Identity fascists want to destroy the quality of culture – Delco Times
The other day I went to the cinema. The experience moved me to tears. It had nothing to do with the fact that I was actually in a movie theatre, among human beings, watching something on an actual movie screen and munching on popcorn (it can be done, even at through a mask).
The reason I got so emotional was about the movie itself, the most recent version of “Macbeth,” brought to the screen by the great Denzel Washington. Washington had brought together a combination of veteran actors like the sublime Frances McDormand as Lady Macbeth, and talented newcomers. That, coupled with the amazing black and white cinematography, took this movie to the next level. I’m not ashamed to say I cried.
And then, when the emotion wore off as I walked the 15 blocks, something came to mind. Denzel Washington is a black man. It might seem pretty obvious, which it is, but the mere fact of his race isn’t what stopped me dead. It was the fact that a black man played a medieval Scottish king speaking Shakespearian English, and no one in the theater batted an eyelid. Thank God they didn’t.
And then I thought, wow, what if this happened on a regular basis, that regardless of an artist’s color, gender, sexual orientation, or national origin, he or she or “they” could play the role they wanted, without the social media mobs demanding boycotts or more diversity or multicultural sensitivity or a ban on “cultural appropriation?”
A few days later, I saw an advertisement for a new series about Anne Boleyn, the tragic wife of Henry VIII (although to be honest, none of his wives were particularly lucky). Anne was a British woman, and each portrait depicts her with milky white skin, which is likely accurate given her heritage. But guess who is playing the lead role in the new series? Jodie Turner-Smith. Turner-Smith has the British part in common with Boleyn, but unlike the beheaded queen, she is black. And yet, no one seems to care. I certainly don’t like it, and I suspect anyone who likes to play well and tell stories doesn’t like it either.
There have long been examples of this type of talent cross-pollination. White men often played Othello, the Moor of Venice, wearing blackface when it was still permitted. James Caan played the characters of two famous Italians, one real and one fictional: Brian Piccolo and Sonny Corleone. Al Pacino, a real Italian, played a Cuban in “Scarface”, and Meryl Streep has been Dutch, Australian, German, Italian, Jewish, WASP, British and the entire United Nations Security Council during her career .
Until recently, nobody had a problem with artists being artists and manifesting the glories of literature, theater, music, history, food, poetry and all the things that make life interesting. Longfellow was able to write about Hiawatha without the Native Americans (at the time “Indians”) shouting that he had no idea what was going on in their wigwams. Ernest Hemingway was able to write about a Cuban fisherman in his twilight years, fighting the last great battle of his life, without people protesting that a guy from landlocked Idaho had no idea what it meant to be a Latino on the sea. Charles Dickens was able to write about ghosts, without people pointing out the incisive fact that he was still, apparently, alive.
A few years ago, some overly sensitive Latino groups revolted because a non-Mexican woman wrote a book called “American Dirt” about the experience of, you guessed it, a Mexican woman who illegally crossed the border. As an immigration lawyer who has handled countless cases of Mexican women in similar circumstances, I can pretty much guarantee that you don’t have to be Mexican or an immigrant to understand their plight. particular. To suggest otherwise is pure arrogance.
And that’s just the literary world. As I’ve noted before, Denzel Washington, a black American, channeled his native genius into a role he was born for. I honestly think his version of Macbeth matches that of Olivier, or Orson Welles, or any of the other great Anglo-Saxon actors who took up the challenge. After the first “Oh wow, it’s Denzel,” you completely forgot the actor playing the Scottish king was black, so he blended into the role effortlessly. Skin color didn’t matter.
Or at least it should have been. But because of the culture warriors who demand that gay roles be played only by gay actors, or that trans roles be played only by trans actors, or that Latin roles be played only by Latin actors (or God help us, Latinx), or female roles only to be played by women (tell Shakespeare) or Asian roles to be played only by Asians, or black roles to be played only by of black people, it is now a “thing”.
And that’s tragic, because it balkanizes the world, locks us into these little sterile categories based on identity. I don’t give a damn about the sexual orientation of the guy playing Richard III, since the whole point of the game is to transcend the physical, the obvious, and elevate it to the next level. I don’t care if the person playing Oscar Wilde is straight as an arrow, or if the person playing Cleopatra can’t spell the word Mesopotamia, or if the person playing Mussolini comes from a long line of O’Haras . What difference does it make?
Identity fascists want to destroy the quality and character of culture, and they do so because they believe that ticking boxes like columns on a Chinese menu elevates society. They want quotas based on color, not skill. They demand that we honor culture by essentially neutralizing it, and they are ruthless in their drive to weed out anyone who dissents.
I can’t be the only person who’s sick of having to worry about taking someone else’s birthright if, God forbid, I stick kohl on my eyes, even if i am not egyptian. I can’t be bothered by those who were outraged that white women dared to wear Bo Derek braids. If black women want to iron or straighten their hair or leave it natural, I don’t care, as long as they let me do Afro in the summer. These picayune concerns with who takes what from whom is a huge and harmful waste of time.
I was thrilled to see one of the greatest actors of our generation take on one of the greatest roles of any generation. We need more of it, and less of the “stay in your lane” mentality. As the great Sidney Poitier once said, who knew how to fight stereotypes: “I never had the opportunity to question color, therefore I only saw myself as what I was. … a human.”
In the end, that’s all we are, and the rest is just irrelevant societal entrapment. And we can honor the art and ourselves without fear of offending someone who thinks they own the story of their ancestors. To quote another Shakespearian hero, somewhat more sympathetic than the Scottish king, “This above all, be true to yourself, And it must follow, as night to day, Then you cannot be false to any man .”
Christine Flowers is a lawyer. His column appears Thursday and Sunday. Email him at [email protected]