Kristen Bell and Jenny Slate have announced that they are leaving the Netflix animated comedy, Big Mouth, and an Apple TV show I’ve never heard of, as they were both voicing black characters and in the present moment of racial accountability, they have both decided that it made sense to pass the baton so women of color may voice those roles instead.
The reaction should’ve been ‘okay, cool’ but that’s not how the Internet works and now everyone is screaming about issues that aren’t related. There are people arguing that if Jenny Slate can’t play a black girl then Nancy Cartwright should not be allowed to voice Bart Simpson which is terribly flawed logic.
The point of that argument of course is that neither woman should have to give up either role and we’re just talking about cartoons but there is a massive difference between a white woman portraying a black girl and a white girl portraying a white boy.
It’s simple: they’re both white people.
That is the problem.
Bojack Horseman is one of my favorite shows of all time. There are zero black voice actors. A show about talking animals where race doesn’t even really matter and for some reason they couldn’t find one black actor who could’ve voiced a main character?
We are constantly lied to and told that America is a meritocracy and the best and brightest and most talented always rise to the top. Soooo there are zero talented black actors who can stand in front of a microphone and read words off a paper? Kristen Bell is soooo much better at that then literally every black woman on Earth?
And when there is a black character in these shows, it’s almost always just for the sake of having a black character. They are tokens to check off a box.
It is actually gross to think of these white people using black characters to get more paychecks and advance their careers. And this isn’t me saying that these people—Kristen Bell and Jenny Slate in particular—were actively attempting to colonize these roles but the fact that no one had considered this until today is mindblowing.
“Wait a minute. What if I stopped hiring all of my white friends to play non-white people and I actually hired non-white people to play these non-white roles????” -someone in 2020 after a century of Hollywood bullshit.
Unfortunately for the ‘I don’t see color’ crowd, color exists. We do not live in a society of equality. Asians and trans people are treated less than whites so when Scarlett Johansson decides to take every role away from them, she is continuing to hold their heads underwater to grow her own empire.
As long as the power dynamics continue to be so incredibly skewed in the favor of white people, we cannot just shrug and say ‘but it’s cartoons, who cares?’ because it’s bigger than that.
And you can say ‘it’s Nick Kroll’s show, he can cast whoever he wants’ uh yea, that’s also the problem. Nick Kroll has had like, 3 of his own shows already. Not saying that he doesn’t deserve them although I think Big Mouth is dumb but I get why people like it.
But again, this is the false idea of a meritocracy. As if there are zero talented black show creators, show runners, producers or actors that should be given shows.
Equality doesn’t happen by ignoring race. Not if we’re starting from a point where one race is so far ahead of the others. No, equality is actively giving more opportunities to brown and marginalized people to catch up to white people and that can’t happen unless we stop acting as if white people just happen to better at everything therefore they deserve more roles.
Dear white actors, literally every character on TV right now is white. Just do those roles. You don’t also need to play black characters too.