Yes, it’s Still Blackface: How White Actors Center Themselves in Hollywood


Hello fans! Long time no post! If you’ve been paying attention to the news going around the fandom, I guess you all know why I’ve returned to this blog even though I never really left. There just wasn’t any inspiration for me to write in regards to MJ. Although, I have been posting on my art blog about things that have been happening with me in regards to visual arts.

A year ago, it was brought to MJ fans attention that SkyArts would be broadcasting a satirical British program by the name of Urban Myths. One upcoming episode in particular has recently caused a massive outcry of anger from not just hard core MJ fans, but from the general public (especially Black twitter) and even Michael’s family. This episode was supposed to be based on a rumor that Elizabeth Taylor and Michael Jackson took a road trip across the country side after 9/11.

I cannot express how disgusted I am with their decision to cast a white man, Joseph Fiennes, in a role playing the entertainer. Even though the outrage caused SkyArts to cancel the episode, the damage has been done to Fienne’s reputation (although, I couldn’t care less about what happens to his career).

White washing in Hollywood is not a new thing, but what happens when you erase Black people with the skin disease vitiligo from the “Black experience”? Is it not still blackface when you try to portray a real person on film? Does a lack of pigment suddenly change your race? Does a cosmetic change in a person’s physical appearance give a white person permission to play them on TV? You should already know the answer to those questions. Black face is blackface, period.

Michael was a real person, who repeatedly stated that he did not want a white person portraying him on TV. He was proud of his race. And so, I find it extremely irritating when people say “well, he got plastic surgery, he was close to the complexion of a white person anyway, so I don’t see what the big deal is”. Having vitiligo does not correlate to plastic surgery in any way first of all. Secondly, I find it odd that people will equate a thin nose and straight hair to being attributes only exclusive to white people. White people who like to point out how MJ “hated his race” love to center themselves in the discussion. I went in on this even more with this thread. What really are “white features”? Black people can have blue eyes, they can be white passing (mixed), light skinned, or the darkest shade you can imagine. So again, what skin tone or hair type is “white”?

Also, the question I pose for white people who like to point out someone’s hate for being their race; how come this doesn’t happen in your community? Oh wait, it’s because your ancestors created these warped beauty standards that society upholds in order to make people of color insecure about their natural features. Gosh, I forgot about that. So really, why do you think it’s your place to be so anti black/POC?

Black people who adhere to a certain limited expression of what blackness really is, have made it hard for others to be flexible and comfortable in theirs, in my opinion. When you hold your blackness as the only blackness that is valid, you are actually being anti black. Also, when you are making fun of a celebrity like Michael because he happened to get a nose job or two, and a cleft in his chin,  someone who was told very early on in life that his “black features” were not beautiful, you are being anti-black. You are part of the problem. We have enough obstacles to face in this world, so stop being so hypercritical of someone who did more things for this community than you ever have, while you laugh at the shape of his nose. This constant effort by some to strip MJ of his Black identity has to stop. It’s disgusting. He was not the only person in the world with vitiligo, and his type of vitiligo is not unique only to him. You would have to be a complete idiot to believe that you can use simple bleaching creams to turn your skin completely white, and if it were possible I’d be surprised that you don’t already have aggressive skin cancer, or other problems.

Let’s get back to Joseph Fiennes. He has yet to issue an official sincere apology for thinking it would be okay to play an obviously black man in an Urban Myths episode. I personally think he thought he wouldn’t be called out, even though he claimed to “wrestle” with the decision to play MJ, and supposedly wanted to be respectful towards his family and fans. Those are just excuses. You knew what you were doing, and you didn’t consider Michael “black enough” to be portrayed accurately. Your feelings should not be centered in any discussion on this matter, and I am tired of white actors making excuses that casting directors couldn’t find actors of color. It is not your role to play, so hand it to someone else.


2 thoughts on “Yes, it’s Still Blackface: How White Actors Center Themselves in Hollywood

  1. I understand what you are saying in this blog, but it’s not just the media that try’s to denied MJ race. They are a lot of fans that consider him a white man. I have seen hardcore fans post on blogs of pics of him and they say things like I like the white MJ better. WHITE! REALLY!

    • I’ve seen fans do this too. It’s very disappointing, and that’s why I make it my job to let fans know that he was unapologetically Black and proud. They shouldn’t erase his race just because vitiligo took over his skin pigmentation.

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