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Jenny Slate and Kristen Bell Step Down as Voices Behind Biracial Characters on “Big Mouth” and “Central Park”

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  • Though most of the entertainment industry has been reflecting on how they have contributed to racial inequality, the world of animation captured particular attention this week. 
  • Jenny Slate apologized Wednesday and said she will no longer voice the biracial character, Missy, in the Netflix cartoon series “Big Mouth.”
  • That same day, Kristen Bell and the team behind Apple TV+’s new animated series “Central Park” said she will no longer voice the mixed-raced character, Molly.
  • Earlier this week, the creator of “BoJack Horseman” expressed regret about casting Alison Brie to voice the Vietnamese American character, Diane Nguyen, among other decisions.

Jenny Slate Leaves Big Mouth

Over the past several weeks, Hollywood leaders have been pushed to confront systemic racism and diversity issues that exist within their industry and projects.

For some shows and movies, the issues are much more visually present. For example, just this week, “30 Rock,” “Scrubs,” and other shows pulled episodes from streaming sites that included blackface. Meanwhile, HBO added a context disclaimer to “Gone with the Wind” after many noted that it perpetuates painful stereotypes. 

But the issues don’t just end there, and recently, people have also been focusing a lot of attention on casting in animated programs. Some relatively new shows that were particularly criticized are Netflix’s cartoon series “Big Mouth” and the Apple TV+  series “Central Park,” which both have biracial characters voiced by white actors. 

At least that was the case until Wednesday when actor and comedian Jenny Slate announced she will no longer be voicing the young Black character Missy on “Big Mouth.”

In a statement she posted to Instagram, she wrote, “At the start of the show, I reasoned with myself that it was permissible for me to paly ‘Missy’ because her mom is Jewish and White – as am I.”

“But ‘Missy’ is also Black, and Black character on an animated show should be played by Black people. I acknowledge how my original reasoning was flawed, that it existed as an example of white privilege and unjust allowances made within a system of societal white supremacy, and that in me playing ‘Missy,’ I was engaging in an act of erasure of Black people,” she continued.

“Ending my portrayal of ‘Missy’ is one step in a life-long process of uncovering the racism in my actions.” 

Slate went on to say that as she looks back at her career, she realizes she’s made mistakes, adding that while she can’t change the past, she can take accountability. She also promised to engage in meaningful anti-racist actions and closed with, “Most importantly, though, to anyone that I’ve hurt: I am so very sorry: Black voices must be heard. Black Lives Matter.”

Her decision was met with support from the show’s creators, who issued a joint statement a short time later. In it, they apologized and said they “wholeheartedly agree, that ‘Missy’ should be voiced by a Black actor.”

This was pretty big news considering the fact that Slate has played this character for three seasons since it premiered in 2017. Three more seasons of the show have already been ordered, and Slate has actually already recorded the fourth, which will air with her later this year.

After that season, Netflix will recast the role. 

Kristen Bell Leaves Central Park 

The same day as Slate’s announcement, the creative team behind “Central Park” said they would also recast the voice behind the mixed-race character Molly Tillerman.

“Central Park” debuted on May 29 of this year, with Kristen Bell voicing Molly. 

In a joint statement, the creative team praised Bell as an “extraordinarily talent actress,” saying she was part of the cast before there was even a role for her to play.

“But after reflection, Kristen, along with the entire creative team, recognizes that the casting of the character of Molly is an opportunity to get representation right – to cast a Black or mixed race actress and give Molly a voice that resonates with all of the nuance and experiences of the character as we’ve drawn her.”

They said Bell will continue to be a part of the show in a new role, and said they “profoundly regret that we might have contributed to anyone’s feeling of exclusion or erasure.”

At the end of their announcement, the team also said it was committed to creating opportunities for Black people in all areas of their projects, “behind the mic, in the writers room, in production, and in post-production.” 

When sharing those statements on Twitter, Bell added that playing Molly showed a “lack of awareness” of her privilege and “undermines the specificity of the mixed race & Black American experience.”

She also said she was happy to relinquish the role and is committed to doing more for quality and inclusion. 

BoJack Horseman Creator Reflects on Casting 

Creators for “Big Mouth” and “Central Park” aren’t the only ones who reflected on casting decisions this week.

On Tuesday, Raphael Bob-Waksberg, the creator of the Netflix cartoon “BoJack Horseman,” posted a long Twitter thread responding to questions about bringing on Alison Brie to voice the character, Diane Nguyen.

Bojack Horseman is in a bit of a different position than “Big Mouth” and “Central Park” since the show actually ended in January of this year after six seasons. 

