talking about the casting of (more or less) a single biblical family, they would probably be of one race. And given the origin of this story (the characters are sort of proto-Jews) I’m not sure why there would be racial diversity.

      • Alexis Rhiannon

        Because it’s a movie based off a biblical legend, so literally anything is possible. THE ENTIRE WORLD FLOODS WITH WATER, so why is it so insane that more than one race would be represented? This is supposedly the one family that repopulates the world, right?

    • Kaitlin Reilly

      Umm, what?! I don’t know what he means and I doubt that he does.

    • Annabelle

      I can imagine him and Aronofsky sitting around thinking of a plausible excuse that would sound intelligent and mythical….

      • Alexis Rhiannon

        Exactly.

    • Josie

      Oh please. It’s his movie, let him make it as he sees fit. He’s under no obligation to be “fair and equitable”. From what I hear, it’s a stupid movie anyhow.

      • Alexis Rhiannon

        He can make it however he wants, but if he’s gonna cast exclusively white actors, he should think of a better excuse for it than them serving as stand-ins for people of other races.

        And I see that you have ‘fair and equitable’ in quotes — where in my post are you pulling that phrase from?

      • Josie

        He doesn’t need a better excuse. He doesn’t need any excuse at all.

      • Benita

        Yet he gave one, a bad one.

    • NoraJHisle

      I’m so glad you didn’t call attention to it by calling out brands like United Colors of Bennetton and Star Trek that have been making a conscious effort to further the cause of diversity for decades now. I’m sorry that that was so distracting for you. http://s6x.it/l521

    • Bee

      Noah co-stars Jennifer Connelly, whose mother is Jewish, and Logan Lerman, who is 100% Jewish. Surely they can play Old Testament characters.

      • Benita

        By all accounts the inhabitants of that part of the world at that time would have been darker skinned than the cast of Noah. Jennifer Connelly is a blue eyed, fair skinned woman with European features because even though her mother is Jewish, she is Jewish descended from at least hundreds of years of European ancestry.

      • Bee

        Blue eyes are a genetic mutation that originated in the area that is now southern Bulgaria (borders Turkey). You must think “ancient” Jews looked like some sort of Arab, even though Arabs didn’t live in that part of the world until the Islamic invasions of the 600s.

      • Benita

        I never Arab, I just said darker skinned.

      • Benita

        I meant to say “said Arab”.

        Nor should we forget that the implication in his statement is that white automatically stands for everyone which is the definition of white privilege in media: never having to think that there are other types of people in the world because you are the “default setting” in all things entertainment.

      • Alexis Rhiannon

        Benita, you are killing it in this thread.

      • Bee

        I don’t know, she cited “blue eyes” as some kind of historical inaccuracy, but blue eyes originated in that part of the world, not in Norway.

      • Alexis Rhiannon

        Wait, where are you saying blue eyes originated?

      • Bee

        Blue eyes are a genetic mutation that originated somewhere between 10,000-6,000 years ago. Before that, everyone in the world had brown eyes. This mutation started with a single individual, and it originated in the near east area or the northwest part of the Black Sea region. They spread through procreation (not infection). There are more blue eyes now in Nordic countries because of natural selection, but they are not indigenous to those countries.
        http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/science-news/3323607/Blue-eyes-result-of-ancient-genetic-mutation.html

        I know some people place the Noah story in Turkey (Mount Ararat). And Turkey is right there by the Black Sea.

        Interesting, some researchers have tried to connect the Noah’s Ark story to a deluge on the Black Sea.
        http://www.theguardian.com/science/2000/sep/14/internationalnews.archaeology

      • Bee

        BTW, the “near East” location identified in that Telegraph article would generally include, at least potentially, most Arab countries, and certainly Israel.

    • Chelsea DeLoney

      Game of Thrones is fantasy which is close to mythical… and yet there are people of color on that show. Try again sir.

      • Alexis Rhiannon

        Yeah, good call.

    • Bee

      The only thing you can fault it for, culturally, is not having an all-Jewish cast.
      Here is my idea for an all-Jewish Noah:
      Noah: Daniel Day-Lewis (mother was Jewish)
      Tubal-Cain: Jason Isaacs
      Ila: Odeya Rush
      Methusaleh: Kirk Douglas (the oldest man on Earth!)
      Shem: Gregg Sulkin
      Japeth: Teo Halm or David Mazouz
      And keep Lerman and Connelly since they’re already Jewish.
      Otherwise I’m not sure how diverse a single Biblical family could be, other than being proto-Jews of some sort.

