Why Is A White Actor Playing Jackson A Big Deal?

By Jessica Moore

At this point in his life, Jackson’s rare skin condition vitiligo, had completely transformed his skin’s pigmentation, causing his skin to look much lighter. Jackson had also been through many facial reconstruction surgeries resulting in his african american facial features to look more like that of a caucasians facial features.  Many people agree that this is the reason for casting an actor outside of Jackson’s race. It is much simpler to make this white man look like Michael Jackson than a black man. The amount of makeup it would require to make a black man look like Jackson would most likely cause him to look strange and unrealistic.

Other points made by those who support Fiennes being casted are that he does have a good history with the films he does. Joseph Fiennes’s past movies such as  “Shakespeare in Love” did very well. This is because Fiennes is known for doing extensive research on his roles. For another upcoming film he will be doing called “Risen”, Fiennes spent some time in a gladiator school to learn about the role he is playing. 

Michael Jackson was an iconic figure during his time. The biggest issue people seem to have with a white man portraying Michael is that it is disrespectful to the black community and Jackson himself. Many black people grew up with Michael Jackson as a symbol that made them feel proud of their culture. As understandable as that is, the actors job is to portray a character and they should be allowed to do that regardless of their race. No one could ever truly live up the the image that is Michael Jackson because he had such a great impact and changed everything. But if an actor can express a character well, then their race shouldn’t take away from the fact that you see that character in that actors performance and it can be just as inspiring.  

Jackson himself has been quoted in a television interview in 1993 talking about an issue very similar to this current one. There apparently been a story about Jackson wanting a white child to portray him in a commercial. Jackson clarified that this was only a rumor and stated that he was horrified and disgusted at the thought of being portrayed as white when he was in fact black. “I am proud of my race and I am proud of who I am.” Jackson said. I however, find this statement questionable given his history. Michael Jackson endured around 10 to 12 plastic surgeries in two years on his face, altering it to the point where he looks like an entirely different person from when he was young. This doesn’t seem like the typical actions of a person who is entirely secure with who they are. People were outraged when they discovered Sky Arts casting decision because they believed it wasn’t what Jackson would have wanted, but to make the assumption that Jackson did attempt to whitewash himself, I believe wouldn’t be that outlandish of a claim.

An actor’s job is to get the idea of the character across to the audience and as long as the actor is doing that, it shouldn’t matter the race, gender etc. I believe that this message has far more potential to be progressive rather than, “Actors can only portray characters of their own race.” A white man playing the role of Michael Jackson is simply that. An actor playing a role. It doesn’t take away from the fact that Jackson was a black man that inspired black people all over the world in incredible ways.