Typecasting Leaves Negative Impression on Youth

by Lucy Kuchma ’18

Take a second to ask yourself the following: When is the last time you saw a Melissa McCarthy movie that didn’t feature a single joke or reference about her weight? A Samuel L. Jackson movie where he didn’t rip out a weapon while continually spewing the f-bomb?

Although it sometimes goes disguised as actors merely serving their comedic or dramatic specialties, typecasting is a substantial issue; not so much on the side of the actors, as all of the ones mentioned make big bucks for playing the role we all pay to see them in, but, rather, on the side of the audience.

From Zooey Deschanel as the quirky doll-eyed dreamer to Seth Rogen in the role of a laidback stoner, quite a few actors play nearly the exact same part time after time. And you might be asking yourself, “what’s wrong with that?” Well, this form of typecasting provides, particularly younger audiences with the idea that if you’re heavy or effeminate or rugged or awkward, that is the only thing about you people care to notice.

When young people see someone that looks or acts like them on a TV show or in a movie, they, consciously or subconsciously, look up to them to some extent. And when that character gets winded after running ten steps, and the audience laughs, a viewer might remark on the amusement the character’s physical unfitness induces.

The same reaction goes for a young woman watching Reese Witherspoon in one of her trademark rom-coms, falling in love with a big-money stud who initially turns his nose up at her ditz and stubbornness, but after her sass suddenly becomes lovable, he finally falls as well. It might be easy to see that same story time after time and think that if you’re blonde and petite and like to wear heels, the only way you’ll get the guy is by wearing him down with your pushy and flippant “charm.”

Jennifer Aniston serves as an example of how, when Hollywood directors take casting risks, it can make the film all the more interesting to its audience. When she appeared in the 2013 comedy, “We’re the Millers,” audiences were shocked to see the “Friends” star spewing obscenities and sexual innuendos. But the film ended up being wildly popular, partially because of its unpredictable cast. Aniston, along with “innocent” costars Emma Roberts and Molly Quinn, were a huge part of why the movie was hilarious.

So would it be so hard to do something a little bit different, and refrain from casting riskier actors in merely an ironic sense? Hollywood is constantly changing to keep up with its audiences, but it would be a testament to those audiences’ support of famous actors if people wanted to watch an actor’s movies where he or she plays a character that’s different from their norm. Additionally, it would create a less detectable aspect of diversity, so audiences don’t get the wrong idea about what people are and aren’t capable of as a result of how they look or act.