Acting White: Colouring British History

Mark Gullick – The Unz Review Sept 16, 2022

I first noticed it 10 years ago while watching a BBC adaptation of Graham Greene’s famous 1938 gangster novel Brighton Rock. Considered a very violent book for its time, it was famously filmed in 1948 as a classic piece of British noir starring a young Richard Attenborough as Pinkie, the hoodlum with the sharp suits and penchant for throwing acid in his rivals’ faces.

But in the BBC adaptation there was something wrong. Pinkie’s gang, Dallow, Spicer and Cubitt, were depicted in the novel as runtish and impulsively violent criminals, but there was one thing about them that was clear from the prose; they were all White. In this version, however, Dallow was Black. The notion that an English south coast gangster just before World War II would be anything other than White is absurd, and I assumed this was just the usual BBC tokenism. However, over the next decade it would become increasingly common for producers to cast Black actors in what were obviously White parts. Today it seems almost mandatory.

Going forward a decade we find another BBC drama which tells the story of Anne Boleyn, the second wife of King Henry VIII’s famed six spouses, and executed for her troubles in 1536. The actress playing Anne was Black. While the fictional Dallow in Brighton Rock being Black can be dismissed as a by-product of BBC moral rectitude, casting a woman who history and portraiture tell us was a White Englishwoman is operating in different territory. Anne Boleyn was born in Norfolk in England circa 1501. Her father was a knight who had attended the burial of Henry VII. Again, the idea she could have been Black makes no historical sense whatsoever. But that is not the point.

Interviews with the acting profession are rarely of any interest intellectually, but Jodie Turner-Smith, the Black actress who portrayed Anne Boleyn, caught my attention in an interview with the New York Times: “As a Black woman, I can understand being marginalized. I have a lived experience of what limitation and marginalization feel like.”

The idea that “lived experience” can be transplanted from one era to another, one race to another, one class to another, one ideology to another, and carry all its accidental attributes with it whole, is absurd enough in itself. But I would imagine Turner-Smith does know the experience of limitation and marginalization. Her culture limits itself, and its marginalization is entirely self-willed and driven by a visceral racism towards the more successful White races. This is one of the reasons that boosting Black culture to match their achievements on the basketball court gives White progressives such a perverse pleasure. They are helping failure, like wiping the spittle from the chin of someone slightly retarded trying to eat dinner.

The colouring-in of British history via the delivery system of televised drama serves two purposes for the progressive British deep state, and it does this by targeting two age groups. For those of us well into middle age, like myself, it reminds us who are the new masters, and it discomforts and irritates us because we know that what we are seeing is, in the context of history, fake news. All of this is a bonus for folk such as the BBC, who are often charged by the Right with hating the British while in reality they despise only the English. Also, for the younger generation, who know no history because they are being taught other ‘subjects’, it creates a whole new past, one which never existed outside of BBC storyboards but which explains to the youngsters that Britain was always Black, whether portrayed as history or as fiction.

This year’s film Mr. Malcolm’s List is a work of fiction, but nevertheless has as its premise that London around the turn of the nineteenth century contained Black people just as it does now. Billed as a “Regency Rom-com”, the movie features a Black lead role, that of an aristocrat. It is also billed as a “period comedy”. In what sense could it be? Period pieces are not about stately homes and perfumed wigs and whether everyone is smoking cigarettes or not (the standard British televisual way of explaining to the watcher that they are watching something set last century), they are about the authenticity of who was actually there, and what colour they were.

The casting of Black actors in what are obviously roles designed for White people has built into it two fail-safe systems. Firstly, it is revisionist history delivered via a medium guaranteed to be useful to the political class, wherever they might reign; entertainment. Legend has it that the reason Stalin didn’t have Shostakovitch shot the same as he did other musicians was because Dmitri could write film music, and Stalin recognized the power of movies as delivery systems for ideology.

Secondly, if a largely White audience decides to switch off the new wave of blaxploitation movies, it is not due to the quality of the product, but to White racism, which we are told exists the way gravity exists. It has enraged the Left that Top Gun: Maverick has been such a box-office success while Hollywood’s woke scripts have turned into loss-leaders for the industry.

The casting of Black actors to play what are clearly White characters leads inexorably to the introduction of judgmental racial themes, meaning the inherent goodness and victimhood of Blacks at the hands of oppressive and privileged Whites. The Railway Children is a film which the British, and English in particular, took to their hearts in the same way as, say, the Americans did with It’s a Wonderful Life. It’s a film which is English in essence, evocative of a certain period and a certain moral climate. The sequel, The Railway Children Return, made this year over half a century after the original, has a very different tale to impart from the first film’s tale of small villages, long summers, simple families and happy White children who avert a train disaster.

The sequel revolves around the arrival in a village of a Black soldier. Race was entirely absent from the original, but even the Left-wing Guardian was of the opinion that the film’s “BLM messaging… was jarring”. The British never watched The Railway Children and saw it as a film about Whiteness, but you can bet your shirt on the fact that the majority of films made in the foreseeable future will be about Blackness, particularly if they are remakes or sequels of movies deemed to be quintessentially White.

Britain’s other avowedly Left-wing newspaper, The Independent, notes that the sequel is shot in the same villages as the 1970 original, and ‘all that’s really changed is a slight shift in perspective to adapt to the modern social consciousness’. This is coding, of course, like most Leftist MSM journalism. What they mean is there are race-baiting sub-texts running through this film and there had better be. Whereas the first film revolved around the children’s father having been wrongly accused of espionage, the sequel has the children protecting a wounded Black soldier (which The Independent writes as ‘Black’ (but not White), the grammatically incorrect capitalization adopted in line with Associated Press protocols and noted above) and the headline to the review is:

‘A belated sequel that doesn’t have anything meaningful to say about racism’.

