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Sunday, November 27, 2011

Islamic Dress

In my classes, we have been talking quite a bit about Islam, which prompted me to write a post about Islamic dress. Before I begin talking about anything, I want to clarify the different types of headscarves worn by Muslim women. Click here to be taken to a BBC page describing the different options for covering the head.

There have been moves in European nations (notably France) to ban the burka or niqab. Many people, when reading this news, assume that they are trying to ban headscarves all together. This is not the case: they are attempting to ban garments that completely obscure the face.

This seems to make sense, right? You would be hard pressed to be able to tell the difference between two women wearing a burka. These measures would be instituted for security reasons, you need to be able to see a person's face to identify them, which is important for public safety reasons.

But is this an issue of taking away someone's religious freedoms? Many people say no: they are freeing Islamic women from having to wear an oppressive garment. But there are Muslim women who disagree. Christina Michelmore, an associate professor of history at Chatham College said, "I think that for many young women, it's a symbol they are attached to their culture, they're proud of their religion, and they see it as part of their identity as separate from this globalized McDonald's world" (full article that this is from here). Those Muslim women in the United States who choose to wear a veil do it because they want to, not because they feel that they must. They view it as a pious act to sacrifice for their religion.

Some women like wearing the veil, they say it is actually MORE liberating than going without. They do not have to worry what they present like on the outside, when people get to know them they know their true selves instead of how well they dress or how nice their hair looks on that day.

Is it strange that much of the outcry against the head coverings come from Western feminists? Maybe it is that since the veil is strange to us, it is automatically viewed as foreign and oppressive, because we do not understand the reasons that many Muslim women choose to wear the veil. I now open these ideas to you, readers, and ask: what do you think about the attempted banning of niqabs and burqas in some Western nations? How about wearing a veil in general? Do you feel that it is oppressive? And if there are any Muslim women (or men) reading this, I'd love to hear your opinions on the issue as well.

Thanks again for reading, and until next time,

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Color-Blind Casting

Today I'd like to talk a little bit about color-blind casting in both Broadway plays and Hollywood movies. This is an issue for both nonwhite actors and those who study and percieve racial inequalities in the United States (I'm going to stick to just the US, because there are other racial issues when moving to other countries). To begin to address this issue, the root starts at the scripts for movies and plays. This chart shows the breakdown of casting calls between June 1-August 31, 2006 for roles (not extras or stunt people):

Not only do the vast majority of specified roles go to white people, but almost half of all of the roles are unspecified roles that by default go to white people.

It's pretty easy to see the inequality here, but let's play a little devil's advocate and move to the other side of the issue. There are movies and plays that REQUIRE specific genders to increase the plot's meaning. Take a play/movie like Hairspray, for example. The plot hinges upon there being black and white characters. If Penny and Seaweed weren't a black man and white woman, would the song "Without Love" make any sense at all?

Let's look at some recent examples of mixed-race casting. One movie that recently came under fire was M. Night Shyamalan's The Last Airbender. This movie is based on the children's show Avatar: The Last Airbender, an animated show in which all of the main characters were Asian.

But in the live action movie version, most of the actors playing these characters were white. 

Shyamalan's response? He actually WAS practicing color blind casting: he chose which actors he thought best for the main roles, regardless of their race. He claimed that the anime style of the original series left the race of the main characters open for interpretation, and he took the artistic interpretation he was allowed as director. 

And sometimes, white actors are chosen to play non-white characters. Angelina Jolie, who usually looks like this:
Played Marlane Pearl, a French reporter with Afro-Cuban and Dutch heritage in the film A Mighty Heart. Jolie's skin and hair were darkened for the role, so that she more resembled Pearl.
But Jolie was selected by Pearl herself, believing that Jolie would provide the most integrity to the role.

So my question to you, readers, is:
Should color-blind casting always be practiced? Sometimes? Never? When is it appropriate?
Feel free to leave your thoughts on color-blind casting vs traditional, race-specified casting in the comments.

As always, thanks for reading!!