Bewitching White Privilege
Today was a long day. The family went to the amusement park. We decided to leave earlier than planned because it started to rain. We left after being there for just four hours. Enough time to ride a few of the big rides. That’s about it. Honestly I was glad to leave. I hadn’t been to the amusement park in about ten years. My sense of self preservation prevents me from enjoying roller coasters as much as I used to. The first ride made me sick to my stomach. Is it standard roller coaster procedure these days to have loops and barrel rolls? These days, just about every thrill ride has them. And if it doesn’t have loops it’s dropping people vertically in free falls that would kill anyone with an acute angina. So when the rains came my heart was not only relieved, but probably saved. The family went home and I turned on the television.
The remake of Bewitched came on with Nicole Kidman and Will Farrel. I watched it for about five minutes and decided to pass. Either I was still under the effects of riding roller coasters or the movie was making me sick to my stomach. Nicole Kidman played Isabel Bigalow, a witch doing her best to live as a mortal. By a fortunate coincidence of circumstance she falls into the role of an actress playing Samantha Stevens, the character made famous by Elizabeth Montgomery back in the day. There was a scene in the movie where the director and the producer and the other people developing the remake were auditioning a bunch of actresses to be the next Samantha. They were all trying to imitate Ms. Montgomery’s famous nose twitch the trademark subtle gesture that magic is afoot. And none of these actresses could get it right. But the fact is they all got the chance. Of course they were all white. Samantha was white and so it stands to reason that the actresses would all be white. It was about this time that I continued to flip the channels.
Not finding anything interesting on the tube I turned to find something interesting on the internet. The blog was slow with activity. I am only guessing but I think it was because it was the Memorial Day weekend. But I did run across someone asking that if white privilege was such a phenomenon why weren’t more white people taking advantage of it? If white privilege was so overwhelming how come all white people don’t benefit from it?
I thought back to the scene in Bewitched where all the white women were auditioning to be the next Samantha. Why couldn’t a black woman audition to be the next Samantha? Would it be too much of a stretch to think that the public would accept a black woman playing the lead female role? What if they could put a spin on the show and give Darren, Samantha’s husband, a seriously strong case of jungle fever. That would put a new spin on an old show. People want something different and that is sure to be something different. What if Darren was made black? An all black cast to a remake of a popular television show could work and could give a totally different and interesting spin.
But the show specifically targeted white women for their Samantha Stevens. The show specifically targeted a white man for Darren Stevens. And while they couldn’t hire all white people who apply, they can make sure that the opportunities they do offer go to only white people. This is a prime example of the white privilege phenomenon. White privilege does not necessarily mean that all white people have it made. White privilege means that there is a focus to assure that only white people will have the better chances for opportunities of success.
To many people, the idea of a black Darren or a black Samantha or even both characters being portrayed as black is too much of a turnoff to take seriously. Too many people would pass the movie over or even protest the film if word leaked out that an all white classic television show was going to feature an all black cast. The theory is that not as many people would care to see black people on the silver screen as they would want to see white people. People from the racially generic dominant culture are less apt to respond positively to black people portraying classic white television characters. Movies and television shows are less likely be as successful with black actors and actresses. The majority of the public just can’t relate to black people being the superhero, black people having courage, or black people having any of the characteristics and experiences that make their life interesting in the eyes of the dominant culture. It is widely accepted that the people just naturally want to see white people everywhere.
Generally speaking the public has been conditioned to accept white privilege. We expect a white person to be the one in control, the one in the majority regardless of the scenario, the one on the big screen, the one on the small screen, the only character that matters in a story about Africa at the turn of the century. The scenario really doesn’t matter as long as we have a white person to relate to. It is a given that the white person will be the most appropriate person for the role. Many of us have been conditioned to the point that we automatically assume that the white person is the best candidate for the job despite their qualifications or the qualification of the black candidate.
I’ve heard so many white people give their story of how affirmative action destroyed a friend’s or family member’s life because he or she didn’t get the job when a black person got it. White privilege says black people are never the best candidate. White privilege says that only white people need apply or will have every advantage to be the most appropriate candidate simply because they are white. A black Samantha? Please! Next thing you know black people will start to think they are white people’s equals.