Tim Burton Is Too Goth For Onscreen Racial Diversity
Tim Burton, Hollywood's longtime king of mainstream macabre, is famous for incorporating a number of repeat elements into his oft-beloved films: Quirky, eccentric characters. Gorgeous, gothic stop-motion animation. Ethereal blonde ingenues. A pallid Johnny Depp.
Something he doesn't actively feature in his work? Racial diversity—and yes, he admits it.
While speaking to Bustle about his latest movie, Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, the favorite filmmaker of Hot Topic shoppers everywhere made some disappointing, tone-deaf remarks about onscreen diversity, indicating that he doesn't feel the need to incorporate black actors into his films just for the sake of it—despite the issue being much more systemic and larger than simply a creative choice.
"Nowadays, people are talking about it more, [but] things either call for things, or they don’t," he said.
"I remember back when I was a child watching The Brady Bunch and they started to get all politically correct, like, 'Ok, let’s have an Asian child and a black...' I used to get more offended by that than just—I grew up watching blaxploitation movies, right? And I said, that’s great. I didn’t go like, 'Ok, there should be more white people in these movies,'" the director added.
Unfortunately, Hollywood is not a post-racial industry, so Burton's troublesome, whiny argument of "why should I make a character black just for the hell of it, moooom?" doesn't fly.
In 2016, researchers at the University of Southern California concluded in a study that only 28.3 percent of all character dialogue on film was spoken by non-white characters. Similarly telling, over the Academy Awards' 87 years between 1927 and 2015, only 14 black actors have received acting-related awards.
Meanwhile, Samuel L. Jackson, Miss Peregrine's lone lead black actor and who, incidentally, plays a villain looking to violate the school's titular "home," also spoke to the site about the filmmaker's career-long failure to progressively cast actors of color.
"I had to go back in my head and go, how many black characters have been in Tim Burton movies? And I may have been the first [black character in a Tim Burton movie], I don’t know, or the most prominent in that particular way, but it happens the way it happens," the actor explained.
"I don’t think it’s any fault of his or his method of storytelling, it’s just how it’s played out. Tim’s a really great guy," he added.
It should be noted that Jackson's casting as a villain among an otherwise predominantly white cast seems to be a trend among filmmakers: He played the maniacal bad guy in both 2008's Jumper and 2014's Kingsman: The Secret Service, two films which featured white leads and white heroes.
As for Burton, it's unlikely that his predisposition for casting a certain type of actor (read: white—and the paler, the better) will suddenly shift, despite being called out on it. But just like Beetlejuice, maybe if all The Nightmare Before Christmas fans everywhere said "diversity" three times in a row, it would begin to materialize in his films.
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