Still, Bob-Waksberg shared some thoughts. First, he acknowledged that he tenses up when being asked about his mistakes because he’s worried about saying the wrong thing. Still, he said he hopes others seeing him do so will help them not make the same mistakes.


He talked about evading the question a lot in the past, his own perspective on casting evolving, and failures that were made when writing for a Vientamese- American character. 

He linked out to a few different interviews he’s done on the topic, realizing errors he made in those as well. Eventually said, “We should have hired a Vietnamese writer, and a Vietnamese actress to play Diane – or if not that, changed the character to match who we did hire.”

In another part of the thread, he added that he is grateful people engage in conversation with him or criticize him on this subject, acknowledging that it’s something he will continue to be asked about.

To that point, he added, “It’s important for me to keep saying it until everybody hears it. ESPECIALLY when my show suggests the opposite of it. And the “it” is this: the appearance of diversity without true diversity behind-the-scenes isn’t real representation; worse, it’s appropriation.” 

With all of this happening, it seems like a pretty big week for animated shows in Hollywood specifically. Conversations about representation in TV and film tend to focus on hiring behind the scenes and “whitewashing” in non-animated projects. 

In the past, Emma stone came under fire for playing a character of Hawaiian and Chinese heritage for the film “Aloha.” Scarlett Johannson probably also comes to mind since she was criticized for playing the lead role in the live-action adaptation of the Japanese anime in “Ghost in the Shell,” as well as for initially accepting the role of a transgender man in “Rub & Tug.”

Still, some argue that when it comes to acting, especially voice acting, there should be more flexibility about who can play what roles. Though others argue that this misses the point of why representation is so important and doesn’t help the efforts to combat systemic racism in Hollywood. 

See what others are saying: (CNN) (NBC News) (NME)

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Why The Weeknd, Justin Bieber, and Nicki Minaj Are Slamming the Grammy Nominations

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  • The Weeknd accused the Grammys of corruption and a lack of transparency after he was snubbed with zero nominations this year.
  • Reports suggested that talks between the singer and the Recording Academy regarding his performance at the show and the Super Bowl turned sour, but the president of the Academy denies that it had anything to do with his lack of nominations.
  • Justin Bieber also slammed the Grammys for nominating him in pop categories when considered his album R&B. While genre is often a point of contention at the show, many think that his placement in pop is not unfounded.
  • Nicki Minaj also brought up her 2012 Best New Artist loss, when Bon Iver beat her out for the trophy. She pointed to this moment as an example of the Grammy’s history of exclusion when it comes to women and artists of color, which the show promises it is working on.

The Weeknd’s Major Snubs

Major artists including The Weeknd, Justin Bieber and Nicki Minaj slammed the Grammy Awards on Tuesday after the Recording Academy released their 2021 nominations. 

Heading into the announcement, The Weeknd was a favorite to be nominated in major categories for his album “After Hours” and his song “Blinding Lights” after both received huge critical and commercial success. “Blinding Lights” has broken Billboard records and The Weeknd is slated to perform at the Super Bowl, making him the perfect candidate not just for nominations, but for wins as well. So, when he ended up with a whopping zero nominations, it was largely considered the biggest snub of the day.

Kid Cudi took to Twitter to say the singer was “robbed” and Elton John wrote on Instagram that The Weeknd should have won Song and Record of the Year. The Weeknd chimed in himself, writing that the Grammys “remain corrupt.”

You owe me, my fans and the industry transparency,” he added.

The Grammys are no stranger to criticism of this kind and have long faced accusations of corruption for having “boys club” leadership and for excluding women and artists of color in nominations and performances. In this case, reports indicate that The Weeknd may have been referring to a specific situation regarding the potential of him performing at the show and how that may have clashed with his spot on the Super Bowl lineup. 

“There were many conversations between the Grammys and the Weeknd team about his performance slated for the 2021 Grammys,” a source told Rolling Stone. “There was an ultimatum given resulting in a struggle over him also playing the Super Bowl that went on for some time and was eventually agreed upon that he would perform at both events.”

A source told TMZ that the Grammys were the party that handed out that ultimatum, essentially saying “it’s us or it’s the Super Bowl.” While they did reach a place where both could happen, the talks were allegedly testy, and come nomination day, The Weeknd was left empty-handed.

As for why talks of this nature could get heated, the Grammys is a concert just as much as it is an awards show. Their slate of performers is arguably more precious than their nominations because those performances are what draw in the show’s much sought after viewers. Why the Recording Academy may have viewed The Weeknd’s Super Bowl performance as a threat to this is unclear, but its Chair and Interim President and CEO Harvey Mason Jr. denied that these discussions had anything to do with The Weeknd’s lack of nods.

