‘Pan’ and the Amazing Technicolor Natives

First things first: Pan — opening in U.S. theaters this weekend — is a colorful, action-packed PG-13 reimagining  of the origins of Peter Pan and his relationships with and to Captain Hook, Tiger Lily, and Neverland as we know them through J.M. Barrie’s play and novel and their myriad subsequent Broadway, Disney, and Hollywood (re)interpretations.

My daughters, ages 11 and 6, enjoyed the film, and the 6-year-old, who often asks to leave the theater during intense or “scary” action sequences, made it through with only a bit of parental ear-covering during loud bits. The world-building and -design and the effects were beautiful and well-done, with visual call-backs to many fantasy, science fiction, and action films that parents will recognize fondly (the Mad Max films and Avatar being just an example) and original effects like giant bubbles of water containing aquatic life floating in the sky that I will remember for a while. But it’s the twists, and the questions and consequences they bring up, that I want to talk about now. So from here on in, SPOILERS AHEAD.

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Finding the Right (White) Actor to Cast in that Non-White Role

Over the past weekend, The Hollywood Reporter released an article about the heightened alert placed on ethnic casting. The article starts off with the controversial choice to cast Rooney Mara as Tiger Lily in the upcoming Warner Brothers picture Pan, which will be a re-imagined take on Peter Pan lore. Throughout the article, unnamed producers and studio execs justify their casting decisions with the “tried and true” reasoning that it’s always the best actor being cast for the job, regardless of race, even if that means casting white people to play non-white folks. Ideally, I would be in full support of this idea as I think it really should be about choosing the best actor for the job, regardless of race and nationality. Ideally, casting should be “colorblind” because as actors, we are trained to bring a character to life as far removed from us as possible.

And that’s as far as I can go. No really, that’s it. This is where that dreamy ideal world I’d like to be in is instantly crushed by the not-so-sugary reality that “choosing the best actor for the job” and all that hippy dippy freedom-of-the-arts talk is usually reserved only for the status quo. Or in blunt politically incorrect terms: white people.

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Why “Fix” Tiger Lily? Why Can’t We Just Let Her Go?

by Dr. Adrienne Keene | Originally posted at Indian Country Today

On Thursday night, NBC aired their Peter Pan Live! event, a highly publicized three-hour-plus live performance starring Allison Williams as a weirdly sexualized little boy who doesn’t want to grow up. Tucked among the many press releases for the event was the information that the role of Tiger Lily would be played by Alanna Saunders, who is a “descendant of members of the Cherokee Nation.” OK.

Additionally, the show promised us they changed the offensive “Ugg-a-Wug” song to something culturally “authentic” and appropriate. They even hired a Native composer, Chickasaw Jerod Impichchaachaaha’ Tate, to consult on the “improved” “Ugg-a-Wug,” causing National Museum of the American Indian director Kevin Gover to praise the production for being, “closer to our heritage, our culture and portrays a deeper sensitivity and helps diminish the many stereotypes surrounding Native Americans.”

I’m going to hope that he said all that before he saw the costume or the number. Because the costume. Oh the costume. Vegas showgirl-meets-Halloween-pocahottie-flapper.

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Elsewhere Around the Internet

Last week, while we were a little preoccupied with the idea of casting an Asian American actor as Iron Fist, Hollywood — as if on cue — once again proved cross-racial casting is really a one-way street and announced Girl with the Dragon Tattoo star Rooney Mara will be playing Tiger Lily in Warner Brothers’ upcoming live action Peter Pan adaptation.

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