When I heard that Yara Shahidi was going to play as Tinkerbell for the live-action Peter Pan remake, I was excited and thought this was a great role for her. I also thought of how this announcement was going to be taken by others who are much less enthusiastic. Let’s be honest, in this day and age there is a lot of social media outrage when there is an African American person playing a role that is stereotypically Caucasian. To some, an African American cannot play outside of a role that does not depict them as a slave, thug, villain, or a simple n-word. One example is when Chloe & Halle singer Halle Bailey was announced to play as Ariel in a remake of the “Little Mermaid.” Even though it was a great opportunity for her and black culture, many intolerant people were using the hashtag #NotMyAriel on social media and claimed the black actress messed up the traditional story.
Now I am not here to talk about how the movie industry is racist or anything of a negative nature. What I want to talk about is how seeing African Americans outside of stereotypical roles is such a positive thing. Growing up when you see an African American playing in a stereotypical role most likely you think nothing of it. For you, it may not matter if the black man was playing a thug, pimp, or drug dealer. For some people it’s what we see in real life. It was something that even I saw as wrong even when I was young.
From a young child, I saw a majority of my favorite shows and movies played by a Caucasian. The first time I saw an African American in a positive role, as the main character or the hero, was a surreal moment for me. At first, I could say that I was shocked, but overall, it made me happy. One of the moments I remember having that feeling was when I saw the singers Brandy and Whitney Houston play as Cinderella and the Fairy Godmother in Rodger and Hammerstein’s “Cinderella.” It made me glad to see someone who looks like me portraying a positive role. For many young African American children that same feeling can be felt from seeing Chadwick Boseman play as the Black Panther, or when they saw Princess Tiana in the “Princess and the Frog.” Even some of the older generation took pleasure in seeing Earth Kitt playing as Catwoman, or when Toni Braxton played as Belle in Broadway “Beauty and the Beast”.
As a child when you see someone who looks like you in a high status position, it is a magical experience. It is because you have someone who can be or is a positive role model for you. Now I am not saying that actors of other races cannot be positive role models as well. It is to important, however, to see other African American on the screen doing things outside of what is seen every day.
At the end of the day, the cinema world is constantly changing. In the future, there will be many announcements like Yara Shahidi’s. While they may not be what you imagine, these types of actors and actresses deserve the change to being able to portray characters outside the normality and expectations of society. Being that one character for a moment may inspire or change the life of whoever it is watching them.