Film provocateur and #MeToo target Quentin Tarantino is working on a new film. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is set in 1969 in Los Angeles, and centres around the Manson cult murders. Margot Robbie stars as famed actress Sharon Tate, who was murdered (while nearly nine months pregnant) by the Mansons on orders from cult leader Charles Manson. Other A-list stars cast in the film include Dakota Fanning, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Brad Pitt. Talent aside, these actors have one big thing in common: they’re all white, save Clifton Collins, Jr., who is playing a character named Ernesto The Mexican Vaquero. Of all the marquee actors announced as part of Once Upon a Time in Hollywood’s cast, Tarantino has not cast a single actor of colour in a main role. And people are taking note.
On Twitter, Rotten Tomatoes compiled an image of the cast, and revealed, unintentionally, a blinding white cast. The film is described as a “Pulp Fiction-like tapestry” — which indicates that multiple storylines will coalesce throughout concurrent events. Given that the film may play out in vignettes between main and side characters, the internet is wondering why this couldn’t include actors of colour in prominent roles.
Tarantino has been criticised for his understanding regarding race. In an essay for The New Yorker, Jelani Cobb wrote that Django Unchained represented violence as the ultimate form of revenge against the horrors of slavery, without affirming the basic humanity of the slaves who didn’t, for example, blow up a plantation with stick of dynamite. In Tarantino’s world, violence is glorified as the supreme way to topple systems of oppression; they don’t examine the struggles of victims who choose to move on, who heal themselves from within, versus healing by chopping someone's head off.
But that’s why we watch Tarantino’s films, right? To see slaves, women, and Jewish people exact revenge on their tyrants? Sure — and we would never seek to deny anyone the entertainment they need to cope with their oppression. Still, that Once Upon a Time in Hollywood lacks in diversity is telling. If Twitter is any indication, movie fans are not going to let him off the hook.
Correction: An earlier version of this article asserted that all the actors cast in this film are white. Some actors of colour are currently signed on for smaller roles.