Users of social media are outraged again, this time following the release of the trailer for Urban Myths, new road-trip comedy series from Sky Arts. The trailer offers the first glimpse of white actor Joseph Fiennes portraying pop legend Michael Jackson, and critics are screaming “whitewash!”
As one user tweeted in apparent outrage: “JOSEPH FIENNES SHOULD NEVER DISRESPECT US PLAYING Michael Jackson ~HE DOES NOT EVEN HAVE MJs Rhythm~CAN HE EVEN DANCE?? ~WHITEOUT”
Others recalled that the real Michael Jackson had once told Oprah he found the idea of a white actor portraying him on screen “horrifying.” The hashtag #whitewash exploded on social media.
— ShwetaJainChaudhury (@Shwetangles) January 11, 2017
People on the internet were similarly outraged in January 2016, when the casting was first announced. Variety reported that the controversial decision to cast Fiennes as The King of Pop had added “fuel to Hollywood’s diversity debate.” Fiennes defended the decision at the time, noting that the series takes place in 2001, when Jackson “was probably closer to my color than his original color.”
The Daily Beast, among other critics, slammed the decision as evidence of the entertainment industry’s “casual ambivalence and quiet hostility towards broadening the range of opportunities for non-white stars to truly thrive in the mainstream.” Casting a white actor to play Michael Jackson was “further proof that there are filmmakers who are deeply determined to tune out the cultural conversation.”
Some social media users pointed out that Fiennes’ Jackson looks kind of like the Voldemort character in the Harry Potter films, played by Fiennes’ brother Ralph.
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