Beyond Blackface: Can Hollywood’s Reckoning on Race Lead to Substantive Change?

”Hollywood is being forced to look in the mirror and decide whether it wants to be on the right side of history,“ UCLA Dean of Social Sciences Darnell Hunt says

The racial reckoning spreading across America has driven Hollywood to reexamine longstanding storylines and symbols rooted in racist ideology as the entertainment industry adjusts to a radically altered cultural landscape. In the last two weeks, celebrities and studios have rushed to recast Black characters with nonwhite actors, remove offensive TV episodes featuring blackface and reimagine at least one popular theme park ride.

But longtime cultural observers ask if the latest moves are planting the seeds for real change or merely slapping Band-Aids on long-festering wounds. “Remember in ‘War of the Worlds,’ when the aliens come and people are running away before they get zapped?” said Christine Birch, former top studio executive and CEO of the entertainment marketing firm ROYGBIV Collective, referring to the 2005 Tom Cruise action thriller. “Well right now Hollywood is running, and they’re trying not to get zapped.”

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Trey Williams

Film Reporter covering the biz • • Twitter: @trey3williams