One of the most frustrating things about being a person of color critically engaging with film and television is being constantly force fed whiteness as the standard for all humanity.
Aside from the fact that these movies and shows tend to have weak characterization, flimsy motives, shoddy worldbuilding, and cliche plots, there’s the fact that they force me to spend my precious time and brain cells on characters who have zilch going on to make them the least bit compelling and essentially sit there and be white while the story happens around them.
I won’t even bother with examples because this shit is so ubiquitous that I’d have a hard time keeping track. But even good movies and good TV shows are not immune. Even in the best of the best out there, you can probably find that one character that just takes up space and does nothing for the story other than exist, who is important not because of anything they bring to the story, but because you have to keep being told over and over again that they’re important.
In stories like this, you can get the distinct impression that the only reason why anyone should care about these characters at all is because they’re white and they exist. If the people making this shit are going to put so little effort into giving me characters who do more than exist and be white on screen, the least they can do is not insult actors and acting by forcing live human beings to play the equivalent of a jar of mayonnaise. Just cut out the middle man and put a jar of mayonnaise where the actor would normally be. They could save themselves money and the actors some time.
And you know what? This bullshit is really fucking noticeable when the character is a white woman. Because, apparently, “girl” or “woman” or “wife” or “mother” is all the characterization she needs. So it does this weird sort of white supremacist yet patriarchal thing where a woman is only a person insofar as she’s important to a man, but at the same time, her status as prize makes her inherently more valuable to a narrative than any women of color, especially Black women, in the same story.
Consider Katrina Crane in Fox’s Sleepy Hollow. Look, I fucking love Sleepy Hollow! But if Katia Winter went to another show, and Fox replaced her with a jar of mayonnaise, I’d be hard-pressed to notice. What the hell does she do other than be Ichabod’s motivation, say all kinds of cryptic shit, and fail at being a witch? She only exists to be something that Ichabod strives for. Yet at the same time, when it comes to people arguing against the romantic potential between Ichabod and Abbie, or Abbie Mills being the character people most identify with, Katrina’s name consistently gets invoked.
Give me a motherfucking break.
Don’t show me a jar of mayonnaise and tell me it’s a character. Don’t show me a jar of mayonnaise with a girl’s name and tell me that’s feminist, let alone womanist.
And last but not least: STOP LEAVING ALL THESE FUCKING JARS OF MAYONNAISE ALL OVER THE GODDAMN PLACE!