Discrimination and dubbing: the earthquake that could change everything

Since the black lives matter movement started we witnessed several consequences on the world of entertainment. From censored films and series episodes being removed from streaming platforms to dubbers dropping out of their historical roles or disowning them: the world of entertainment could never be the same again, with the dubbers bearing the brunt of these radical events.

After the Gone With The Wind case things escalated quite quickly within the world entertainment. Episodes from Scrubs and Community featuring blackface have been removed from streaming platforms such as Netflix, but the worst could be happening to the world of dubbing. While Mike Henry, who played the well-known character of Cleveland Brown for 20 years, stepped down from his role so a black person could play Cleveland, Alison Brie, who voiced Diane Nguyen in Bojack Horseman, apologised for playing the Vietnamese American woman in the series. The same thing happened with Kristen Bell and Jenny Slate, who both resigned from their roles (respectively Molly Tillerman on Central Park and Missy on Big Mouth), and the producers of The Simpsons announced they will stop to use white actors to dub non-white characters.

This all series of events will certainly have some major consequences on the future choices for a character role, and mostly every person in the industry is going to be scared of making a choice that could be seen under a bad light from the large audience. The question now is: is all this going to narrow the chances of having the best possible person to play a specific character? Why do we have to restrict the prerequisites for a character that needs to be dubbed just to ethnicity? The voice of a character has the goal to suit to its design and nature: will we have to see mediocre performances just because the best available person doesn’t share the same ethnicity of the character they have to play? This is not just limited to white actors playing non-white characters but vice-versa too; is it so hard to picture a non-white person voicing a white character?

Acting has always been the act of interpreting someone else, who might be a totally different person or of a different ethnicity as well. Using the ethnicity of a person to determine whether that person can play a role or not is a form of discrimination: everyone should be free to interpret any character if there is no evident aim to offend some specific ethnic group by doing so. We have examples of black actors interpreting white characters with great success, with one of the most recent and famous one is the dubber of Kratos in the new series of God Of War, Christopher Judge: his voice is just perfect for the character, and he did an amazing job on his interpretation of Kratos.

Establishing the fact that casting someone just because of his skin colour or because of his ethnicity is, in fact, a dangerous form of discrimination, the industry reaction has to be important: no matter the skin colour of the character, the job has to be given to someone because of acting and performing skills, and not for any other reasons. If there’s a non-white person who interprets the character better than a white person, there shouldn’t be any issue with that, and so it should be vice-versa. Extremism is never a good thing and this delicate subject has to be dealt with in the best possible way: remove boundaries, diversify the industry and give the chance to everyone to be free to express their talent, with no fear of repercussions or consequences.

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