Casting Part 2: Equality Training?!

Seeing as I am new to Swansea University I had to complete the obligatory online training for Equality. My research seems to follow me everywhere. The only time you are allowed to discriminate when it comes to employment is in Genuine Occupational Requirements. Which includes casting….. this is taken direct from the Swansea University training website.

Genuine Occupational Requirements (GOR)

Genuine occupational requirements are an exception to the prohibition on direct discrimination in employment. This allows an employer to reject applicants for a position because they lack a protected characteristic which is genuinely necessary for the role, or because they have a protected characteristic which is incompatible with the role. The employer must show that the requirement is a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim.

  • The need for authenticity or realism might require someone of a particular race, sex or age for acting roles (for example, a black man to play the part of Othello) or modelling jobs

Well it did get me thinking. Does the 2010 Equality Act therefore make the practice of ‘Yellowface’ (racist practice of white people performing as Asians – epitomised by Peter Sellars as Dr Fu Manchu) effectively redundant? Does that mean that East Asians have legal recourse when they are overlooked for Asian parts? Presumably so. I guess that Jonathan Pryce will not be able to reprise his role as the Engineer in Miss Saigon then – but that’s not exactly the most alluring part ever written for an East Asian. But I did also think – well, what about plays where race is explicitly and deliberately played with in order to challenge our assumptions? Is that now no longer possible? Admittedly such work is in the minority and carries within it a very dangerous potential for racism, of ‘not getting’ the critique. However, Eric Lott has written in ‘Love and Theft: Blackface Minstrelsy and the American working class’ about the contradictory impulses of minstrelsy; that it cannot be read simply as a lampooning of black America but also as a deconstruction, indeed transgressive disruption, of white American norms, expectations and values. Just food for thought.