Can We Please Stop Casting Bland White Guys as Lead Characters?

Netflix's "Daybreak" features its blandest character

Screen Rant

Netflix's new series, Daybreak, sells itself as a post-apocalyptic teenage Rashomon (the Japanese classic told in divergent perspectives), with a sequence of characters in the trailer each claiming to be the real protagonist.

At its best, the show does capture some of this appeal. It almost makes up for the lack of believable dialogue, compelling world-building, or competent portrayal of youth culture by having a diverse array of vibrant characters—like Wesley Fist, the gay black samurai whose story is narrated by Wu Tang's RZA. But ultimately, the claim that these characters have equal weight is undermined by the show's insistent focus on Colin Ford as "just Josh."

Wesley Fists Wesley Fists, being more Interesting than josh

He's the bland white guy at the center of the story, because that's something Netflix thinks we need. Prior to the apocalypse, he was just a C-student, a recent transfer from Toronto who claimed to only like food from The Cheesecake Factory. He's continually mistaken for "tennis Josh, little Josh with the big truck, gay Josh, and other gay Josh," to which his friends respond that he's "just Josh." His love interest, Sam Dean (a deliberate nod to Colin Ford's stint on Supernatural?) describes him as "terrifically uncomplicated."

Just Josh

After the bombs drop and all the adults are wiped out, Josh's wilderness skills make him a hot commodity, but it all just reads as an excuse to cast the blandest possible white guy and force all the more interesting characters into orbit around him.

As a bland white boy myself, can we please just stop?

There's no need to plaster on a confused approximation of wokeness (no, Daybreak, you can't say "Todd Altman self-identifies his gender as a seahorse" in a hip, accepting way…) and qualify your main character's bland whiteness by saying "but he's supposed to be boring!" What you can do is skip all that by ditching the bland white guy character in the first place.

While Sam Dean—a blonde, sex-positive Pollyanna with an English accent and a heavy dose of damsel in distress—is a shade more interesting than "just Josh," they could both be removed from the show without losing much value. But nope. Daybreak makes them the center of the whole world.

"The Cheermazons"

I mean, there's a turf war for control of hellscape-LA, with cliquish tribes—a la The Warriors—all vying for power. That's pretty fun. And, oh boy! There are even a handful of novel, dynamic characters who are engaging enough to warrant a focus in that unfolding war. Yay! But no. The show insists that Josh's quest to rescue Sam is the really important story.

He can't even have a face believably

Why? Josh just sucks. He feels bad that, pre-apocalypse, he called Sam a sl*t, and he wants to save her so he can win her back. Why should we root for that? He called her a sl*t because she's too cool for him—and she's barely cool. He's the blandest flavor of cottage cheese in a toxic-masculine shell. Even if Colin Ford delivered a stellar performance, it's hard to see how this sh*tty character would be salvageable, let alone worthy of the central role. And Colin Ford is faaaar from stellar...

So, Netflix. Do better. You seem to have the freedom to green-light whatever you want, so why keep centering your stories on the same lame characters? Why is a WASPy half-nerd white guy still the default? Speaking on behalf of us all, even we're bored of us by now.


THEATRE | Daybreak take the Pan-Asian Rep to Armenia

This new play about the Armenian Genocide takes an emotional trip through the pain of a generation

Photo: John Quincy Lee

One hundred years ago an atrocity was perpetrated by the Ottoman Empire that would not receive a name for another three decades.

Somewhere in the range of 1.5 million Armenians were systematically rounded up and brutally murdered. Many more were displaced and forced to leave the land in which they had lived for generations. It wasn't until the 1940s that the word Genocide was coined, though many of the powers-that-be still refuse to acknowledge the events as such. Daybreak (currently running at the Beckett Theatre on Theatre Row) is a play that follows the stories of some that survived. One woman's dreams, memories, and nightmares of what occurred collide in a fracas that offers few concrete resolutions, but uncompromisingly shares the experience of a people left lost and harrowed.

Structurally, Daybreak is unconventional. It is more in line with expressionist, even Proustian practices at times. It follows a three-act structure, but nothing resembling the classic well-made play. It's first act is a chaotic pilgrimage through war crimes and the lives they tore asunder. The second sees discussion, factual recanting and the explicit sharing of oral histories, lending context to the jarring images of the first act. The third and final act seems to extrapolate on its two predecessors, presenting a world which is at once actual present day and the science-fiction future of the past. It marries didactic discussion with a tending to emotional scars. To borrow phraseology from Fritz Lang, the first act presents the heart, the second the head, and the third mediates the two.