“We understand that the Weeknd is disappointed at not being nominated. I was surprised and can empathize with what he’s feeling,” he told Rolling Stone.

“We would have loved to have him also perform on the Grammy stage the weekend before [the Super Bowl]. Unfortunately, every year, there are fewer nominations than the number of deserving artists,” he added. “To be clear, voting in all categories ended well before The Weeknd’s performance at the Super Bowl was announced, so in no way could it have affected the nomination process.”

For what it’s worth, The Weeknd and other industry insiders likely knew about the Super Bowl performance prior to the public announcement, though exactly when is of course unknown. But Mason Jr. maintains that the nominations were not impacted by this. 

Still, The Weeknd took to Twitter again on Wednesday further expressing his frustrations by the ordeal. 

“Collaboratively planning a performance for weeks to not being invited?  In my opinion zero nominations = you’re not invited!” he wrote.

He also is receiving a lot of support for his comments. His initial tweet about the situation has over 1 million likes as of Wednesday morning, and his Instagram post saying the same thing has over 2 million. Big names including Justin Timberlake, Miley Cyrus, Katy Perry, and Pharrell Williams are among those who liked his Instagram post.  

Justin Bieber’s Genre Placement

Justin Bieber also called the show out, though not because he was not nominated, but instead because of what he was nominated for. Bieber landed a handful of nominations, including Best Pop Vocal Album for “Changes” and Best Pop Solo Performance for “Yummy.” He took to Instagram to express that pop is not where he would have placed his work.

“To the Grammys I am flattered to be acknowledged and appreciated for my artistry. I am very meticulous and intentional about my music,” he wrote. “With that being said I set out to make an R&B album. ‘Changes’ was and is an R&B album. It is not being acknowledged as an R&B album which is very strange to me.”

“For this not to be put into that category feels weird considering from the chords to the melodies to the vocal style, all the way down to the hip-hop drums that were chosen, it is undeniably, unmistakably an R&B album!” he argued. 

Though, his complaints were met with less support than The Weeknd’s. Reviews for “Changes” were mixed at best. While both Rolling Stone and Pitchfork identified it as an album persuaded by both pop and R&B, the latter outlet said “Changes” “has all the glow and eroticism of an airport terminal.”

When it comes down to what genre an artist is placed in, that choice is made by experts in each genre, which include producers, artists and more. 

“Pop is a field that is often a point of contention or confusion: An artist who is popular, like Post Malone or Macklemore, may be rejected by a genre committee, like Rap, because the people on that committee consider them to be Pop artists,” Jem Aswad explained for Variety.  “In that context, it is difficult to imagine the R&B committee considering Bieber’s lite take on R&B music to be suitable for the category.”

Aswad also said that genre confusion and overlap could have contributed to some of The Weeknd’s snubs. However, Bieber and this year’s nominations aside, genre placement, in general, has historically been a hot topic when it comes to the Grammys, specifically when it comes to how artists of color are treated and excluded. Many artists have spoken out about this, including Tyler the Creator, who chimed in on the subject after the 2020 show. 

“It sucks that whenever we — and I mean guys that look like me — do anything that’s genre-bending or that’s anything they always put it in a rap or urban category,” he said. “I don’t like that ‘urban’ word — it’s just a politically correct way to say the n-word to me.”

The “Urban” category has since been renamed to “Progressive R&B” but the conversation about these categories and what they mean is still very much ongoing. Regarding where Bieber fits into this narrative of issues with genre at the show, many thought a pop placement for him was fair and some even mocked him online for complaining. Mason Jr. also defended the genre and nomination process while speaking to Variety

“The people [in the committees] are music professionals — they are excellent, at the top of their craft in songwriting and producing, and there are a lot of artists,” he explained. “They critically [listen] to every song that comes across their desks.”

Nicki Minaj Talks Diversity

The Grammys are still not in the clear when it comes to their issues with representation and diversity. Rapper Nicki Minaj tweeted about her Best New Artist loss in 2012, which many feel showcases the issues the Recording Academy still has.

“Never forget the Grammys didn’t give me my best new artist award when I had 7 songs simultaneously charting on billboard & bigger first week than any female rapper in the last decade- went on to inspire a generation,” she wrote. “They gave it to the white man Bon Iver.”

While you could argue whether or not Bon Iver, Nicki Minaj, or any of the other nominees that year deserved the trophy, what can’t be argued is the show’s history with a lack of representation when it comes to celebrating women and people of color in music. This is something the Grammys claims to be working on.  According to the L.A. Times, the Academy invited over 2,000 new voters this year that were 48% women and 37% from traditionally underrepresented communities.

