- 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.
Disney Eviscerates Scarlett Johansson’s “Black Widow” Lawsuit as “Callous,” but Report Suggests Emma Stone and Emily Blunt May Follow Her Lead
“There is no merit whatsoever to this filing,” the company said in an uncharacteristically blunt statement that was heavily criticized online.
Johansson/Disney Lawsuit Gets Bitter
Disney has described a recent lawsuit from “Black Widow” actress Scarlett Johansson as “sad and distressing in its callous disregard for the horrific and prolonged global effects of the COVID-19 pandemic,” but Johansson may have just unleashed what is to become an even bigger legal challenge for the House of Mouse.
At the center of this dispute, Johansson alleges she lost $50 million because Disney opted for a dual streaming/theater release of “Black Widow,” which debuted in theaters and for $30 on Disney+ with Premier Access earlier this month.
According to Johansson’s suit, her contract with Disney — which was negotiated prior to any hint of a pandemic — stipulated that “Black Widow” would see an exclusive theater release. Notably, the actress also said her contractual bonuses were tied to the movie’s box office performance, which is an extremely common practice with films featuring A-list celebrities.
Of course, when the pandemic hit — like many other industries — movies were upended. Pandemic-related changes meant that despite having an initial release date of May 2020, Marvel fans wouldn’t get a chance to see “Black Widow” for over a year.
Still, Johansson said she tried to contact Disney to renegotiate her contract prior to the film’s ultimate release, but she claims the company was unresponsive.
On Thursday, she then filed a complaint with the Los Angeles County Superior Court, with her attorney arguing that “Disney has enjoyed the benefits of having one of Hollywood’s top actresses promote its wholly owned subscription service at no additional cost to Disney, and with the intended effect of taking money out of that actress’ own pocket.”
Later Thursday, Disney claimed that it has “fully complied” with Johansson’s contract and that the streamed release of the film “has significantly enhanced her ability to earn additional compensation on top of the $20M she has received to date.”
“There is no merit whatsoever to this filing,” the company said in its uncharacteristically blunt statement.
Are Emma Stone and Emily Blunt Next?
Speaking of blunt, it was reported Friday that both Emily Blunt and Emma Stone may also file lawsuits against Disney’s dual streaming release of their films.
In fact, according to an exclusive newsletter run by former Hollywood Reporter Editor Matt Belloni, Stone “is said to be weighing her options” over the dual release of “Cruella” in May. Meanwhile, he suggested Blunt could also take action or speak out following this weekend’s release of “Jungle Cruise.”
Belloni went on to describe Disney as “notoriously difficult to deal with” regarding such matters and claimed that many have simply been waiting for someone powerful enough to speak out.
Disney Criticized for Its Response
Much of the public perception of the situation has led to overwhelming support for Johansson’s camp. Online, a slew of people lambasted Disney’s response, with many calling it a deflection.
See what others are saying: (ScreenRant) (Newsweek) (Variety)
Candace Owens and Logan Paul in Talks to Debate
A spokesperson confirmed to Insider Wednesday that the two have had “productive” conversations about the prospect offline.
Candace Owens Challenges Logan Paul to a Debate
Right-wing commentator Candace Owens and controversial YouTuber Logan Paul are in talks to engage in a political debate. Yes, you read that sentence correctly.
Owens — best known for making false claims about the George Floyd protests, spreading COVID-19 misinformation, and seemingly saying that Adolf Hitler “just wanted to make Germany great” — first challenged Paul to a debate on Friday. It started with her sharing a year-old clip from Paul’s podcast where he spoke about the importance of fighting racism in the United States.
“It is not enough to be ‘not racist.’ You have to be anti-racist,” he said.
“If you’re white, if you look like me, use your privilege,” he added. “And for those who do not think white privilege exists, you are fucking blind.”
Because merely acknowledging the existence of racism appears to go against Owens’ core beliefs, she asked Paul to duke it out with her.
