In a new essay in the New York Times, Indian-American comedian Aziz Ansari criticizes Hollywood for always casting straight white men as the go-to characters in films and TV shows.
In his Times essay, the 32-year-old stand-up comic and former Parks and Recreation co-star expresses frustration at the lack of leading minority depictions on screen, writing:
Even at a time when minorities account for almost 40 percent of the American population, when Hollywood wants an “everyman,” what it really wants is a straight white guy. But a straight white guy is not every man. The “everyman” is everybody.
Ansari also laments the misrepresentation of minority characters on screen, telling of the time he learned that one of his favorite Indian characters was actually white.
Ansari describes learning an actor he believed to be Indian, Fisher Stevens, who starred in 1998’s Short Circuit 2, was actually white. Stevens actually played the role in “brownface,” which the comedian says shocked him, as Stevens’ character had inspired him has a young man.
“Mr. Stevens’s efforts to make the character real, and not a full-on ethnic cartoon, are admirable, despite the underlying insult of his being cast,” he concludes.
Ansari also believes he has been typecast by his ethnicity and complains of roles he has been offered in the past.
“Even though I’ve sold out Madison Square Garden as a standup comedian and have appeared in several films and a TV series, when my phone rings, the roles I’m offered are often defined by ethnicity and often require accents,” he writes, before calling on the “straight white guy” to give minority actors a shot.
“So if you’re a straight white guy, do the industry a solid and give minorities a second look,” he writes, citing Arnold Schwarzenegger’s role in the 1984 hit Terminator.
Of Schwarzenegger’s role, Ansari notes:
There had to be someone who heard his name tossed around for the role and thought: Wait, why would the robot have an Austrian accent? No one’s gonna buy that! We gotta get a robot that has an American accent! Just get a white guy from the States. Audiences will be confused. Nope. They weren’t. Because, you know what? No one really cares.
Ansari admits to auditioning for a role in Matt Damon’s The Martian, but says he only skimmed the script and concluded it seemed like “a boring movie about a white guy stuck on Mars for two hours who gets fired up about plants.”
Read the rest of Aziz Ansari’s New York Times essay here.