On Acting: the surface and the spirit

Click the hyperlinks for a more comprehensive understanding…I know, I say that all the time, but I mean it…the article is the surface, the links are the spirit underneath…see what I did there? Clever, right? To be honest, you can just watch the embedded videos and click the links, you don’t even have to read the damn article.

The internet is abuzz with criticism about the casting of Zoe Saldana as Nina Simone. Most of it (damn near all of it) centers around the fact that Saldana is of a significantly lighter hue than Simone. Why is this such a big deal? Well, Hollywood isn’t exactly teeming with opportunities for darker-skinned black women so when a huge role like this comes along that seems tailor-made for a darker-skinned actress but instead is given to a lighter-skinned actress people get mad. I understand the frustration. I get it. More of the same. Fair skin always wins. Blah blah blah. But there is an awesome bit of irony hanging over all of this that defies the salient colorism and that is…well, just watch this…

Utilizing a sophisticated performance capture technique Saldana was able to become a ten-foot-tall blue alien warrior princess. This amazing technology renders such superficial distinctions as race, age, body type and even gender moot. Via performance capture an Asian guy could play Confederate General Robert E. Lee, a guy could play a girl or Kevin Clash, Eddie Murphy, Hank Azaria, Seth McFarlane and Andy Serkis could monopolize the entire industry. For this to happen we must first cross the valley. Hyperreal computer-generated animation is still a little ways away, but we’re getting close, very close, peep this…

Seems like every few months I’m coming back to this article and changing the video that represents the ‘latest state-of-the-art-real/virtual-line-blurrer.’ Click here to see the other ones.

When we get to a point where computer generated animation is indistinguishable from the real thing actors who were once passed over because of Hollywood’s narrow-minded image-based casting process might find themselves quite busy. Just think about it…the spirit, or performance, will reign supreme. The surface will mean absolutely noth—well, wait a minute, that may not be entirely true, we are very much a surface-oriented bunch so more than likely we will fall in love with the puppet and shun the puppeteer…

In this brave new world who would show up to the awards show? Would it be the 68-year-old Peruvian actress and the 34-year-old bespectacled digital artist or the 24-year-old Swedish drug-addicted call girl they created? I say all three. (There’ll be a vacant third seat in-between the actor and the artist where the digital girl will be placed.) Okay, I’m going off on a tangent and I vowed not to do that anymore. Let’s get back on track…damn…just thought of something (so much for the vow)…even though marginalized actors may get more work in this speculative age of performance capture-driven entertainment, underwhelming mainstream media representation may still be an issue. Darker-skinned actors may get more work, but what if that work is playing white characters?

Damn it.

I really don’t want to get into this right now. If I do, this article, like the others that precede it, will turn into a tail-eating mess. Let’s see. How can I wrap this up nicely? Got it! I’ll open it up to my non-existent readers! Okay, here’s the question: what is more important, the work or representation? There, it’s up to you now.

Oh, one more thing before I give you the floor, this is a message to those who diss Hollywood while ironically wanting (very much) to be a part of its culture…video cameras are pretty cheap, I’m talkin’ HD ones…as are laptops, powerful ones capable of editing feature films. So grab a couple friends, pool your resources and MAKE YOUR OWN DAMN ART!!!! STOP @#$%ING WHINING!!!! (kind of talking to myself right now). Force the myopic execs in Tinseltown to change their ways. SHOW(!!!) how valuable you are. Sorry, I don’t usually get emotional on here, but damn, this shit is gettin’ old.

It’s wide open out there for determined independents…the gatekeepers are not the owners of your dreams. And to be frank your anger probably has less to do with injustice or misrepresentation and more to do with wanting what they have. Come on. Let’s be honest. Oscars, red carpets, late night talk shows, press junkets, your face all over the gossip rags—that’s what you want (don’t blame ya, sounds a whole lot better than this). You want in and they’re guarding the door, denying you access. Now if you whine, create a big scene, they may concede and cynically give you an opportunity while patting themselves on the back. If validation from the gatekeepers is what you want, then by all means keep fighting, keep Struggling™. But for those of us who just want to create—like I said, the cameras are cheap…so go…get out there and tell your story. Please.

Okay, the floor is yours. Here’s some pontificatin’ music for ya…


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