Joe Doakes from Como Park emails:
I found “Robin Hood” on Netflix, the updated version released by the BBC in 2006. The casting was more interesting than the show.
The BBC modernized the story but only up to the 2006 Code of Stereotypes: the Bad Guy Sheriff of Nottingham must be a White male, Maid Marian must be a butt-kicking, wise-cracking feminist, the hero’s side-kick must be a dumb White guy to serve as the butt of all jokes, all war veterans must have PTSD and be ticking time-bombs for violence, at least one racial minority must play a supporting role as Member Of The Merry Band (Hispanic preferred) and most important of all, no Black may be cast in an unsympathetic light.
In 2014, that Code has been updated to require at least one gay character and, if at all possible, a disabled person, e.g. “Glee.”
In this “Robin Hood,” there is no Friar Tuck in the Merry Band (religious characters are forbidden under the new Code), but there is a Saracen woman named D’jaq and of course, she’s smarter than all of the White males put together. But get this – D’jaq is supposed to be slave captured by King Richard’s armies fighting Saladin in the Middle East. She ought to be an Arab Muslim. But she’s played by an English actress of Indian descent using a Pakistani accent to sound foreign. Why? Probably because there is a giant immigrant population in England from former Crown colonies like India and Pakistan and the BBC Code must acknowledge them by substituting a Paki for a Hispanic in the Member Of The Band slot.
The most amazing thing of all? The Master-at-Arms, who kills innocent women and children so the Sheriff can blame Robin Hood for it, is a Black man. The fake Abbess who’s really a con artist, is a Black women. Black people are criminals! That would never happen in an American series.
Rearranging the priority of victims to cater to local sympathies makes business sense for the film maker. But it also reflects a certain callousness. Casting a show to fit the Stereotype Code means you don’t actually care about the people being stereotyped, only that the correct boxes are checked to meet your quotas.
I think I wrote about that a few years back, when my kids were still watching the Disney Channel (back when I’d still let kids watch the Disney Channel); all of the cookie cutter “Disney Movies” had the same basic characters:
- The spunky, low-income white kid.
- The Latina tomboy who kicked everyone’s butts athletically (except, perhaps, #4 below
- The black, Chloe-O’Brien-level tech nerd. Always, always, always the black kid was the nerd.
- The lead character – almost always a blonde white boy…
…and a painstakingly-mixed bunch of supporting characters.