Jordan Parker | Staff Writer
Michael Jackson is set to be portrayed by a white man, Joseph Fiennes, in an up and coming British television comedy special titled, “Elizabeth, Michael, and Marlon.” The special follows the plot of Elizabeth Taylor, Michael Jackson, and Marlon Brando during a road trip they supposedly took after the September 11 attacks.
The proclaimed “King of Pop” was no stranger to the criticism surrounding the color of his skin. The apparent bleaching was a spectacle for much of his adult life. Jackson frequently placed the blame on a skin condition known as vitiligo, which causes the loss of pigmentation on portions of the skin.
Speculation over Jackson’s race and whether or not he actually whitened his skin has never been resolved in the eyes of some spectators and entertainment news outlets. However, time after time Jackson has defended his race as an African American man, and has denied any attempt to turn himself into a white person.
The clearest evidence of Jackson’s devotion to his race is a 1993 interview administered by Oprah Winfrey. In this hour long sit down, Jackson clearly reveals how he feels about a white actor depicting him.
After Winfrey mentioned a rumor accusing Jackson of casting a little white boy to play the younger him in a Pepsi commercial, Jackson quickly debunked the allegations. “That’s the most ridiculous, horrifying story I’ve ever heard… Number one, it’s my face as a child in the commercial,” said Jackson. “Me when I was little. Why would I want a white child to play me? I’m a black American,” Jackson continued on to say, “I’m a black American. I’m proud to be a black American. I am proud of my race. I am proud of who I am. That’s like you wanting an oriental person to play you as a child. Does that make sense?”
Joseph Fiennes, the actor chosen to play Jackson, responded to backlash telling Entertainment Tonight, “He was probably closer to my color than his original color,” referring to Jackson’s struggles with vitiligo rather than the obvious issue at hand, race.
Hampton University senior, Nikolas Alexandria responded to the controversy, “If they are going to do a movie about Mike they need to get someone who at least resembles him… yes [Michael] was pale, but [Fiennes] just isn’t going to work.” Mikal Crosby, a pre-nursing major from Baltimore, also agreed with Alexandria’s statements. She pointed out, “He was obviously black when he was younger, and that’s how he should stay portrayed as.” She also added on, “It’s blatant ridicule when you portray someone in a different race than what they actually were. Casting directors should definitely consider race as one of the most important aspects during casting of a film.” It is easy to note that quite a few African Americans who have listened to Jackson’s music before are very displeased with the announcement.
On the contrary, Stacey Dash applauded the casting of a white male to play Michael Jackson on her blog. She wrote, “This decision throws that white-only card out the window. They can’t look at black actors and say, ‘Sorry this role is Caucasian-only.’ Roles should not be dictated by race.” Dash is defending the decision to not cast characters based upon race. This leaves audiences to undoubtedly question: is race is a factor in accurately portraying a historic figure?
No matter how light Jackson’s skin color is, he is still an African American by heritage. Casting a man with all white features diminishes Jackson’s true identity, as well as the legacy he wished to leave behind as a black man. It is the duty of biographical filmmakers to not misconstrue the characteristics of the person they are depicting.
The Jackson family has yet to comment on the issue. However, Michael’s wishes clearly prove the film to be dishonorable.