Comedian Jenny Slate has announced she will no longer voice the mixed-race character Missy Foreman-Greenwald on Netflix’s Big Mouth, saying that black characters on an animated show should be voiced by black people.
Slate announced the decision on her Instagram, saying that by voicing Missy, she was contributing to the erasure of black people.
Some praised her decision. “This is amazing and a perfect example of how to be an ally!! I love Big Mouth but will definitely support your next project, Thank you,” wrote one commenter. “This decision could not have been easy. Thank you for leading by example,” wrote another.
However, there were also several responses to the post which foretold a debate that would later spill over into Twitter. “This is absolute foolishness. Like come on man. & this is coming from a black man,” wrote a commenter.
As the news spread to Twitter, users there began debating about representation in voice acting and if Slate’s decision was justified. Again, some people were supportive:
jenny slate, who played a biracial character on big mouth, is leaving the show so her role can be recasted and given to a black person, this is how actors can use their privilege !!
— lils (@jostfilm) June 24, 2020
jenny slate is dropping out of playing missy in big m*uth THANK YOU FOR MAKING THE RIGHT DECISION pic.twitter.com/UctcsKsGZw
— c (@barrybIock) June 24, 2020
But others found that the decision was a step too far, noting that numerous voice actors have done phenomenal jobs despite not being the race of their character (though none of these examples were of non-black actors playing black characters).
Physical appearance should not be a requirement to voice a character. Ash Ketchum, Timmy Turner, and Bart Simpson were all voiced by women, but no one noticed nor cared because the acting was so good. And sex, unlike race, actually AFFECTS the sound of your voice.
— A2L | RIP Rick May ∠o (@amuzed2life) June 24, 2020
I hope Disney does the right thing and recasts Darth Vader. A white character voiced by James Earl Jones is deeply toxic and problematic. Also Nancy Cartwright playing Bart Simpson is sexist gender erasure. /s pic.twitter.com/Hh9FMQU6Vh
— Lex (@geekynovelist) June 25, 2020
Just a reminder that Samurai Jack was voiced by Phil Lamarr, and did a damn good job.
Why does voice acting need to be restricted, Jenny Slate? pic.twitter.com/XhaU8nw0Na
— MangaKamen – When I shine, darkness fades (@Manga_Kamen) June 25, 2020
People want to stop comparing Bart Simpson to Big Mouth. Okay, how about we compare it to Kratos? Christopher is the greatest voice in the world for him and he doesn’t have to have the to have the same skin color. Why? Cause that’s how progressive VA is. It doesn’t give fuck. pic.twitter.com/BcemUQ4K8A
— -BLM-Fletchling (@DFletchling) June 25, 2020
The frequent arguments led “Bart Simpson” and “James Earl Jones” to trend on Twitter throughout the day, as people sparred back and forth about the other side’s argument.
As for Slate, at the moment it does not appear as though she will take on another role in Big Mouth, unlike Kristen Bell, who also stepped down from voicing a black character in Central Park and was recast in another role.