“It’s really a new era for us and a time of transformative change,” Kelley Purcell, the Academy’s Senior Director of Member Outreach told the outlet. “It’s important for us to not only be reflective of what’s happening in the music industry but also to be a leader and to set a positive example for the music industry.”

For what it’s worth, some of the nominations this year do show progress, particularly with gender inclusion. For the first time ever, all the nominees in Best Rock Performance are female. Female-led acts also took up every nomination in Best Country Album, and dominated other country categories. 

See what others are saying: (Rolling Stone) (Variety) (Los Angeles Times)

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YouTube Launches “World’s First Infinite Music Video” to Celebrate Billie Eilish’s “Bad Guy” Hitting 1 Billion Views

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  • In honor of Billie Eilish’s “Bad Guy” reaching 1 billion YouTube views, the platform created an “infinite” music video that seamlessly brings together thousands of covers of the song.
  • YouTube says “watching every combination of covers would take at least 1.46 x 10^100 years, which is longer than the lifespan of the universe.”
  • The company considers this a growing experiment, which means fan-generated videos created after the initial launch will eventually be mixed into the video as well.

YouTube’s Announcement

YouTube launched what it calls “the world’s first infinite music video” on Tuesday in celebration of Billie Eilish’s “Bad Guy” surpassing 1 billion views on the platform.

“This unique AI experiment uses machine learning to bring thousands of covers together, seamlessly aligning them in endless combinations, creating a music video that’s different every time you watch it,” YouTube explained in a blog post.

Because of technical requirements, the experience can’t live online as a traditional YouTube video. Instead, the organizers gave it its own site: billie.withyoutube.com 

When fans visit the site, they are automatically placed on the #Everything category, which shows a range of different covers of “Bad Guy.” However, viewers can also hop around specific categories to hear the song with different instruments or in different genres. 

Viewers can even search for dance routines, parodies, animations, tutorials, and more  – all without losing their spot in the song. 

Some of the categories available on the project’s site.

Hitting pause on the infinite video also allows users to scroll down and read stats about their unique viewing experience.

Plus, fans can see their video history and click through to any creator’s channel to subscribe if they find someone they would like to support. 

Could We See More of This?

When asked about the project, Google Creative Lab Producer Jay Chen told Rolling Stone: “This project is a loving monument to YouTube fan culture, in all its diverse and wonderful glory. With billions of combinations, every viewing is unique and we can’t wait for you to play it.”

What’s more interesting about this is that YouTube sees it as a growing experiment, which means fan-generated videos created after the initial launch will eventually be mixed into the video as well.

That just makes the possible combinations even more insane. As is, the experience is not exactly “infinite,” thought it’s definitely impressive. 

In fact, YouTube says “watching every combination of covers would take at least 1.46 x 10^100 years, which is longer than the lifespan of the universe.”

Still, it’s worth noting that YouTube’s global head of artist relations, Vivien Lewit, said this is just a one-off project — at least for now — and won’t necessarily be created for every music video that surpasses 1 billion views from now on.

It could be something the company does again in the future, but as far as why YouTube chose Eilish to pilot the idea, the company said it was because “Bad Guy” was one of the most covered songs on YouTube.  

See what others are saying: (The Verge) (Rolling Stone) (NME)

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Charli D’Amelio Responds to Backlash Over Recent YouTube Video

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  • Charli and Dixie D’Amelio were slammed as “ungrateful” and “disrespectful” after fans saw a video they filmed with their parents and James Charles for their family’s YouTube channel.
  • In it, Charli expressed disappointment in the fact that she had hit 95 million TikTok followers instead of 100 million by the one year anniversary of the day she hit 1 million.
  • Meanwhile, Dixie was criticized for appearing disgusted and throwing up after tasting a snail that was in the meal her family’s chef prepared for them.
  • The sisters have explained that their comments and behavior were misunderstood and blown out of proportion. James Charles and the chef have also shown them support.
  • Still, Charli has lost about 1 million TikTok followers and in a tearful Instagram live, she opened up about the hateful messages she has received. “Seeing how people reacted to this…I don’t even know if I want to do this anymore,” she said.

Charli’s Response

TikTok star Charli D’Amelio got emotional in her Instagram Live on Thursday as she responded to the backlash she has received after her family’s latest YouTube video.

“This is messed up stuff that people are saying, like people telling me to hang myself, people just blatantly disrespecting the fact that I’m still a human being is not okay at all,” the 16-year-old said.

