One thing I like about the days around and following Christmas are the proliferation of old hit movies.
I just finished watching “The Wiz,” which was really enjoyable — I had seen it before — and realized it would have been bathed in woke controversy if released today.
Although the cast was all Black, it was directed by Philadelphia native Sidney Lumet. Nominated for five Oscars, he was white, and today, that would not fly.
“The Wiz” was not a Black carbon copy (no pun intended) of “The Wizard of Oz.” It stood on its own creativity.
It was unlike the Black version of “Hello Dolly,” which was a revival of the white version, the same show line for line.
“The Wiz” borrowed some of the “Oz” storyline, but the music and choreography were new, and Dorothy was transformed from a white Kansas teen to a 24-year-old Harlem schoolteacher.
I don’t know how many Black directors were working in Hollywood when “Wiz” was shot in 1978, but probably not many. Today, you could not have a white director direct Black actors.
People are touchy, and when I say “people,” I really mean Social Justice Warriors and/or woke.
When Lin-Manuel Miranda decided to cast nonwhite actors as Colonials in “Hamilton,” remember what happened? White people rioted, burned down movie theaters and looted sports equipment stores.
No, that didn’t happen. What did happen?
White people stormed the ticket office and turned “Hamilton” into a major hit. It won 11 Tony awards. If there was any white protest, I didn’t hear it.
Personally, I found it off-putting. Why?
Unlike “Hello Dolly” and “The Wiz,” this was history and Miranda was distorting history.
No big deal to you?
Let’s put the brogan on the other foot.
Remember “Glory,” the true story of the all-Black 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry in the Civil War? They were led by a white officer, but let’s recast the troops as white, too. Why not — their courage remains. Right?
Wrong. That would be insulting.
And historically inaccurate.
So Miranda benefitted from the liberal tastes of white people, who are the majority of the Broadway audience.
[Personal Disclosure: I was the Philadelphia Daily News’ theater critic, 1978-1980.]
Miranda was acclaimed for turning what might be called “colorism” on his head, and he was as pleased as the cat that swallowed the canary.
Until 2019, anyway.
When trailers for “In the Heights,” Miranda’s 2008 Broadway hit, started running, the film was broadly criticized by some for its lack of dark-skinned Afro-Latino folks in lead roles. This was condemned as a product of colorism and anti-Blackness in Hollywood—and in Latino communities as a whole.
Miranda went from swallowing the canary to eating crow. He abjectly apologized.
Imagine the impact this had on Black and Latinos who were thought to be “too white” to have deserved their jobs. Pretty awful.
To bring this into the present, the musical “1776” opened last year with nonwhite, nonbinary and assorted other “nons” cast as the Founding Fathers.
Isn’t this fun?
Not so much, reported The New York Times.
There has been some debate among cast members under the direction of two directors — very unusual — one Asian woman, and one Black man who was added after the death of George Floyd, the ex-con raised to sainthood.
During the rehearsal process, the Times reported, the directors had sought “consent from the Black folks in the play” to carry out its vision for the staging, which includes an evocation of a slave auction — but not from the rest of the cast, including non-Black actors of color.
This decision, said one cast member, “unconsciously held up a false narrative by assimilating non-Black POC folks into whiteness.”
Got that? Yes, it is a little hard to follow because the labyrinth of race becomes unmanageable when grievance takes a leading role over history and sanity.
Please notice I am not asking it be shut down, or that you shouldn’t see it.
I am saying I will not see it, and why.
I am not in the cancel business, and I oppose anyone who is.