Why should it? We note again the irritated expectation of the Left that everything be reduced to the two skimpy dimensions of the race argument. But the “re-imagining” of British history via the medium of entertainment goes on.

Earlier this year, London saw a West End revival of the popular musical My Fair Lady. Based on George Bernard Shaw’s play Pygmalion, which premiered in 1913 and was itself based on the Greek myth of Pygmalion and Galatea, the story of My Fair Lady is that of a cockney flower girl in London’s East End just before World War I. A professor of linguistics, Henry Higgins, is appalled by her rough accent and bets a colleague he can make her speak like a duchess. It was filmed in 1964 starring Rex Harrison as Professor Higgins and Audrey Hepburn as Eliza Doolittle. It is a charming fantasy, and the film features songs well known to any British audience of a certain age.

The most recent theatrical production in London casts a Black actress as Eliza. Again, this is unfeasible. A Black cockney match-seller in the east end of London in 1912 is as likely as a Tibetan hot-dog vendor outside an American ball-game in the same year, probably less so. The only Blacks in London at that time would have been transitory sailors. But, again, the point is not historical verisimilitude but propaganda. The semiotics of casting Black actors in White parts from different eras of history is intended to convey the message that Britain, and particularly its major cities, has always had a large Black population, and a virtuous one at that. This is what the viewer is being told and not just expected but commanded to believe. In passing, I note that most of actress Amara Okereke’s roles are traditionally White. Not her fault. She is a pawn. And a Black pawn, meaning she moves second, after White ideologues have moved first. And, in the end, it is Whites in charge of this cultural revisionism.

The point is not that the BBC, the Royal Shakespeare Company, Channel 4 and all the other cultural commissars patrolling the grounds are trying to convince a guppy-mouthed British audience that history was largely populated by Black people. It wasn’t, and the older fish know that. What these people are telling you is that you had better start seeing it that way, because soon there will be examinations after class, and if you don’t make the grade things may change for you, just like they did for Anne Boleyn at the precise moment the axe went through her neck. The beauty of a Black Anne Boleyn, of course, is that the execution can be an imprimatur of racism. And racism is cause for, if not monetary, then certainly societal reparations, as Black people are shuffled into positions from the public sector to the entertainment industry to politics as a kind of bewildered meritocracy, one which will gradually pick off the culturally important posts, roles and offices of a rapidly declining United Kingdom.

Two of British entertainment’s most iconic fictional screen characters are Dr. Who and James Bond, the eccentric time-lord forever battling the Daleks and the suave spy with a shaken Martini and a licence to kill. It was inevitable, then, that cries for the roles going to Black actors would become increasingly shrill. The producers of Dr. Who had already tried a woman—to disastrous ratings, and the idea of ‘Jane Bond’ has been mooted on many occasions. But earlier this year Dr. Who got its first Black lead, Ncuti Gatwa, and the 14th Doctor will also be portrayed as a homosexual to bolster the show’s woke points tally.

The Blackening of British history via its dramatic representation only boosts one ethnicity, of course. You would never see on screen a Chinese Anne Boleyn, a Sikh Dallow, or a Maori aristocrat in Regency London. Just as Blacks are absurdly over-represented in British screen advertising — Blacks are only 3% of the British population but are inescapable in ads — so too it is vanishingly rare to see any other ethnicities. But that is not to say that the re-writing of history is taking place exclusively in Black terms. This revisionism does not stop with race.

I, Joan, a production of the story of Joan of Arc at London’s famous Globe Theatre (actually not Shakespeare’s original, but the third version, although any visitor to London should visit it anyway) has Joan as ‘non-binary’, and answering to pronouns of ‘they and them’. I trust the French inquisitors who burnt Joan didn’t midgender her. But, again, that isn’t the point, as the Globe Theatre’s website explains that the production is ‘alive, queer and full of hope’.

This racial revisionism currently dictating the make-up of British casting is a befuddled kind of re-wilding. White liberals have always been rabid Rousseauists, believing that Black people represent some sort of primal force the White man lacks, being pre-occupied as he has been by trifles such as the Classical world, the Renaissance, the Reformation, the Enlightenment, the Industrial Revolution, the age of technology and the founding of civilization and democracy. It is well known now that Blacks invented everything from the plough to the Large Hadron Collider, so they should be fairly represented in history, even if they weren’t there, rather than the racist reminder that the main place Blacks are over-represented seems to be prison.

Sir Richard Attenborough, who I mentioned at the start, directed the film Gandhi in 1982 , with Ben Kingsley in the lead role. Kingsley, a brilliant and much-loved actor in the UK, has escaped cancel culture for the role as he was born Krishna Pandit Bhanji (albeit in Yorkshire in the north of England) but a story attaches itself to the production which I hope is true, as it offers advice to the British entertainment industry as to how a producer might respond to a demand for more Blacks in the cast. An Indian adviser on the film suggested to Attenborough that the main character of Gandhi might be more properly portrayed by a beam of light rather than a human actor. Attenborough replied; “We’re making a film about Gandhi, not fucking Tinkerbell”.

(Republished from The Occidental Observer by permission of author or representative)