Harold Perrineau Comments On Lost Racial Stereotype
Author: Kelly West
published: 2008-06-02 18:27:41
Last week TV Guide posted an interview with Harold Perrineau, the actor who plays Michael in the hit ABC series Lost. Among the things discussed in the interview were Perrineauís thoughts on how black people are portrayed on the show. If you havenít seen the Lost season finale, read no further!
Perrineauís character Michael met his end during this seasonís finale of Lost after a room-sized pile of explosives blew up, destroying the freighter. While we did see a number of freighties aboard a life raft after the explosion, Michael didnít appear to be one of them and given his proximity to the explosives just prior to the explosion, I donít think weíd be off to assume that heís dead. Then again, in Lost, being dead doesnít always mean gone from the show. For example, Jackís dadís been dead since the pilot and he shows up every now and then.
Based on what Perrineau told TV Guide in a recent interview, he thinks the his characterís death caters to a certain stereotype about black people. When asked if he was disappointed that his character Michael and Michaelís son Walt didnít reconnect before he died, Perrineau said:
ďListen, if I'm being really candid, there are all these questions about how they respond to black people on the show. Sayid gets to meet Nadia again, and Desmond and Penny hook up again, but a little black boy and his father hooking up, that wasn't interesting? Instead, Walt just winds up being another fatherless child. It plays into a really big, weird stereotype and, being a black person myself, that wasn't so interesting.Ē
Lost exec-producer Carlton Cuse responded, "We pride ourselves on having a very racially diverse cast. It's painful when any actor's storyline ends on the show. Harold is a fantastic actor whose presence added enormously to Lost."
While Cuseís response seems extremely scripted, I tend to agree with him. For one thing, Perrineau is a fantastic actor and plenty of us are going to miss him on the show. He was barely back from his extended absence on the series and now it looks like heís gone forever. That said, I doubt the decision to kill off Michael had anything to do with an intentional play to cater to a stereotype about black people. Then again, Perrineau never says itís intentional Ė whether it was implied or not, you be the judge.
Perrineau clarified his remarks in an interview with Entertainment Weekly, saying "My feelings about the social implications are my feelings. My feelings donít determine what the storyline is." When asked if he thought there was something fundamentally problematic with the plot, he responded, "Itís just an observation. Michaelís a black character and Iím a black person, so I have feelings based on it. I canít really separate those two things ó my race and my country and all that stuff. How it plays out in the story, I donít know, because I donít know how the rest of the story is going to play out. I accept that this is what [the producers] need to happen for something else to happen later."
If we wanted to get technical though, looking past the skin color, the relationships between many of the Lost characters and their kids or parents have always been a bit messy. Ok, ďa bitĒ is an understatement. To name a few seriously screwed up parent/child relationships on the show: Jack and his dad, Locke and his dad, Kate and her parents, Claire and her dad (which also happens to be Jackís dad), Sawyer and his illegitimate child, etc. etc. When you look at some of those relationships, the Michael/Walt story seems relatively positive by comparison. I do think itís sad that Michael and Walt never got their happy ending but at the same time, this can be said for every other character who died on the series thus far. The way I see it, the fact that Michael and Walt happen to be black is less relevant than the similarities one could draw between those two characters and ever other parent/child relationship in the series with an unresolved story.
How do you see it? Does the permanent separation of Michael and Walt cater to a racial stereotype or do you think examining their story from a racial point of view would be reading too much into it?
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