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The Monochrome Mind-Set

August 16, 1992

The exchange of letters in last Sunday's Film Clips Mailbag, regarding the casting of a white actress as Mexican painter Frida Kahlo, once again raises the question of casting across ethnic lines. And once again, everybody seems to be missing the point.

As in the "Miss Saigon" controversy two years ago, the issue at hand is not ethnically specific casting--the issue is the entertainment industry's preferential treatment of white talent at the expense of minority talent.

Both Broadway and the major movie studios develop extremely few projects that call for non-white main characters. Even the Hollywood films with important minority themes (such as "Glory," "Dances With Wolves" and "Come See the Paradise") still build their stories around white protagonists.

This instantly prohibits minority actors from landing most lead roles, since performers of color--regardless of their talent--are almost never considered for white parts. So, when the rare lead minority role is given to a white actor, this creates a discriminatory double standard.

I wish that the entertainment industry would stop drumming up excuses to exclude actors of color from the spotlight and start doing more to give them the same opportunities as their Caucasian colleagues.

Last year's mini-explosion of low-budget African-American movies was a good start, but the industry musn't stop until it achieves parity between artists of all races.

Once this is accomplished, controversies about casting according to skin color will go the way of all flesh.

ROBERT PAYNE

Studio City

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