Aaron Sorkin’s Comments on Being the Ricardos Javier Bardem Casting Decisions Are Bizarre
The casting of Nicole Kidman and Javier Bardem as Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz has been controversial from the start, but Aaron Sorkin only added fuel to the fire by releasing a whole lot of word salad in a recent The Hollywood Reporter interview.
When asked about his decision to cast Bardem as Arnaz and how it “plays into a larger conversation that’s being had about who can play what, and already we’ve seen the Latinx community be vocal with its displeasure over a Spanish actor playing the part of a Cuban” the director and writer of Being the Ricardos said the following:
“First of all, Amazon’s casting department had a Latina casting consultant [who was focused on all Latinx casting] on board. I found out, for instance, because there was an actor who I was considering who’s Brazilian, and I was told by the casting consultant that Brazilians aren’t considered [Hispanic] because they speak Portuguese. So, Javier is Spanish and the casting consultant was fine with it. But I don’t want to use the casting consultant as cover. I want to tell you my opinion on this and I stand by it, which is this: Spanish and Cuban aren’t actable, OK? They’re not actable. By the way, neither are straight and gay. Because I know there’s a small movement underway that only gay actors should play gay characters. Gay and straight aren’t actable. You could act being attracted to someone, but most nouns aren’t actable.
We know when we’re being demeaning. We know that blackface is demeaning because of its historical context, because you’re making ridiculous cartoon caricatures out of people. We know that Mickey Rooney with the silly piece in Breakfast at Tiffany’s and that makeup, doing silly Japanese speak, we know that’s demeaning. This is not, I felt. Having an actor who was born in Spain playing a character who was born in Cuba was not demeaning. And it wasn’t just the casting consultant who agreed, Lucy and Desi’s Cuban American daughter didn’t have a problem with it. So, I’m very comfortable with it.”
All right, so there is a lot to unpack there.
Let’s get into some basics.
Latino/x/e, etc is an ethnicity. You can be white, Black, Indigenous, Asian, etc and be Latino. The term refers to people who are born in what we call “Latin America” which includes countries like North America, Central America, the Caribbean, and South America. Essentially, in the aftermath of colonization, you have mixtures in these communities that reflect the combination of Indigenous Peoples, white Europeans, and enslaved Black people.
Being Latino is not the same as being Hispanic. Hispanic refers to people who are specifically Spanish-speaking countries of North, Central, and South America. In comparison, Latin America combines all those who are descended from the colonization of places where romantic languages were spoken like Spanish, French, and Portuguese.
You can be Hispanic and Latino, Cuban, but you can also be Latino, but not Hispanic, Brazillian.
Where does that leave Javier Bardem? Well, he is a Spaniard and therefore a white European. Desi Arnaz was also a white Cuban.
But what does that mean in a larger context and conversation about Latinx representation? Without stepping too much over my own line, what I see being spoken about is the larger nuance of these identities outside of simply ethnicity and race.
As former The Mary Sue writer Lyra Hale explained, “There’s also the fact that Spaniards were our colonizers. As a Latinx woman, I remember growing up and being told stories about how Spain destroyed our people, our language, and our culture. They came in and erased who we were, and I can’t help but feel the same way when Bardem gets roles meant to share the Latinx experience. He’s not Latinx. He’s a Spaniard and he doesn’t get to represent us, especially in a role as iconic as Desi Arnaz.”
What makes this conversation so loaded is the fact that too many in the U.S see actors like Javier Bardem and Penélope Cruz as representative of milestones for the Latino community and they are not. And when they are held up as the image of Latino progress, it creates an issue in an already large conversation about the erasure of non-white Latinos because none are being allowed to actually be considered outside of the myopic stereotypes that have been assigned to them.
Also, Aaron Sorkin, just say that Lucie Arnaz enjoyed the film and move on. This is not your wheelhouse. And leave the gays out of it, we are trying to celebrate Hocus Pocus 2.
(via THR, image: Amazon Studios)
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