I don’t mean to beat a Brazilian Horse, but it looks like our neighbors to the south are at it again. On the heels of an article we shared this week about Globo TV airing a show about a white woman who “becomes” black by painting herself brown and donning an afro wig in order to sleep with a black man, the wonderful blog Black Women in Brazil shared another troubling story about the casting of the Brazilian production of The Lion King.
While producers of the show, O Rei Leão (The Lion King), supposedlyput out a casting call for black and/or brown children to play the lead roles of Simba and Nala, the finalists for the roles are reportedly white children who are artificially tanning their skin to fit the characters’ description.
A Brazilian newspaper, Folha de S.Paulo, reports:
The production of the Disney musical O Rei Leão (The Lion King) sought black or brown children to play the protagonists Simba and Nala in the Brazilian edition, which debuts in March. But most of the child actors in the final phase of auditions are white. Two finalists declared to the Folha news column that they are using tanning spray to darken their skin to suit the production. The T4F company, which is assembling the show, says it didn’t recommend the procedure to applicants. In American and English versions of the show, the protagonists are black.
It’s hard to imagine the producers of the show could not find any black or brown children to cast as Simba and Nala considering Brazil has the largest population of African-descended people outside of Nigeria.
But I guess it makes sense. Despite the country’s diversity, darker skinned Brazilians are almost always absent from TV and in the media, so it’s no surprise that the show’s producers would end up casting white actors to play roles traditionally held by actors of color.
Interestingly enough, the blog Black Women of Brazil (BWB) also said a production of The Color Purple was said to be heading to the country, but it’s apparently running into problems. The show, which would need an all-black cast, is having trouble securing funding from investors who are unsure if Brazilian audiences will pay to see an all-black show. Gatas Negras of BWB laments, “I guess that’s just how things go in a “racial democracy,” where race is not allegedly a problem…except when you’re black.