All right, ABC Studios, I am mad, and with good reason. Did anybody else see the premiere of “Still Star-Crossed”, a new TV show that takes up the story of Romeo and Juliet’s grieving families where Shakespeare’s play left off? If you have, I’d love to hear your thoughts (just be prepared mine will be a little grouchy). If you didn’t, here’s a brief summary:
The set is supposed to be the late 1500s/early 1600s in Verona, Italy. The first episode starts with introducing the city’s ruling family (a black father/brother/sister with British accents); two big, feuding families, the Capulets and Montagues (both of which have white and black relatives); and the tragic young couple, Romeo and Juliet, caught in the middle. Romeo is black, Juliet is white; Romeo is 15 or 16, and Juliet is about 14, which is the only part of Shakespeare’s play the producers got right.
This is exactly what ticks me off. In the 16th century in Italy, the native Caucasians were in power and wealth, that historically simple. Anyone of African descent found within the city walls would have been slaves. They absolutely would not have been intermarrying with politically important families. And I am not sorry and I do not care if that offends the modern sensibilities of the network.
If the producers truly felt that the 500-year-old story of Romeo and Juliet was worth revisiting with a diverse cast, how about setting it in the 1950s American South? Or in 2015 Los Angeles? Why couldn’t it be an Asian Romeo and a Hispanic Juliet? If the network is thinking about building bridges in our community, I’m not sure spotlighting the tensions between races is a good way to do it.
The idea of the show is that, after the tragic demise of Romeo and Juliet, the families proceed with an arranged marriage between a Capulet and a Montague to hopefully put the feud to rest. But, of course, the plan won’t work, and the feud will go on for the next 10 episodes or whatever.
But I won’t be watching it.