This week, the casting director of "The Hobbit" was fired for turning away a woman of Pakistani descent for being too dark to play a hobbit. The agent also placed an advertisement in a New Zealand newspaper seeking extras with "light skin tones."
"We are looking for light-skinned people. I’m not trying to be … whatever. It’s just the brief. You’ve got to look like a Hobbit," said the agent in video footage captured during auditions. After the person in question was fired, producer and director Peter Jackson distanced himself from the casting director, who remains unnamed.
"The crew member in question took it upon themselves to do that and it’s not something we instructed or condoned,” said a spokesman from Jackson's production company. "No such instructions were given."
Considering the film's origins as a book series rooted in Anglo-Saxon, Northern European lore, should the casting director have been fired? Bloggers debate whether this was an instance of racism or political correctness:
- This Is Heated, writes the staff at Movie Web:
This has caused quite a bit of controversy, with both sides of the issue giving their reasons for why the decision is right and wrong. While some see no problem whatsoever with casting according to what has come before in the franchise, [the dismissed actor] stated, "It's 2010 and I still can't believe I'm being discriminated against because I have brown skin."
- Does Jackson Really Think He's Innocent? wonders Sean O'Neal at The A.V. Club:
Peter Jackson’s production company released a statement clarifying that the casting director had acted totally alone, and that it had never made any explicit specifications that they should only be auditioning white people. All it ever did was make three Lord Of The Rings films without any black people.
- There Are Two Ways to Look at This, writes Matthew Perpetua at New York magazine:
The casting director was under the impression that only white people could be hobbits, which is either racist or depressingly unimaginative. It's hard to say! (It's probably both.)
- I'm Torn, writes the staff at Worst Previews:
JRR Tolkien never really described the color of the hobbits, but Middle Earth and it's stories are derived entirely of Anglo-Saxon, Celtic, and Norse lore which were all of the white race... Is this racism, or should a production be allowed to cast actors based on the color of their skin?
- This Is Pretty Silly, writes the staff at Get the Big Picture:
There's a difference between hating or judging someone by the color of their skin vs. not looking the part of a cast member which best conveys the story and the environment. I mean, you can't cast a Caucasian guy to play the role of Shaft just like you can't cast a black guy to be King George VI (King's Speech).
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.