NEROPA: Finetuning


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Diversity and Representation

The first step, the actual NEROPA Check, will in most cases lead to a higher share of female characters in a film.

After this, casting directors can diversify the cast further with specific proposals for actresses and actors, – and in most cases have been doing this for a long time. If the setting, the story and the characters permit, they can be as colourful and diverse as the world around us, as far as age, height, ethnicity, physical appearance, colour of skin, sexuality, (dis-)ability, accent / dialect and more go. In Germany 25 % of the population are more than 65 years old. About 80,000 people are deaf, 150,000 are blind, 300 to 800,000 are black, 17 M have a migrant background,to name but a few examples. (How) Do they appear in fictional programmes? In Germany about 1,890 babies are born every day. How often do we see pregnant women on TV who are not at the centre of the story?

Three examples from the UK:

  • in the TV series LINE OF DUTY (series 3, episode 6) police officer Maneet (supporting role) comes to a meeting at the police station at night, and brings along her toddler, because she was unable to organize child care at short notice. Later (series 4, episode 3) she is expecting her second child. This is not an important part of the plot, she just happens to be pregnant. Other than that she is just a normal part of the investigation.
  • in FOUR WEDDINGS AND A FUNERAL David, brother of lead Charles, is deaf. This was not an essential part of the story, but of course it brought additional colour and depth to the plot.
  • in the TV seriesTHE NIGHT MANAGER agent the role of Leonard Burr was gender-switched to Angela Burr and actress Olivia Coleman was cast. She was pregnant at the time of filming, and her pregnancy was incorporrated into the plot.

Age divides women and men on screen in at least two ways. Roles for women start decreasing from the age of 40, those for men at 55 (see NEROPA: Articles and Interviews). Furthermore, female roles are often cast a bit too young, we see the mother who is only 12 years older than her grown-up daughter. Or the old childhood acquaintance:

  • In the film KEINOHRHASEN (RABBIT WITHOUT EARS) Ludo meets Anna. In a flashback we see how he had teased her as a child. Ludo and Anna as children are played by Valentin (11) and Luna Schweiger (9), the grown-ups are played by Til Schweiger (43) and Nora Tschirner (26). 2 years age difference have grown to 17 years just like that.
  • in the first two seasons of  THE CROWN, Queen Elizabeth II is played by  Claire Foy, her mother (Queen Mum) by Victoria Hamilton, who is only 13 years older. The actual age difference was nearly 26 years, – it is doubtful that the actresses look so far apart age-wise or that the Make-Up department managed to achieve this impression.

Having increased the number of female characters through the NEROPA Check, the following step NEROPA Finetunng gives the opportunity to further diversify the cast.

An Illustrative Example: Jobs

In this example from an English textbook 12 jobs were introduced with drawn figures, 10 male, 2 female (image on the left). Since it is just about jobs and not specific individuals, the  NEROPA Check could come to the conclusion that all 12 jobs are neutral, hence they will be cast with equal numbers for men and  women (image in the middle). With the NEROPA Finetuning more diversity is attained, not everyone is light-skinnd any more, the persons differ in height and age, one is using a hearing aid, another a walking-stick, three wear galsses, one woman is pregnant  … (image on the right):

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