A couple weeks back Alyssa Rosenberg wrote a great piece about white actors Hollywood keeps trying to push despite their continuing failure to succeed. (For those who quibble about Sam Worthington’s inclusion: watch Man on a Ledge and then try to tell me differently.) These actors are not bad actors per se (although I would argue Jason O’Mara is pretty bad), but they are pointedly non-special-in-any-way actors who keep getting breaks until something happens for them. Alex O’Loughlin is a good example of this: he was boring in Moonlight and then he was boring in Three Rivers and now he is boring in Hawaii Five-O, but on that show he is surrounded by more entertaining actors and pretty scenery so it has become successful and now O’Loughlin is the Hollywood equivalent of a made guy. The point is that minority actors, by and large, do not get these same types of chances. Idris Elba in particular should be huge now. Morris Chestnut seemed tailor-made to be an action star – muscular, attractive, charismatic, – but it never happened and he got shunted into “urban” romcoms. And so forth.
Anyway, I mention all of this because I just saw the extended trailer for Step Up: Revolution. (Yes, I know some of you are going to just click over to Reddit instead of reading the rest of this post, but try to bear with me.)
Now, if you are not familiar with the Step Up films, there is a simple pattern to them: boy meets girl, they are both dancers, one or the other has a crew and for some reason that crew has to win a big dance battle which is awesome, Love Conquers All, happy ending. Now, the first Step Up starred Charming Potato but since Mr. Potato was not available to do Step Up 2 The Streets, as he was now rich and famous and too important for such things, instead the film transitioned to his character’s previously unmentioned little sister analogue and she took the role of The Girl in the second movie.
Since all of the Step Up films take place in the same universe where dance battles are bigger than UFC, the third film, Step Up 3D had to be connected to the second and this time around the primary transition character was Adam Sevani’s Moose. Now, Sevani is a pretty badass dancer, and in fact he gets a romance subplot, but instead of being the lead he is secondary to some blandly attractive model-esque dancers who aren’t bad or anything but certainly aren’t the sick dancers that the rest of the cast are – and really aren’t so amazing as actors that they merit any additional consideration on that front. But they’re definitely attractive and Sevani is, let us be honest, geek chic rather than traditional leading man.
However, Step Up 3D also introduced Stephen “Twitch” Boss to the cast, and Twitch, as any fan of So You Think You Can Dance knows, is charismatic, articulate, a decent actor, a ridiculously good dancer, has an existing fanbase, and most importantly for our considerations at this point is quite handsome:
And producers promised that Twitch would get a greatly expanded role in Step Up 4 (which later got renamed to Step Up Revolution as they jiggered the plot to tie it into Occupy Wall Street, sort of, if Occupy Wall Street danced in far more badass ways than they usually do), so a lot of people, myself included, naturally assumed that he would be the transition character into the fourth film. But instead of this happening, Twitch is still a supporting character and the leads are going to be a white girl and a not-terribly-dark Hispanic guy.
Granted, one can’t get too upset about Kathryn McCormick playing the lead white girl, because she is totally awesome in her own right, but why can’t she just romance Twitch instead? I mean, interracial relationships are common nowadays – particularly in the dance community. But this is one area where Hollywood continues to be weirdly reactionary.