Following protests for racial justice, not only across the United States, but also worldwide, many have been reflecting on how they can make personal changes to uplift the Black community. A new conversation regarding Black representation in the media was started when comedian, Jenny Slate, announced that she would no longer be voicing her biracial character, Missy, on the animated Netflix show, “Big Mouth.”
While the character, Missy, has been well regarded for it’s multidimensional portrayal of a young Black girl, Slate believes that representation should also extend behind the scenes.
Slate stated in an Instagram post, “at the start of the show, I reasoned with myself that it was permissible for me to play Missy because her mom is Jewish and White — as am I. But Missy is also Black, and Black characters on an animated show should be played by Black people,” said Slate. “I acknowledge how my original reasoning was flawed, that it existed as an example of white privilege and unjust allowances made within a system of societal white supremacy, and that in me playing Missy, I was engaging in an act of erasure of Black people. Ending my portrayal of Missy is one step in a life-long process of uncovering the racism in my actions.”
Slate also explained in her statement that she would be taking a step back to reflect on her career in comedy, specifically how she has “made mistakes along the way.” She concluded that in the future she will commit to “meaningful anti-racist action, be thoughtful about the messages in my work, be open and curious to feedback, and do my best to take responsibilities for the ways that I am part of of the problem.”
“Big Mouth” creators, Nick Kroll, Andrew Goldberg, Mark Levin and Jennifer Flackett all voiced their support for Slate’s decision to leave the show.
They shared in a statement posted to Instagram, “after thoughtful discussion with us and our Black collaborators, Jenny Slate has decided, and we wholeheartedly agree, that Missy on Big Mouth should be voiced by a Black actor. We sincerely apologize for and regret our original decision to cast a white actor to voice a biracial character. We made a mistake, took our privilege for granted, and we’re working hard to do better moving forward.”
Slate was not the only voice actor to take responsibility for voicing a character of another race. Mike Henry who voices the Black character, Cleveland Brown, on Fox’s animated “Family Guy,” announced that he would no longer play the role in a Tweet, stating, “it’s been an honor to play Cleveland on Family Guy for 20 years. I love this character, but persons of color should play characters of color. Therefore, I will be stepping down from the role.”
Fox later released a statement on casting for non-white characters on “The Simpsons,” stating, “moving forward, ‘The Simpsons’ will no longer have white actors voice non-white characters.”
Photo Source: The Town Hall