Racial role exposes fans’ hypocrisy

“Brangelina is completely out of line.” That was this columnist’s first reaction to the news that Angelina Jolie would be playing the role of Mariane Pearl in the movie, “A Mighty Heart,” a true story

“Brangelina is completely out of line.” That was this columnist’s first reaction
to the news that Angelina Jolie would be playing the role of Mariane Pearl in the movie, “A Mighty Heart,” a true story about the wife of slain “Wall Street Journal” reporter Daniel Pearl. The concept is absurd – not because Jolie lacks the talent to play such a role – but because Mariane Pearl is a person of color.

This colorblind decision has raised quite a stir among people – even more so because Jolie’s significant other Brad Pitt is the movie’s co-producer.

Pretty ironic.

Just to set things straight, Mariane Pearl is biracial. She defines her ethnicity as African American, Cuban and Dutch.

Jolie is French-Canadian, Czech and English. Yet, in photographs of Jolie as Pearl, it is startling how closely Jolie resembles her.

Appearances alone still do not justify Jolie’s selection to play Pearl for the movie. In a statement about the movie, Pearl said, “I am delighted that Angelina Jolie will be playing my role. I deeply admire her work and what she is committed to.” Because Pearl’s opinion should be valued the most in this situation, the questioning of Jolie’s credibility should end here. But it doesn’t.

People are filling message boards with comments about the movie, insisting it is ridiculous that in this day and age, a white woman is playing “the role a black woman deserves.” Angry movie protesters say Hollywood is showing poor judgment and disrespecting the black community by overlooking bi-racial actresses. But perhaps angry protesters are the ones showing poor judgment by turning the movie into a racial tug-of-war. It is quite clear that there is much more to back up this casting decision than pure nepotism.

Nowadays, actors are proving their talent
and versatility by playing roles outside of their gender and ethnicity more often than people realize. In an upcoming movie about the life of Bob Dylan, many different actors will be playing the role of the legendary musician during the various stages of his life. One of those actors will be Cate Blanchett, who is not the most obvious choice for the role because she is a woman. But her tremendous acting ability makes her worthy.

The most common argument against Jolie is that there are biracial actresses who fit physical requirements and could’ve played the role. The most commonly suggested actress to take Jolie’s place is Halle Berry. Berry is currently busy working on a movie based on a true-life experience – the story of Tierney Cahill, a Nevada teacher who accepts her students’ challenge to run for the U.S. Congress in 2000. Cahill is white. This is where angry Jolie
protesters risk hypocrisy. If one actress is wrong for playing a character outside of her race, then so is the other.

All arguments aside, it is disappointing that instead of focusing on the inspiring message of the story, the movie has become a racial issue. One blogger on Blacklooks.org went so far as to directly insult Pearl and to question her character. The blogger said that granting Jolie the role makes Pearl just as “insensitive and self-absorbed” as the women in Hollywood.

It is bad enough the movie’s integrity is being questioned through all this racial controversy, but it is inexcusable that Pearl herself is being attacked. Pearl should be seen as the admirable woman who wants to share the story of her heroic husband, not someone who is disrespecting
her racial background by allowing a white actress to play her.

The controversial uproar has certainly cast skeptical eyes upon the movie and it’s expected that every viewer will be a critic. So until Jolie fails miserably at the box office, the racial issue should be subtracted from this equation.

Michelle Sears can be reached at michelle.sears@temple.edu

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