Photo: John Quincy Lee

In conversation with actress Tamara Sevunts, who plays the twin roles of Varter and Rose, she clarified some of the play's intention. "The question of genocide recognition, for me, is intrinsically tied to the Armenian identity. After having read the play for the first time, I asked myself whether it had to be." The piece deftly deals with this question, and refuses to present a simple, neat answer. An acknowledgment that one doesn't exist, as Sevunts explains: "As a dream play that moves fluidly and unexpectedly through time and space, [Daybreak] is forward-looking instead of accusatory. It asks how one can move past unacknowledged trauma, passed down from generation to generation, in the hopes of finding healing and a positive future."

Sevunts plays her role with a deft command of the ethereal, triggering and negotiating the tangled emotional psyche of the main character Victoria (Nicole Ansari). Ansari herself is a powerhouse, leading a blinking audience through the blinding horrors of human nature, and reassuring them that justice does exist, but not with ease, and never in quite the forms one expects. Michael Irvin Pollard is a brilliant curmudgeon, and lends his considerable expertise to various grouches and assorted others throughout the play. Robert Najarian embodies every bright young man in Victoria's ailing memory, and does so as if born to charm. Angela Pierce also excels in multiple roles, giving the play its principal voice outside of the Armenian. Melis Aker rounds out the cast providing a sympathetic voice for the modern Turk, and gracefully bestows humanity on the play's largely unseen antagonists.

Photo: John Quincy Lee

"I can only hope that Armenian audiences will walk away considering where the community has come, how far it has come, and how far it has yet to go in dealing with a trauma that has been passed down from generation to generation," says Tamara Sevunts. One certainly hopes she's right. To the outsider the pain of a people is evident, and the myriad difficulties associated with closing the wound are laid plain and bare for the audience to see. While initially confusing (the lack of context in the first act is profoundly jarring), the play eventually informs its audience as to what it is they are seeing. Once that context exists, the first act becomes retroactively harrowing, and the rest of the play takes on a gripping weight that feeds the need to know more. Not a light evening at the theatre, but most definitely worth the price of admission.

Tickets | Website | Theatre Row

Thomas Burns Scully is a PopDust contributor, and also an award-winning actor, playwright, and musician. In his spare time he writes and designs escape rooms. You can follow him on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

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PSY's "Gentleman" predictably rockets straight to No. 1 on this week's GAON singles chart, blocking R&B balladeer, K.Will, from the top spot. In last week's chart roundup, we predicted that K.Will might bag another chart-topper based off of strong digital downloads and streaming points, but that was before "Gentleman" was released.

Outside of Korea, PSY's new hit makes a big splash on the Billboard Hot 100 at No. 12 after less than two days of availability. "Gentleman"'s impressive debut is mostly due to streaming points, with the song shifting just 27,000 downloads, but reaching No. 1 on the Streaming Songs chart with 8.6 million streams. Expect to see a huge jump from "Gentleman" on next week's chart due to increased downloads (it's since reached the top 10 of US iTunes) and insane Youtube views (140 million and counting so far).

Now, who was it again that called PSY a one-hit-wonder?

Coming in at No. 3 this week is JYP entertainment's female duo, 15&, with their second single, "Somebody." The song has been billed as an unofficial sequel to Wonder Girls' K-pop classic, "Nobody," which is the kind of comparison that can only be made with a straight face if the song in question is really good, and "Somebody" definitely is. It's still holding up relatively well on the digital charts, so hopefully it'll stick around for a little while and give 15& a much-needed hit that can stand up against Lee Hi's mammoth success.

Vocal queen, Lyn, debuts at No. 7 with her buzz single, "Tonight." The song was produced by hitmakers of the moment, Double Sidekick, and features popular hip-hop duo, Baechigi, so seeing it enter so high is hardly a surprise.

The last new debut in the top ten goes to Zion.T, whose funky new single, "Babay," featuring Gaeko, arrives at No. 9.

Sunny Hill and Daybreak's spring collaboration, "Love Actually," makes huge gains this week, jumping 20 places to No. 13, while the adorable new Jay Park single, "JOAH," debuts at No. 17.

Meanwhile, Ga-In --who is currently making waves for her role in PSY's "Gentleman" music video-- debuts at No. 19 with "Brunch," her new collaboration single with labelmate, Hyungwoo.

Lastly, Girl's Day's "Expectation" drops out of the top twenty this week to No. 22, while Ladies' Code's "Bad Girl" takes another tumble after a great chart run, dropping 11 places to No. 55.

