Diversity can be Beautiful

Last weekend the wife and I sat down and watched the Roger and Hammerstein version of Cinderella on Disney+.
Image courtesy of Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

Last weekend the wife and I sat down and watched the Roger and Hammerstein version of Cinderella on Disney+. For those of you that don’t remember this version, it's noticeably different than the original version starring Julie Andrews in 1957.

What makes this version so different? ABC cast Brandy, a well known black pop singer of the time, as Cinderella

Disney introduced the world to a black Cinderella with Whitney Houston as her fairy godmother. I am sure those decisions made big news at the time but watching it nearly 14 years later I was shocked by how much the incredible diversity of the cast was irrelevant.

It felt like the casting, though diverse and counter-cultural, was a dream team cast. The actors and actresses were chosen for their roles because of their skill and not at all for their race.  When watching the musical you were never once reminded or preached to about the color of the actors skin.

You had a black Fairy Godmother (Whitney Houston), a black Cinderella (Brandy), and a royal family composed of a white king, a black queen (Whoopie Goldberg), and a Filipino Prince Charming.

The truth is that the casting was so diverse that on one hand it didn’t make sense. Was His royal highness, Christopher Rupert Windermere Vladimir Carl Alexander François Reginald Lancelot Herman Gregory James, adopted?

My wife pointed out that Prince Christopher was so colorblind that he even tried the slipper on white women, even though Cinderella was obviously black.

But the casting worked in such a way that you, like Prince Christopher Rupert, quickly forget all about race. Each member of the cast was just a member of the cast and the production assumes an intelligent audience is going to get caught up in the story and never miss a beat.

Unlike today where Hollywood needs to constantly remind their audience and preach to them  that there’s a diverse cast not just racially, but that the cast is also filled with all the LGBTBBQ as well. Pay attention. They need you to know that. They can't get an Oscar nomination without it.

Around the same time period, Disney did something that the cast of The Simpsons would never do today. They cast white and black actors to voice the same characters at different ages, and for singing and non-singing roles for the African characters in The Lion King. Simba was voiced by Jonathan Taylor Thomas as a child but Jason Weaver was the singing voice. In the DVD directors' commentary they discuss this: “What was really interesting about this film is that we could really, literally be colorblind as far as it not mattering at all, it was really about who the character was, who the performer was and what they brought to the character.”

Contrast that with Deadline reporting that "‘The Simpsons’ Replaces Harry Shearer With Black Actor To Voice Dr. Hibbert."

I bring this up to say that the diversity in the 1997 version of Cinderella didn’t matter at all, and in another way it mattered a lot. Sure as the audience you notice that there are people with all sorts of racial diversity but it doesn’t matter at all and that’s exactly why it matters the most. There’s no mention of white privilege, or black lives matter. There’s no snide sarcastic racial comments to remind you of how diverse the cast is. You just love it because it’s beautiful, or it’s beautiful so you love it. One of those.

None of the skin colors are more important, or more central, to the plot of the story. Exactly the way it should be in the real world. Exactly what the Marxists tell you they want, while in actuality they want to recast Apu.

What Disney gave us in the nineties is the true sort of diversity we hope to return to at LOOR, the true diversity that is also a picture of Heaven. We’re creating a place where actors, no matter their race, can get any role they want based on skill alone. We’re creating a place where race motivated casting choices are not decided by the fear of the mob or China’s box office, but by simply asking: does this choice help us make a True, Good, Beautiful story?