Most of Hollywood has totally bowed to the ever-burgeoning list of woke demands bestowed upon entertainers, but one actor has voiced his strong disagreement with a new casting mandate.
Harry Shearer, a comedian and actor with more than 170 film and television credits, pushed back against the new Hollywood standard that voice actors only portray characters of the same ethnicity as the performer. Shearer, who has voiced dozens of characters on The Simpsons, including Ned Flanders, Principal Skinner, Dr. Hibbert, and Montgomery Burns since the earliest days of the show said this week that he didn't understand the reasoning behind the changes.
"I have a very simple belief about acting,” Shearer told TimesRadio on Monday. “The job of the actor is to play someone who they’re not." The character of Dr. Hibbert on The Simpsons is black, and under the new rules from the show's producers, Shearer will have to step away from voicing the giggly, over-charging counterpart to Dr. Nick Riviera.
"That’s the gig," Shearer said of the casting changes. "That’s the job description." The Simpsons was one of the first shows to come under fire from the culture patrol in 2017 when, after more than 27 years, the show's charming convenience store clerk, an immigrant from India who was widely considered to be one of the smartest characters on the show, was determined to be racist. Apu, after all, was voiced by Hank Azaria, a Jewish man of Greek and Spanish descent. Azaria, like Shearer, has voiced many, many characters since the start of the show.
Shearer said his position of defense against the purification of cartoon characters' voices wasn't rooted in a disinterest in diversity in entertainment. Everyone, he said, should be represented in all aspects of film and television.
"I think there’s a conflation between representation, which is important,” Shearer said. “People from all backgrounds should be represented in the writing and producing ends of the business so they help decide what stories to tell and with what knowledge. The job is playing someone I’m not."
Casting changes, particularly in animated television, have been rampant in the past several weeks as humorless mobs searching for a cause have rifled through every cast list for ethnicity disparities. The people calling for these changes claim to be working toward racial equality, though the changes could much more easily be confused for advocation of segregation and discrimination.
For years, civil rights advocates labored for equal recognition and equal employment opportunity without being considered because of the color of their skin. Now, it seems, those claiming to be the most socially conscious advocates of equity in employment demand that skin color is the very first thing a potential employer considers.