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Shia LaBeouf accused of brownface & Halle Berry quits her transgender role… to please woke crowds, we must simply #cancelacting

Zachary Leeman
Zachary Leeman

is the author of the novel Nigh and journalist who covers art and culture. He has previously written for outlets such as Breitbart, LifeZette, and BizPac Review among others. Follow him on Twitter @WritingLeeman

is the author of the novel Nigh and journalist who covers art and culture. He has previously written for outlets such as Breitbart, LifeZette, and BizPac Review among others. Follow him on Twitter @WritingLeeman

Shia LaBeouf accused of brownface & Halle Berry quits her transgender role… to please woke crowds, we must simply #cancelacting
Cop shows are being canceled & actors are being targeted for saying the wrong thing or playing the ‘wrong’ role. These knee-jerk reactionary social justice warriors simply do not understand art.

Halle Berry has announced she is stepping away from a role as a transgender character after causing outrage, while Shia LaBeouf is being accused of brownface. The only way to please these woke mobs is to just cancel acting altogether.

The tragedy that stands tall above all others in the world of pop culture in 2020 is cancel culture moving to the mainstream. 

While the trend of targeting and penalizing people for doing or saying things that may not fit with whatever the trending social topic of the moment is has hurt careers and art before, it’s reached a deafening level this year. The worst part is there aren’t many within the entertainment industry who dare to stand up to this groupthink. 

One of the latest examples of this spineless bowing comes courtesy of Academy Award winning actress Halle Berry. While the actress has a history of breaking barriers in Hollywood – she was the first black actress to take home the Oscar for Best Actress in 2002 – she was targeted this week for her decision to take on a role as a transgender character.

Berry stirred the hornet’s nest with an Instagram interview where she mentioned the part and made the colossal, irredeemable mistake of referring to the character – supposed to be a woman transitioning into a man – as a “woman” and a “she.”

The backlash was swift, with Berry being accused of misgendering and taking an opportunity away from trans actors. 

It took less than a day for the actress to respond by giving up the role and apologizing for her remarks:

Berry is not the first to back away from a transgender role following ridicule from online “activists.” Scarlett Johansson did the same in 2018 after being criticized as a cisgendered woman taking on the role of massage parlor operator Dante “Tex” Gill. 

Transgender roles, however, are far from the only thing being held to the vague standards of the screaming woke voices on social media.

Brownface or just reality?

Shia LaBeouf and director David Ayer have been taking heat for their upcoming film ‘The Tax Collector’, which follows a story set amidst Latino gangs in Los Angeles. LaBeouf plays the white best friend of the main character (portrayed by Bobby Soto). Despite Ayer saying LaBeouf’s character is based on a real person, the actor has been accused of brownface and cultural appropriation over the role. 

Ayer has spent many days on Twitter responding directly to criticism, using logic to back up his arguments, which is always a bad idea when dealing with the digital PC-police.

“Shia is playing a whiteboy who grew up in the hood. This is a Jewish dude playing a white character. Also the only white dude in the movie,” he tweeted to one user who seemed confused about the fact that LaBeouf could be playing a white character amidst a sea of Latino performers.

“I grew up hood and I’m a whiteboy. Chicano culture is inclusive — I’ve seen whiteys, Asians, Blacks, Filipinos all putting in work for the hood. It’s part of street culture,” he wrote in another tweet. 

In other messages, the director had to clarify once more that LaBeouf is not playing a Latino character – “not brown face” – and that the actor based his performance on a real person. 

Woke crowds don’t understand art

Combine these stories with a year that has brought us the cancellation of shows like ‘Live PD’ and ‘Cops’ – both reality-based programming that shows officers performing their jobs – the suggestion that any material using police as protagonists should be ceased, and other celebrities finding themselves trashed for expressing opinions that dissent in one way or another from extreme liberalism, and there is a problem woke crowds are clearly facing when it comes to pop culture: they don’t understand art. 

Of course, Halle Berry and others do not have firsthand experience as transgender citizens. That is where this little thing called acting comes into play. Take ‘Philadelphia’, a film where Tom Hanks plays a gay man dying of AIDs, or ‘Bound’, a picture featuring two straight women playing lesbians. Both movies have been looked upon fondly for their fair depictions of gay Americans in the face of oppresive cultures. 

Try casting those films today and there would be instant backlash to the idea of straight people depicting the experiences of gay characters.

Cancel culture is completely reactionary. See a cisgendered woman playing a transgender character? Write out a 160 character tweet about how outraged you are and you’ll be listened to. See a cast of Latino characters and one white actor amongst them? Again, write that tweet out, and you may put the director on the defense, making him explain something that should need no explanation. There is no real thought or complexity to these criticisms. They are based on simplified views of reality that should have no influence on art. 

Artists needs to wise up 

Luckily, some have seen the onslaught of criticisms for what they are. Filmmaker Nick Searcy rightly pointed out that perhaps acting itself is too large and complex a concept for social justice warriors to wrap their heads around. He also went on to issue a sarcastic apology for all the killers and abusers he’s portrayed, despite not being either.

The nuances of story and complex emotions central to the very best art can’t fit into the reactionary boxes that define the mindsets of modern woke liberals. By trying to be inclusionary, they are only boxing in stories and actors, instead of taking a step back, letting go of their binary politics, and realizing that maybe it’s possible a white man in America can grow up in a predominantly Latino neighborhood and talk and act the way LaBeouf does in ‘Tax Collector’, or maybe an actor does not need to check off every social box of the characters they are playing.

The rise of cancel culture and the seeming respect it is shown by both studios and performers desperate not to lose the small portion of the population whining on Twitter is a very dangerous thing for the arts. These woke critics divide in the name of inclusion and destroy in the name of social maturity without thinking about the consequences. 

Unless creatives want to eventually be deprived of their freedom to tell honest stories and be involved in daring, untold works, then they must recognize these digital mobs for the knee-jerk reactionary social justice warriors that they are. 

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The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

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