As you've no doubt seen plastered all over your Facebook feed, there has been a bit of an uproar regarding Italy's marketing of upcoming slavery film, 12 Years a Slave.
It seems a couple of their posters prioritised supporting white cast members, and , as opposed to the leading black cast member, . Now, someone could claim this is simply because Fassbender and Pitt are titanically more recognisable faces, especially internationally, than Ejiofor, although others have suggested this is because all of Italy is fundamentally racist.
Now, according to Variety, it seems Lionsgate, whose Summit label is handling the movie overseas, has agreed to pull the Italian advertisements. They stated:
The 12 Years a Slave theatrical posters featuring Brad Pitt and Michael Fassbender that were recently released in Italy were unauthorized and were not approved by any of the producers or licensors of the film. Summit Entertainment, acting as exclusive sales agent for the licensors, is investigating and taking immediate action to stop the distribution of any unauthorized posters and to have those posters currently in the marketplace recalled.
Personally, I think we should take a moment before we jump on our high horses and go galloping off into accusing people of being racist. Firstly, as this IndieWire editorial explains, this kind of thing is certainly not unheard of in America and elsewhere, and secondly movie marketers care only about one thing: making money. Now I'm not saying the white-washing of culture and history doesn't exist, indeed it does, I'm just not sure if that's what we're seeing here.
I have to (well, perhaps 'want to') believe that prioritising internationally known white actors on the posters is purely a strategy to entice in a broader audience than a calculated attempt to belittle and undermine an entire race of people. For the most part marketers of all types don't care about taking a normative position or stance on anything, if they think it'll make them more money, they'll do it. Welcome to the free market people...
Having said that, it is unusual that a third poster wasn't developed which did prioritise the film's main protagonist.
What do you think? Is this racist, or just business? Let us know below.