“Logan loves to challenge people in the boxing ring,” she wrote. “I’d like to publicly challenge him to go a few rounds with me in a political debate. @LoganPaul—how about you stop by my show and explain to me how you’re *checks notes* more privileged than me because you’re white and I’m not?”
Spokesperson Confirms The Two Are in Talks
Paul — best known for launching a boxing career and filming a YouTube video that showed a dead body in Japan’s “suicide forest” — said on Tuesday that he was “perplexed” by the offer, but was taking it seriously.
“I started to entertain this action, I ended up speaking with her, and there may be a future where we sit down and have a civil discourse because I think there’s some meat on this bone,” he said during the most recent episode of his “ImPaulsive” podcast.
The internet star acknowledged that Owens’ main arena is politics, while his main arena is being a “fucking idiot” online. Still, he said he does care about these issues and has a “semi-intelligent brain,” so he thinks he could “hold [his] own.”
“Candace Owens, whether you can admit it or not, is a smart person,” Paul continued. “And so I guess I’m just curious because I just fucking fundamentally disagree with her and again, I think there’s room for a conversation.”
A spokesperson for Owens confirmed to Insider on Wednesday that the two had a “productive” offline conversation and said a public political debate between the two is “very likely.”
“Although both of them disagree on a variety of topics, they are both much more interested in learning from one another and think people would benefit from hearing an honest discussion between two parties rather than a ‘gotcha’ moment that might play well for social media,” the spokesperson added.
See what others are saying: (Insider)
Finneas Slams Billie Eilish Troll Account for Attributing Fake Quotes to the Singer
Eilish’s big brother said the account is spreading “relentless lies” and asked that it at least label itself as a satire account.
Troll Account Shares Fake Billie Eilish Quotes
Billie Eilish’s brother and collaborator Finneas took to Twitter Tuesday to address an account that has been sharing fake quotes attributed to his sister.
The account uses the handle @BilliesUpdatess and goes by the name of “Billie Eilish Updates” in its profile. It was created in July of 2021 and as of Wednesday morning, it had amassed a following of 1,100 people. On a quick glance, it looks just like any other update account a fan might make to share news about their favorite celebrity.
@BilliesUpdatess, however, is far from the standard adoring fan page. Of the over 300 tweets it has posted, several include screenshots of forged articles that make it look like Eilish said something either offensive or totally outlandish. One post claims Eilish defended her boyfriend after he was accused of supporting former president Donald Trump.
“At the end of the day, I fucking love him you know?” the phony statement reads. “It doesn’t matter if he made some homophobic comments in the past, people change. If he [Matthew] supports Donald Trump then I don’t care if it makes him happy. I support EVERY decision Mathew has to make, even the ones some of my fans don’t agree with, like maybe some of his icky comments.”
In another sham passage, Eilish says she thinks queerbaiting “is a really good thing!” In several others, the person behind the account comes up with artificial quotes to make it looks like Eilish is feuding with “driver’s license” singer Olivia Rodrigo.
One post with a fake article ended up being retweeted 12,000 times. That tweet included Eilish claiming she longs to be poor.
“When I got rich, I started balling my eyes out,” the fake piece says. “I wanted to be poor so I can relate to most of my fans. I still want to be broke and poor, it looks really fun and cute.”
Finneas Slams Account
As the troll account started to gain traction, Finneas asked that people report and block it to minimize the spread of its “relentless lies.”
On Tuesday, he responded to a fan that tagged him in the @BilliesUpdatess tweet alleging his sister wanted to be poor.
“Fake obviously,” Finneas wrote. “Honestly I just wish they’d label this account satire like the onion or something. I have no problem with a joke as long as people know it’s a joke.”
The account made several jokes about the fact that Finneas was calling it out, but it seems Eilish’s big brother got what he asked for. @BilliesUpdatess added “parody account” to its bio and the account was deleted as of Wednesday afternoon.