Before we discuss Allen, you need to know some background. Starting in the 1990s, black race groups began to howl about how blacks were portrayed on film. (Feminists did this too). They objected to blacks being presented in any criminal, poor or demeaning roles, such as servants, and they protested the lack of black characters in positions of authority in films. They also held the first (that I recall) nationwide protest about the failure of Hollywood to include any black characters in a film. The film was Grease II and it indeed featured not a single actor of color.
It soon became a cottage industry for race groups to demand that their own be placed into all films no matter how they had to be squeezed into the film. They also called it racist for whites to play non-white roles -- the breaking point on this seems to have been a Broadway play, Miss Saigon where Jonathan Pryce was cast as the Eurasian pimp.
By the heyday of this idiocy in the 1990s, race groups were issuing regular reports on the percentages of black roles in films and on television. Black characters could not be presented in a negative light. Ditto on women. If there was a judge, a lawyer, a boss or a commander, it would always be a minority. Criminals were white males, and all the jokes were aimed at hapless white males. And the idea of putting on a production without a token minority or two flashed prominently before the cameras was unthinkable.
Enter Woody Allen.
A few days ago, the New York Daily News discovered to its journalistic horror that Allen’s Broadway production about Harlem’s legendary Cotton Club (a black club famous in the 1920s and 1930s) features an all white cast. Gasp!
This is actually rather shocking. For one thing, everyone knows that you simply don’t do a production without token representation to keep the race baiters away. It doesn’t matter if your production involves only two characters, who are brothers and members of the KKK, there better be a black character and a woman somewhere in there. So what was Allen thinking? Even more shockingly really, this is a show about a black club and yet Allen cast only whites? WTF? Seriously, that actually does reek of racism.
Anyways, what was truly fascinating was the utter lack of outrage. The Daily News screamed RACIST! They even found an anonymous source who said that Allen “specifically requested there be no African-American stars in his show.” Allen supposedly even nixed the casting of a “big-name African-American actor” because he claimed “a black gangster wouldn’t be good,” despite the show involving a black club in black Harlem. Moreover, Allen was told that casting no blacks would seem strange to the audience, given the setting, and there is a competing production called After Midnight which does cast blacks. Yet, he refused to cast any.
What’s more, they noted that Allen has been under constant criticism for never casting gay characters in his movies.
Allen responded through a spokesman by denying any attempt to exclude blacks and saying, “It has always been Woody Allen’s priority to cast the exact appropriate person for a role regardless of race, which has never been a consideration.”
Wow. Had this been the 1990s, Woody Allen would have been roundly condemned, fired, boycotted and sent to re-education, i.e. therapy. The idea that Allen casts for talent rather than race would never have been accepted as a defense because it wasn’t considered a valid excuse... you had to obey the quota system. But today, no one seems to care.
Even more interestingly, this instance probably does reflect genuine racism. Unlike all those prior productions that were tarred just for not jamming black characters into stories where they didn’t fit, this is a story about a black club. Excluding blacks from this is... well, bizarre, and it makes his claim to cast only the best actors regardless of race into a farce.
And yet... crickets.
This strikes me as further strong proof that the race/gender industry is finished in America. The public simply doesn’t care unless they get proof of actual racism. Indeed, on that point, a few days after I wrote this, Donald Sterling, the billionaire owner of the NBA’s LA Clippers and a registered Democrat, created a firestorm based on some racist comments he made. Unlike Allen, whose “crime” was claiming to be color-blind, Sterling was caught telling his girlfriend to stop associating with blacks. Sterling also has previously been accused of racism on several occasions. Like Paula Deen (who apparently has redeemed herself in only a few weeks), he used the n-word about his players, he told the managers of his properties not to rent to blacks because they are “unclean,” and he was even sued for discrimination by black tenants.
What all of this suggests is that the American public won’t tolerate genuine racism, but they aren’t interested in race baiting anymore either. That means the end of the era or identity politics.