James Earl Jones dragged into Jenny Slate’s ‘Big Mouth’ casting debate
The Darth haters are out in full force.
Actresses Jenny Slate and Kristen Bell might’ve garnered online praise after stepping down from voicing biracial TV characters this week amid accusations of whitewashing. However, online detractors were quick to point out that African-American screen legend James Earl Jones voiced a “white character” in “Star Wars” sans any criticism, sparking a raging Twitter debate on race-appropriate casting.
“James Earl Jones played Darth Vader a white guy, no one thought it was weird,” tweeted one naysayer in response to a post about Slate, 38, portraying biracial character Missy Foreman-Greenwald in Netflix’s “Big Mouth.” He was referencing the fact that Jones, 89, provided the voice for the space opera villain, who was played on screen in “Star Wars: The Return Of the Jedi” by white actor David Prowse.
The Twitter film critic added, “Voice actors bring a voice to a character not a race.”
Another social media denizen questioned that sentiment, saying, “If there’s a talented voice actor that is race appropriate, cast that actor. It’s simple.”
One Twitter user exhumed an interview Jones did with Dick Cavett in 1972, in which the legendary actor said he’d like to play Ludwig Van Beethoven, who was white.
However, others balked at the comparison. “[Jones] was playing a cyborg man in a robot suit, not a white guy,” said one social media movie buff. “He was playing something that doesn’t exist.”
Another pointed out that “Darth Vader wasn’t even inherently a white character when James Earl Jones took the role, he didn’t become Luke’s father until ‘Empire [Strikes Back]’ was being written. That was also forty years ago and not at all comparable to a black character being voiced by a white actor in the present.”
“James Earl Jones about to apologize for taking a voice acting role away from a lion somewhere in Africa,” quipped one Twitter wit about Jones’ role as Mufasa in “The Lion King.”
Some pointed out that a black actor playing a white guy isn’t reverse racism because the latter doesn’t experience systemic discrimination.
“People of color playing white people doesn’t have the same long history of discrimination, bigotry, and exclusion,” observed one.
“This whole but James Earl Jones played Vader is bulls–t,” fumed another in a Twitter cinema dissertation. “It’s about more than actors playing the parts of different races. It’s about one more way to systematically exclude black people from picking up a f–king paycheck in Hollywood when they have a hard enough time getting work.”
The Post reached out to Jones’ reps for comment about his newfound trending status but did not immediately hear back.
The online war comes as other controversial media receives the ax following the death of George Floyd and other black men while in police custody. On Wednesday, Hulu scrapped three episodes of “Scrubs” which featured characters in blackface, and entertainers ranging from telenovela actress Eiza Gonzalez to talk-show host Jimmy Kimmel have faced criticism for offensive unearthed clips.
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