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Black model Jodie Turner-Smith is set to play 16th-century Queen of England Anne Boleyn, who was, of course, a white woman. The head-scratching choice tore the Internet apart, many suggesting it amounted to cultural appropriation.

Turner-Smith’s turn as the medieval monarch was announced on Friday. The project was described by entertainment outlet Deadline as being a three-part “convention-defying” psychological thriller by Channel 5, set to “shine a feminist light” on the life of Boleyn, famously sent to her death by her husband King Henry the Eighth.

Social media quickly began overflowing with complaints about Turner-Smith playing a white queen. Commenters demanded “historical accuracy” and called it “cultural appropriation” – a term usually used when white people emulate other cultures. Many said that, logically, the Turner-Smith casting as Boleyn should be no more acceptable than a white person playing a well-known black historical figure.

Anne Boleyn was a white woman. Why would she be played by a Black actress?That’s not historically accurate.

Anne Boleyn was white. A white person would not be picked to play a well known historical black person, it would be classed as white washing. The same applies the other way around in my opinion 🤷‍♀️

Isn’t this cultural appropriation, @MissJodie? 🤷🏻‍♂️https://t.co/uEca0xNbfu

I adore Tudor history we have a wealth of knowledge about the court of King Henry VIII & his marriages. We know as fact that Anne Boleyn (& all of his wives) were white women. So this drama will not be dealing with actual history. No need for me to watch.

Others mocked the future series by riffing on the concept of ‘whitewashing’ prominent people of color in history, noting how ridiculous it would be for them to be played by white actors. Some proposed that the US civil rights era heroes Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks be played by Caucasian actors, along with the South African anti-apartheid leader Nelson Mandela.

Channel 5 have just announced that a black actress is to play Anne Boleyn in an upcoming three part drama. Only a matter of time before Martin Luther King is played by Dominic West.

Looking forward to that new movie where Nelson Mandela is white. Can’t wait!

Anne Boleyn – 2nd wife of Henry V111 – both were white. If a white woman was cast to play Rosa Parks there would quite rightly be outrage. Similarly with this casting – it’s not acceptable. This constant taunting & twisting of white culture must be challenged

Another group, however, clapped back, pointing out that white actors have frequently played Middle-eastern and North African characters. “People freaking out about Anne Boleyn being played by a Black woman were remarkably quiet every time Jesus was played by a white man,” quipped activist Matthew Hodson.

Well, Hollywood uses white actors to play Egyptian and North African characters all the time… turnabout is fair play I guess…..

All those people freaking out about Anne Boleyn being played by a Black woman were remarkably quiet every time Jesus was played by a white man.

But there was at least as much positive reaction as there was negative to the announcement. Many praised Channel 5, saying that race was unimportant, and that the future onscreen queen simply “oozed regality.”

Jodie Turner-Smith is going to play Anne Boleyn and I have never felt more blessed pic.twitter.com/g5m0PHvZdC

Anne Boleyn – 2nd wife of Henry V111 – both were white. If a white woman was cast to play Rosa Parks there would quite rightly be outrage. Similarly with this casting – it’s not acceptable. This constant taunting & twisting of white culture must be challenged

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