Voicing Black Characters on Animated Shows

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In response to the George Floyd and Breonna Taylor murders, the Black Lives Matter Movement has made it their mission to address the systematic racism of brands, companies and historical statues. One example of this is asking the Washington Redskins to change their name. 

Now, animated shows have taken a stance on the conversation about racial injustice. A number of white actors have announced they will no longer be voicing roles of animated characters of color. Most notably, Mike Henry, who voiced Cleveland Brown on the animated Fox Comedy “Family Guy,” took to twitter to announce his exit from his decades-long role.

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“It’s been an honor to play Cleveland on Family Guy for 20 years. I love this character, but people of color should play characters of color. Therefore, I will be stepping down from the role” – Mike Henry.

The well-known voice actor began voicing the black character on Family Guy in 1999, which led to the spin-off series The Cleveland Show that spanned from 2009 to 2013.

Jenny Slate has also announced she will no longer be voicing the biracial character, Missy, on the Netflix original animated show “Big Mouth.” Slate shared her sentiments on Instagram, explaining that she felt connected to the character because of her Jewish background, but realizes there is an aspect that she couldn’t capture.

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“Black characters should be played by Black people.” – Jenny Slate.

Their decisions coincide with several other white actors declaring they will no longer voice black characters in a number of animated series. The Simpsons, which has been on the air since 1989, had previously faced criticism for having Hank Azaria, who is white, voicing Indian shopkeeper Apu. Earlier this year, Azaria said he would no longer voice Apu because, “It didn’t feel right”.

Alison Brie announced on Instagram that she will not be voicing the Vietnamese-American character Diane Nguyen on Netflix’s “Bojack Horseman,” as she has for six seasons.

Alison Brie in ‘Bojack Horseman’ . CREDIT: Getty Images/Netflix

“I now understand that people of color should always voice people of color. We missed a great opportunity to represent the Vietnamese-American community accurately and respectfully, and for that I am truly sorry,” Brie wrote on Instagram.

Many people are frustrated that it took national outrage for these shows and actors to realize the issue. However, many are pleased to see the changes, with actors using their influence to affect the industry at large.

Actors of color deserve to have the opportunity to play these characters in an industry where opportunity is slim for them. Making space for these actors won’t solve systemic racism overnight, but it’s definitely a start. 

 

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