W-100: BREAKING AWAY

breakingaway 2White One Hundred: 100 Great Films Starring Only White People, #12 — Breaking Away — Okay, I understand that Breaking Away takes place in Bloomington, Indiana, a town with a rather small population of people of color—the 2010 census has Bloomington’s non-white population at about 13%, and I’m sure it was no better in the late 1970s. Still, that doesn’t change the fact that Breaking Away—one of the last great movies of the last great era in American filmmaking—has no people of color anywhere in the film. Sure, they may be an extra in one of the crowd scenes, but there are no significant characters who are not white. Don’t get me wrong, because as with many films that make the White One Hundred list, this is a great movie, and I’m not accusing it or the filmmakers of being racist. But come on…you’re telling me that not one of the Cutters couldn’t have been played by someone other than a white actor. Yes, Daniel Stern and Jackie Earl Haley are great in that movie, both of those parts could have been played by Asian or Latino actors. And what if Dennis Quaid’s character had been played by and African American? Breaking Away is about family and friends, set within a working class world, surrounded by academic and socioeconomic privilege. Having grown up in a working class neighborhood, where many of the collars are blue, I know that these worlds can be a bit more diverse than the one seen in Breaking Away.

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