On Teen Wolf, Interchangeable Women of Color, and Jeff Davis...
I came for the hot guys, I stayed for the consistent Race Fail…and I wish I could quit.
Remember how I joked that all hope would be lost if the role of a character modeled after a Hindu goddess went to a white person? I was actually ready to eat humble pie on that one after the casting call went out specifying the need for an East Indian actress to audition for the part of Kali on Teen Wolf. “They’re trying!” I thought. “This is good!”
Then Felisha Terrell was cast in the role. She’s not East Indian. In fact, let’s send her to that True Blood casting call up top, ‘cause light skin and mixed-race heritage do not an Indian make.
Now, despite having strong feelings about how we women of color are not ethnically or racially interchangeable, I was going to let this go. Sometimes I worry that it’s not being understood that the anger is directed towards the producers and casting directors upholding inherently problematic Hollywood practices and not only the actor or actress caught up in the mess. In this case, however, Jeff Davis made it hard to direct the anger anywhere else when others’ criticism on the casting prompted this (semi-promptly deleted) series of tweets.
When some tweetizens tried to point out to him that it wasn’t name of the character that was bothering them but the idea that he thought it was all right to “pass” a Black woman as an Indian woman, Davis responded with:
— Ridhi S. (@RidzShey) November 29, 2012
@paulvrea Love the passion, but the reality of the business is lost on many who seem to think our resources know no limits.
— Jeff Davis (@JeffDavis75) November 29, 2012
It’s very possible that he received–shall we call it ‘non-constructive’–criticism on his casting decision via Twitter, but I think we can all agree that responding to fans of colors (and their white allies) who call you out on racial inequity by referring to them as “trolls” is the wrong response.
As for resources? Davis had the resources to have an open online casting call for the other twin characters being introduced with Kali (who are white, of course) which the show promoted via Tumblr, Facebook, a whole website, and the power of MTV. Hey, I get it: it was hard to find two white male needles in the Hollywood haystack. But maybe it’s not the limits of your resources, Jeff, so much as it is what you’re choosing to focus them on. At least be willing to own up to your priorities, if not your mistakes. Furthermore, those with privilege don’t get to absolve themselves of racism or problematic behavior simply because it wasn’t their intent. It’s crucial that we all remember that these seemingly small acts do unintentionally maintain a problematic film and television casting landscape for people of color.
But…I guess I’m glad you tried “really” hard, Jeff. You want a cookie? You’ve been “trying” for awhile now, so it’s a little burnt.–KJ