If the #OscarsSoWhite backlash wasn’t enough, here’s something else to add to the controversy.
Shakespeare in Love actor Joseph Fiennes, who happens to be white, has been cast to play Michael Jackson in an upcoming British comedy titled Elizabeth, Michael & Marlon. The show is reported to be about an “unconfirmed” road trip MJ supposedly took with Elizabeth Taylor and Marlon Brando after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
Weird concept aside, the backlash is geared towards MJ being played by a white actor. As the world knows by now, Jackson suffered from the skin condition vitiligo, a condition which depletes pigmentation in the skin in patches, forcing him to use skin lightening agents to form a more cohesive, even complexion.
“Joseph Fiennes is going to portray Michael Jackson?…Are you kidding me?…Fiennes is a good actor…But…Michael Jackson?” one Twitter user tweeted.
“Joseph Fiennes is going to play Michael Jackson. How, what…kind of whitewashing monstrosity is this?” @solemnemptiness tweeted.
@cag419 added, “Y is Joseph Fiennes playing Michael Jackson in your film? That is ridiculous. Where is the petition to stop this?? #whitewashing.”
The screenwriter for the show, Neil Forsyth, revealed on Twitter today that the project has already been filmed.
So….This is a hard one. (Even though we would like to forget), remember when actor Flex Alexander (who’s black) played MJ in the lifetime movie? Remember how bad the makeup was? He just ended up looking ashy. Putting believable white makeup on brown skin is a daunting task, (the movie White Chicks, anyone?), so hiring a white actor may be easier, but could he pull off MJ’s persona? That’s a daunting task, and even Alexander struggled to be taken seriously by viewers in that serious role. But with this being a comedy, could this casting decision be excused, or is it offensive either way? Plus, there are many white MJ impersonators.
But for the record, MJ told Oprah in a 1993 interview that he thinks a white actor playing him is ridiculous:
MJ said it “doesn’t matter if your black or white,” but when it comes to this, what do you think, Roomies?