Check out this week's key K-pop hits, below.

No. 1. PSY - Gentleman

No. 3. 15& - Somebody

No. 9. Zion.T. feat Gaeko - Babay

No. 17. Jay Park - JOAH

No. 19. Ga-In & Hyungwoo - Brunch

Davichi have bagged themselves yet another No. 1 hit, with their latest effort, "Melting," featuring rapper Verbal Jint, debuting at the top of this week's GAON Singles Chart. Although the song isn't included on the duo's new album, Mystic Ballad, it's more or less considered to be like a repackage or follow-up single, making it the second chart-topper to come out of the Mystic Ballad era, and Davichi's fifth No. 1 overall since the creation of the GAON chart back in 2010. Mystic Ballad's other single, "Just The Two of Us," narrowly missed on the top spot, debuting at No. 2 two weeks ago.

Just behind Davichi is Lee Hi's "Rose," which topped the chart last week. The gloomy electronic track has been performing quite well since its release, and a second week slip of just one spot shows that it could have some real staying power (unlike Lee Hi's previous hit, "It's Over").

Coming in third place is Geeks' new buzz single, "How Are You," which features female songstress, Harim. The hip-hop duo had a huge hit last year with their remake of Tamia's "Officially Missing You," featuring SISTAR's Soyu, and since "How Are You" follows an almost identical formula, it's not a surprise to see it doing so well.

K.Will's new spring-themed single, "Love Blossom," tails closely behind at No. 4, but is a strong contender to reach No. 1 next week.

K-pop Star 2 winners, Akdong Musician, have two songs in the top ten this week, with their former chart-topper, "Crescendo," at No. 7, and their newest single, "Confessions of a Foreigner," at No. 8.

Meanwhile, INFINITE's "Man in Love" falls out of the top ten by dropping to No. 11 in its third week, while Electroboyz's collaboration with After School's Nana, "Ma Boy 3," debuts at No. 12.

Girl's Day sexy hit, "Expectation," slips six spots to No. 20, while Ladies' Code's "Bad Girl" falls to No. 44 after spending three consecutive weeks in the top forty.

The remaining key debuts of the week belong to Sunny Hill and Daybreak's one-off spring duet, "Love Actually," at No. 33, while Nega Network's rookie boy band, Lunafly, arrive at a disappointing No. 86 with "Fly to Love."

On next week's chart, look out for strong debuts from 15&, Jay Park, and Zion.T, as well as more big things from K.Will.

Check out some of this week's notable hits, below.

No. 1. Davichi feat. Verbal Jint - Melting

No. 2. Lee Hi - Rose

No. 4. K.Will - Love Blossom

No. 12. Electroboyz feat. After School's Nana - Ma Boy 3

No. 33 - Sunny Hill & Daybreak - Love Actually

Britney Spears has done another TV appearance, this time for the United Kingdom show Daybreak, to promote her Femme Fatale Tour. Must be morning.

It's apparently late enough in the rehearsal process for a couple costumes to surface, but if the gold bikini is one of the "shocking" ones Spears alludes to, we're suddenly back in a YouTube-enhanced version of the '50s, or perhaps Star Wars. As far as the show itself, we're told it'll be a show? And "impactful."

Spears, to our relief, seems a lot more lucid in this interview--although her most animated bit is a repeat of the pillow story from the ET skimp-terview, so don't expect stunning new revelations. Sex and the City? Not mentioned. Speculate away.

There's really not much else to say at this point: the Femme Fatale Tour's going to be hyped until the world ends at this rate; everyone just wants to see whether Britney can still sing and dance. For what it's worth, Perez Hilton (warning: link leads to Perez Hilton) says she's going to be singing live 40 percent of the time. Yay?

In similar Britney news, the Femme Fatale set list is out, and it's about what you'd expect. Get excited, somewhat!

1. Hold It Against Me

2. Up N’ Down

3. 3

4. Piece of Me

5. Big Fat Bass

6. How I Roll

7. Lace and Leather

8. If U Seek Amy

9. Gimme More

10. (Drop Dead) Beautiful (feat. Sabi)

11. He About To Lose Me

12. Boys (Remix)

13. Don’t Let Me Be The Last To Know

14. Baby One More Time

15. S&M 
(Rihanna cover)

16. Trouble For Me

17. I’m A Slave 4 U

18. Burning Up (Madonna cover)

19. I Wanna Go

20. Womanizer

21. Toxic

22. Till The World Ends

UPDATE: No Nicki Minaj for Europe, though. Sorry!