Studio Glibly+ Your Authors @NoTotally Shaun Lau. He/him residing on unceded Tongva land. Jul. 13, 2019 3 min read + Your Authors

What is it about straight cis white people where they need to group everyone else in with flora and fauna

If you don't mind, let's talk briefly about the usually spurious "artistic freedom" arguments that are usually placed in opposition to representational casting decisions, which Johansson seems to be making here.

First, I say that these arguments are spurious because you can be both for creative freedom and for representational casting. The idea that the latter automatically infringes on the former is sort of transparently false.

Casting or writing any character is a creative decision, and art should ideally stand up to interrogation and interpretation. If the motive behind non-representational casting is "because I should do what I want," I'm not sure that's an artistic decision.

Likewise, writing or casting white or cis or majoritized isn't typically seen as an artistic decision, because those groups are typically seen as default, unpoliticized. The problem is that that type of writing and casting is, actually, inherently political and also artistic.

People aren't used to having to justify casting a white person, for example. So it's often called "artistic freedom" rather than interpreted as an artistic choice. "Why is this character white" is a question that rarely gets asked. "Because they're... just normal."

Normalizing whiteness and majoritized identities are the default method of creation, but as marginalized folks have increasing opportunities to interrogate these artistic choices publicly, it becomes more clear that the "default" is, in fact, a choice.

And it's often a harmful choice, because of the way mass entertainment depiction impacts what people can feel is "normal." Representational writing and casting can expand a sense of humanity that includes marginalized and vulnerable people.

The main thing that's missing from something like Johansson's analysis, if I may, is that we all exist in a broad historical context that includes the past, present, and future.

If you focus solely on the present (and solely on one's self), it's easy to say that one person's ability to play or write or cast however they please is an issue of "artistic freedom." But that's leaving out a ton of context.

If we add in the past and the future, we can see that the past has resulted in the systemic normalization of, eg., white favoritism in entertainment depictions. And we know that that has a negative impact for anyone that isn't white.

If the future we want to get to is one without the systemic normalization of majoritized identities, that's great. I think it's easy to see why that would be the least harmful outcome in terms of progression and projection into the future.

But the future does rely on the present, so it's disingenuous, if you've got access to large entertainment systems, to both say that you want an inclusive future and that you should have total "artistic freedom."

Change is a bleeding edge, and it does take someone (usually many more than one someone) to actually set a foundation for change in the future. People have to, at some point, take action, if that's the future that we ever want to arrive.

Taking all of that into context- the past, present, and future- makes it clear that today's majoritized "freedom" actually negatively impacts, in the present and the future, the artistic freedom of the marginalized folks being swept aside.

In this way, majoritized creators are actually doing the opposite of expressing artistic freedom, if what they're talking about is an inclusive version of it: they're actively opposing the artistic freedom of people who have historically never had a chance.

So if you want to talk about "artistic freedom," you HAVE to be inclusive, and you have to start now. That might mean stepping aside, which you may feel limits your own "freedom." But if not you, who? And if not now, when?


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