How Our Casting Directors Are Killing Our Democracy

It’s been said 90% of a good film or TV episode depends on who is cast in the parts. The files of casting directors store hundreds of faces that have “that look” your cameras need to help tell your tale. Faces that instantly portray innocence or cunning….kindness or hatred…maternal instinct or killer instinct. The image hits you in a nanosecond, and your brain starts filling in their life even before their dialog.

The performers have names, but more than that each has “that look.” A Clint Eastwood look is nothing like a Tom Hanks look, nor is a Jennifer Aniston look anything like a Melissa McCarthy look. Call this physiology, anatomy, genetics, or botox, what’s going on here is stereotyping 101.

Shorthand for thinking. Shortcut to analysis. Shortcutting the time it might otherwise require to understand the character more deeply. Not a big deal in the case of movies and TV episodes. However…! A very big deal in the case of a democracy where people are expected to discuss their problems in national conversations not in vigilante mobs

Everyone knows this even if we deny this. We stereotype. People stereotype us and we them. Just the way the brain and the biases work. We each have some of our favorites: the color of their skin…how close together their eyes…the scars on their body…the bulk of their hands…maybe the set of their jaw.

Current stereotyping features the Hoody look. the Middle East look. the 1% look. Then there’s always the old favorites too. The RedNeck look. the California Girl look. the Housewives of New Jersey look. Stereotyping your actors on the screen is harmless; stereotyping your fellow citizens in a democracy is anything but.

Come to think of it, that’s just what our President reminded us!

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