Soap Opera Weekly: Blogging With Mala

Want to know the best way to spoil a perfectly delightful 40th anniversary celebration? Slap an atrocious black wig and dark makeup on a milk-pale redhead and direct her to suffer through a Spanish accent that makes Speedy Gonzalez sound more authentic. 

Oh my God, ONE LIFE TO LIVE…. just when I had chilled out from my LAST racial issue rant, you go and rile me back up! There’s a word for it when you deliberately darken a white actor in order to caricature a minority. I’m sorry, but Melissa Archer is not Robert Downey, Jr. in Tropic Thunder and I really have no idea why the execs at ONE LIFE thought it was a good idea to have her play Maria Vasquez Roberts in such a fashion. Sure, I get that they’re using actors from the present to represent the past, but if it’s not going to work on a basic level, don’t even try. Heck, if they had to do the Natalie-as-Maria and Jared-as-Clint parallel, why not forgo the makeup and the accent? We can suspend that much disbelief since we’re already suspending for the whole time travel story. Instead, we got Archer in brownface while January LaVoy, who is naturally of a darker complexion, was standing right next to her. No. Just … no

I loved almost everything about the July 21 and 22 episodes, from Tina and Carlo at the falls, to Bo and Rex’s trip back in time, to Mel and Dorian, to Viki’s wonderful trip to Heaven…. and I hate that the more I think about it, the more unsettled I am by that one really insensitive choice. 

For a comparison, let’s look at the newly-premiered GH: NIGHT SHIFT. On that show, we have Afghani actress Azita Ghanizada playing Indian doctor, Saira Batra. Does it annoy me a little that they didn’t cast an Indian actress? Yes. But she’s not walking around with an oversized dot on her forehead and asking people if they want a slushie. Ghanizada isn’t raising any red flags or setting off my perimeter alarms, except for the one that instinctively recognizes she’s not from India. (It’s like gaydar… desi-dar, I guess.) Ghanizada isn’t in brownface, isn’t a parody or a caricature. She’s doing fine. Of course, I also credit head writer Sri Rao for that. When you have minorities behind the scenes, it makes it a lot easier for a show to get things right.

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