Yeah, I have some issues with this movie in the context that there are some who consider it potentially being among prominent films, including Imitation of Life (1934, 1959) and Lost Boundaries (1949), films that examine the topic of racial passing.
Social problem films dealing with race are still often regarded as progressive and thought to tackle the issue of racism.
However, for me the movie Passing, it’s clear that the entertainment powers-that-be (Hollywood, BBC., Netflix or whoever) made an empty gesture towards examining racial identity.
In truth, the fact remains that a majority of Blacks cannot pass as White, (As previously written, despite having a light complexion my ‘Phenotype’ (Observable physical characteristics) clearly reveals an African lineage so for me examining this issue was superficial, particularly when the director (Rebecca Hall) cast only one of the main characters (Ruth Negga) who could conceivably pass for white while demanding the viewers imagine the other character; Irene (Tessa Thompson,) is white when she is confronted by the racist husband of her racially passing friend (Clare).
|Christy Turlington as Black, then White – then – Black again|
|For years I was vexed by this model’s ethnicity, was she black, white, both?
Christie Turlington is of European and Salvadoran lineage.
Moreover, passing narratives do not challenge the existing ‘intra-racial’ hierarchy that exists to this day in the United States, instead subtly encouraging those at the bottom to stay in ‘their place.’
Industry practices: Such as casting decisions play an important role in these films. While ostensibly these movies should have provided opportunities for more Black actors and actresses.
Bowever, with the exception of the casting of Fredi Washington in 1934 in Imitation of Life, Hollywood continued to cast White actors exclusively in Black roles.
This is contrary to Irene’s claims that it “would not be easy for a white person to pass as black,” easy enough, as black actors continue to be denied, significant roles outside of age-old stereotypes and tropes.
In fact, the Production Code Administration (PCA as established by the Motion Picture Producers and Distributors of America (MPPDA) was intended to enforce the Motion Picture Production Code. The PCA required all
filmmakers to submit their films for approval before release, and the PCA was so alarmed about Fredi Washington’s appearance and
real-life ability to pass as a white woman that subsequent passing films avoided any PCA censorship problems by not casting Blacks at all. (Wow, now THAT is known as white fear!)
That’s why in the 1959 version of Imitation of Life, white
actor Susan Kohner was cast to play Sarah (the mixed-race daughter, struggling with her racial identity.)
Through an examination of the PCA files on these films, industry practices of racial exclusion from lead roles as well as the use of passing films continue to shore up the centrality of whiteness in Hollywood cinema.
This is why I primarily did not view any of Irene’s actions as being indicative of some underlying attraction to or desire for Clare.
Considering the importance given to the issue of race, I viewed Irene as being so consumed with her own appearance at the hotel as meaning that she did not wish to be outed as passing for white.
Do you remember the discomfort Irene displayed when she noticed Clare staring at her? Clare recognized Irene, but Irene did not recognize Clare, so when Clare began to approach Irene, the former was so uncomfortable that she was ready to bolt out of the hotel, lest she be identified as black by an ostensibly white woman.
Not-with-standing Tessa Thompson’s real-life sexual identity/orientation, for me any same-sex attraction that Irene felt towards Clare was not satisfactorily conveyed. So when Clare revealed that maybe she would move in with Clare, I took it as her seeking a chance to be her true self, to grab on the black identity she had hidden for years, and nothing more.
|Now, This is the movie that I wanted to see these two women in.|
I saw the furtive glances and looks given by Irene as the result of her curiosity and intrigue that her childhood friend (Clare) not only seemed to be living a life completely as a white woman but that she also managed to deceive her odiously racist husband; Jack Belew as well.
Of COURSE, Irene Did ‘It’
Finally, I did not view Irene’s actions that led to Clare’s death as anything more than an attempt to move Clare away from an angry Jack Belew, but maybe in the heat of the moment, Irene momentarily forgot about the open window the two women were standing in front of.
Was Irene worried that her husband was developing an attraction towards Clare? Sure, why not, who wouldn’t be attracted to Clare (Ruth Negga)?
But, was Irene ready to murder Clare so that there wouldn’t be competition for her husband’s affections? I am not so sure about that.
Almost forgot: The model Christy Turlington has absolutely nothing to do with the movie Passing., other than I might have cast an actress who looked like her in the movie as she would make an excellent Clare.