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20-year-old Caleb McLaughlin, who plays Lucas Sinclair in Stranger Things, recently discussed the racism he’s experienced while apart of the mega-hit Netflix show.
According to the BBC, McLaughlin said his treatment from some fans “took a toll” on him. “My very first Comic-Con, some people didn’t stand in my line because I was Black,” he told fans at a convention in Belgium.
Caleb, who joined Stranger Things at age 14, is one of five original main characters alongside co-stars Finn Wolfhard, Gaten Matarazzo, Noah Schnapp and Millie Bobby Brown, however, he stands alone in most scenes as the sole Black character on the sci-fi series.
The other actors also have more Instagram followers than Caleb – something that he discussed with fans during his on-stage appearance at Heroes Comic Con in Brussels.
here’s caleb talking about how he had to deal with racism just because he was “the black kid who was mean to eleven in season 1” and felt like it was important to share his thoughts on that ? #StrangerThings #TUDUM #CalebMcLaughlin @HComicConBE pic.twitter.com/JZoXS9aaBW
— leon ? (@moonychalamet) September 25, 2022
McLaughlin admitted to asking his parents why he was the “least favorite” even though he was “on the same show as everybody” and his parents responded, “…’It’s a sad truth, but it’s because you’re the Black child on the show.’
Hollywood has more to do to protect its Black stars
Sophia Wilson, 22, a Black cast member on the Freeform show “The Come Up,” a docu-reality series about six Generation Z creatives navigating their careers in New York City, says she has received a wave of racist messaging online, including “really weird and creepy emails” since the show premiered last month.
While Wilson said she ignores the comments, it’s been taking a toll on her mental health.
“It’s been pretty hard to navigate,” Wilson told NBC News of the racist comments, adding that this was her TV debut. “I knew it was just going to get amplified, the more people that see me and hear me on their screens.”
Her “Come Up” co-star Ebon Gore, a 24-year-old transgender woman from Brooklyn, said she has faced a similar battle with snide and racist remarks online. Gore said she is proud of McLaughlin for calling for more accountability in the entertainment industry.
“It’s about time we direct these questions to Hollywood,” she said. “When are things going to change? Or when are more people going to speak out about it?”
According to Deadline, actor John Boyega has expressed “frustration” with Disney’s kid-gloves handling of fan protests when he was cast as a “Black Stormtrooper” in 2015’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens. While Boyega has starred in many roles since 2015, his early exposure to racist nerd’s offered him a glimpse into how rabid fanbases want to keep their fantasy worlds rooted in whiteness.
While racism somehow made it all the way to the stars, the same sentiments are true even underwater. In September, Disney released the first trailer for The Little Mermaid, featuring Bailey singing “Part of Your World.” According to Vox, thousands of YouTube users brigaded, leaving more than 2 million dislikes and countless derogatory comments on the trailer, and creating memes ridiculing the film for casting Bailey and mocking all of its supporters.
Even in imaginary and fantastical worlds, racism rears its ugly but all too predictable head and white actors and studios are beginning to show support.
According to BBC, actors from the film series Lord of the Rings recently shared photos of themselves wearing T-shirts showing images of pointed hobbit, elf and harfoot ears of different colors as a sign of solidarity with Black stars of the new show Rings of Power.
— Elijah Wood (@elijahwood) September 7, 2022
In a separate joint statement posted online, stars of the new streaming service adaptation said: “We, the cast of Rings of Power, stand together in absolute solidarity and against the relentless racism, threats, harassment, and abuse some of our castmates of colour are being subjected to on a daily basis. They reiterated, “We refuse to ignore it or tolerate it.”
Hollywood has tolerated and perpetuated racism for years
At the Academy Awards banquet ceremony inside the Ambassador Hotel’s Cocoanut Grove nightclub in Los Angeles, she was forced to sit alone, far away from the same table as the film’s White cast members.
While a few white actors wearing t-shirts is nice in 2022, where have the allies, advocates, and activists been this whole time? Who stood up for Hattie McDaniel?
Black actors have long been relegated to demeaning and stereotypical roles and in large part white chuckles was only followed by white silence.
By Hollywood historically pigeon-holing Black folks to a certain types of roles, they’ve curated expectations for many fanbases. As a result, now when a Black person appears in a non-traditional role, those racist audiences can’t fathom how or why a Black person could even portray a character that is usually already based in fantasy.
Over many years, casting directors, producers, and decision-makers have routinely stuck to the same predictable formula when featuring Black actors on a movie or TV show. They have normalized Blacks in secondary roles of servitude or being the “Black friend” on a fully white cast simply in order to check off the DEI box.
Without operating with intention to widen the scope and normalize Blacks on screen, we continue to see the racist results of the historic role Hollywood itself has played in stifling Black progress and allowing white resentment, jealousy, and insecurity to run amuck at our expense.