      • Zawadi Carroll

        The Jewish people in the Bible were people of color though/ Israelites…with melanin in their skin and hair the texture of lambs wool

      • Bee

        LOL the Book of Enoch says Noah was born looking “white as snow” (exact quote).

    • Quinn

      Am I the only one who’s tired of the term “whitewashing” in Hollywood…?

      I think movie casting should be explicitly about acting ability, not physical appearance-to an extent, as it would obviously be ridiculous to cast Meryl Streep as Rosa Parks or Kevin Costner as Jackie Robinson…but for a film like Noah, where no one can definitively say exactly what the characters looked like in real life, I think anything’s fair game.

      There’s also a huge double standard here, just like with a lot of other race issues…if Katniss Everdeen had been cast as an African American or something, so many people would have applauded their effort to be diverse. Like I said, it should be about how well someone translates or performs the role, not about their physical appearance-that is the equal and fair way to it’s core…and Noah is full of a very talented and qualified cast: Emma Watson and Logan Lerman are two of the best young actors right now and Jennifer Connelly and Russell Crowe have long been applauded for their performances.

      • NeoNurse

        So in your world, all the best, most talented actors just happen to be white?

        And the double standard/reverse racism argument? Really?

      • Quinn

        Where did I say that most talented actors happen to be white? I would never say or insinuate that because I’m not a buffoon-that’s incredibly ignorant, untrue, and racist. All I said that Noah has a talented cast, which it does.

      • Alexis Rhiannon

        That’s right, anything’s fair game — and yet they used an entirely white cast. If any progress is going to be made on this issue, it has to be pushed.

      • Jen

        Did you miss the part where people freaked the f’ out because Rue was cast as a black girl and the book doesn’t explicitly state that’s she black? Or the time when everyone and their mother took to the internet to make “I’m not racist, but…” comments about the new Annie being a black girl? If you seriously believe what you said, I think you need to take a good long look at what actually happens when POC are cast in ANY role that could have potentially gone to a white person.

      • Alexis Rhiannon

        What’s funny about the Hunger Games thing is that the book DID pretty explicitly state that Rue was black — people just skimmed over it because it wasn’t what their brains wanted to imagine.

      • Jen

        I mean, yes, it was obvious to most anyone who enjoy basic reading comprehension skills that Rue was black–but since Collins didn’t explicitly state “this girl, right here, is a black person” and instead just said she was dark skinned with dark hair people thought that clearly she was just going to be very very tan.

      • Alexis Rhiannon

        It ruins any book for me when it turns out every character doesn’t look and act exactly like I do.

    • liver rott

      And hally berry for catwoman…. if there is a role in hollywood then it goes to a white person…. that was a rather stupid statement too. Denzel is white!!!

      • Alexis Rhiannon

        “With the exception of a few directors or producers and a handful of more A-list people of color who can command the same respect that their Caucasian counterparts are given…”

        With Halle and Denzel you’ve named two — can you get the whole handful???

    • Dangus

      This writer needs to move on from the 80s. Who gives a shit what race people are in hollywood movies. I don’t even pay attention to that because the color of peoples’ skin doesn’t matter to me when it comes to who get to act in ‘Noah’. There are serious ethnic inequality issues that need to be addressed and who gets to be a movie star is not one of them. Writers like this are the ones that give being liberal a bad rap (no pun intended).

      • Alexis Rhiannon

        Do you mean ‘the writer’ Ari Handel or ‘the writer’ me?

      • Misenhammer

        Also, what’s the pun?? Did I miss it??

      • Alexis Rhiannon

        Haaaa yeah good call.

    • Jen

      Say it with me people: “Jew” is not a race. It’s pretty silly to suggest that casting someone who is Jewish means they look anything like Jews from a totally different part of the world and time period.

      Oh, and if we are going by Biblical time frame Jews as a people weren’t actually even an established thing in Noah’s day.

      • Alexis Rhiannon

        Boom.

    • blackdreamhunk

      Adam and eve would have been black

      The ancient Hebrews are black!

      Hollywood have always hated black people.

      • Zawadi Carroll

        always! smh thank you for not being the only one knowing about this black people didnt just magically appear during slavery

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    • Gustavo Gutierrez

      Sarah Shahi, an Iranian American actress with “mainstream appeal” could have starred in Emma Watson’s role.

      Sir Ben Kingsley, of Anglo-Indian heritage, could have starred in Anthony Hopkin’s role.

      Just some suggestions for actors of color with “mainstream appeal.”

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