“You can hate on me for whatever I’ve done, but the fact that all of this is happening because [of a] misunderstanding, I just feel like that’s not okay, and if this is the community that I’m in and the community that I’ve put myself in, I don’t know if I want to do that anymore.”

The Snail Incident

The outrage against the young internet star began Monday after her family uploaded a new series to their YouTube channel titled, “Dinner with the D’Amelios.” That video featured beauty influencer James Charles as their first-ever guest.

However, the video caused many to slam Charli and her 19-year-old sister Dixie as “disrespectful” and “ungrateful.”

Some of the criticism stems from how they acted in front of the chef who cooked their meal for the episode. At one point during the dinner, Dixie found a snail in her food and looked disgusted by it. 

The chef, Aaron May, told her snails are common in the dish she was eating and called it an omen of good luck and fortune, but she continued to gag and make faces.

When she finally tried the snail, she spit it back out and began heaving.

“So dramatic,” her mother Heidi said before telling Dixie to excuse herself from the table. Her father Mark echoed the comment about her reaction.

“Is she being real? Or is she being dramatic,” James added. “Oh she actually threw up. Ew.” 

“Classic Dixie,” Heidi said.

“Do we have any Dino Nuggets?” Charli chimed in as Dixie tried to regain her composure.

That, on top of Charli’s comment, had a lot of people upset at not only their behavior but also how their parents handled it. 

Charli’s Comment About 100 Million Followers

Then as the dinner continued, the conversation shifted towards their insanely quick rise to fame.

Charli, who has been dubbed the queen of TikTok, actually only joined the platform in June of 2019, and at the time of recording their video with James, Charli had just reached 95 million followers on the app.

“It hasn’t even been a year since I hit 1 million,” she said, which came as a shock to James.

Dixie then noted that her one year anniversary on the platform was just around the corner, saying, “Wait, October 30th…so October 30th, I didn’t have a TikTok. That’s the day I started my TikTok.”

And this year, we have our collab that comes out the 30th, I have my song with Liam Payne that comes out the 30th, and I’m announcing Trippie Red’s album all on the 30th.”

Charli responded with, “Wait, woah woah woah woah woah. If we’re thinking about it. Okay, how far away? That’s Friday, okay. Ugh. I wish I, I wish I had like more time. Cause imagine if I hit 100 mil a year after hitting a mil.”

“Was the 95 not enough for you?” James jokingly asked.

“Well, I was just like saying, even numbers,” Charli replied.

That comment too caused viewers to call her ungrateful and too focused on the numbers. Some noted that many creators would kill to have as many followers and said the girls are already more famous as teens than most people will ever be in their entire lives.

 Eventually, James commented on a TikTok post about her remarks.  

“Charli is soooo grateful for everyone that supports her. I was just joking with her when I said this, I don’t like these comments dragging her,” he wrote.

While Charli didn’t directly address the backlash right away, the day the video was released, she did come out and thank her fans for getting her to 99 million followers. 

Charli Loses 1 Million Followers

Still, the outrage continued to build, prompting Dixie to respond in a TikTok late Wednesday explaining that her family is good friends with the chef and would never want to disrespect him. She also clarified that she is grateful for all the opportunities she has had.

@dixiedamelio

-video…anyways, not posting this for any other reason than to share the truth of something that was ridiculously blown out of proportion…

♬ original sound – Dixie D’Amelio

She then explained that the chef and her team were trying to get her to eat the snail because they knew they could get a big reaction out of her. She also suggested that people were unfairly judging her based on a short clip.

However, that video seemed to fuel more backlash.

At first, it didn’t seem like the negative reactions were that bad. Charli had gained over 700,000 TikTok followers in the last three days, according to Social Blade, which put her highest follower count on record at 99.4 million.

But by Thursday afternoon, she had lost around 1 million followers on the app.

That might not seem like a lot in the grand scheme of things, but all of the hate and attention this has brought is clearly taking a toll on the family, prompting Charli’s tearful Instagram live.

Charli, for her part, explained her comments and the whole snail situation were misunderstood and getting blown out of proportion. As of now, it seems like it has sparked a shift in the responses as more fans come to her defense and remind the public that she is just a child.

After her stream, James took to Twitter to show the family more support.

His comments came one day after Chef May expressed his admiration for Charli and Dixie in an interview with The Hollywood Fix. In that interview, May said that he held no animosity over the video and added that he felt the issue was “overblown” and “fake news.” He also said that it was Dixie’s creative director, Tommy Burns, who put him up to including snails on the menu to get a reaction out of Dixie.

See what others are saying: (Dexerto) (The New York Post) (Heavy)

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