I recently stumbled across an article, “What it’s Really Like to Work in Hollywood (if you’re not a straight white man.)” and wanted to bring us back to the earlier discussions of Hollywood Shuffle and the exploitation of people and races through the entertainment industry. As Bobby struggled to find accessibility into this industry, many actors, male, female, African American, Latino, Asian, and more, continue to be confronted with the same roadblocks even today.
Hollywood Shuffle identified a theme of black actors having to assume a specific role, rather than being afforded the same freedoms white actors have of playing a character. The sheer availability of roles for black actors were limited to stereotypical depictions of criminals, slaves, pimps, or butlers, and denied black actors the ability to play anything outside of that. This doesn’t only limit the entrance for Black actors into this particular industry, but creates an environment where African American actors are treated as indispensable, as interchangeable goods rather than people. When Bobby finally realizes he can’t stomach perpetuating the inaccurate stereotypes of “blackness” on the screen, he is quickly replaced by a number of men on the set- including the man who recognized the racialization of the industry as “bullshit”.
The article presents quotes from a number of established actors and actresses in the industry and confront the realities of finding success as a minority. There are issues with “sell-ability” of a particular race, where the only opportunities for people of color continue to lie in assuming a fixed role. There is no room for those who reject perpetuating inaccurate stereotypes. Asians depicted with thick accents just for the sake of it, Latinas are hyper-sexualized, while Latino men are crooks. There are also persisting issues with those who drive the industry; accomplished women and minorities are beginning to fulfill roles as actors, producers, directors, but are still required to answer to wealthy white executives who make final decisions.
The difficulty of pursuing a dream while being degraded doing it is confronted in Bamboozled. We see Delacroix and Mantan grappling with whether the pursuit of their careers is worth the exploitation and degradation they face while performing and executing their performances. The idea that you have to sacrifice one for the other, identity for your dreams, is an unfair stipulation of the entertainment industry, and one that is only asked of by minority actors and actresses.
“The gatekeepers are not usually people of color, so they don’t understand you should be looking for way more colors of the rainbow within that one ethnicity.”
“…just because the surname is Latino, that automatically means you have an accent. I’ve been told that I wasn’t Latino enough, which was code for street enough.”