"They said, 'If you was white, you'd be alrightAfter a long struggle in gaining visibility and acceptance in the entertainment world, ethnically-African actors and actresses have many more opportunities in Hollywood and on television than they ever had before. Some have become huge stars in their own right. Unfortunately, as these new opportunities grew, a new dark side of 'racial' bias emerged. Or should we say: "a new light side." Fair skin is a common beauty standard across the world, one strengthened by Euro-centrism ('the West'note produces or influences the majority of the world's media). However, 95% of the world's population is possessed of brown skin tones of varying shades, which drastically narrows the typical ideal of beauty. As the trope title states, this hits ethnic Africans particularly hard; many 'Western' casting directors are in the habit of only—or mostly—hiring non-European actors and actresses with lighter skin tones because they assume that they will be more attractive to their largely ethnic-European audiences. Actresses are hit even harder, particularly if they are supposed to add sex appeal to the show. In a word, this phenomenon has been called "colorism". Colourism can also come down to a latent class bias: worldwide, lighter skin (relative to one's own people) has typically been associated with wealth and lounging around indoors, and darker with poverty and working in the fieldsnote . Not until the post-war period did the trends start to reverse; the only country not devastated by The War, the USA, led a new trend which saw those with wealth being able to afford extended vacations or holidays, and the sun-induced tans that came with them. Skin colour is only the most obvious manifestation of the underlying theme of casting people on the basis of something other than their acting style and/or ability. For example, an Asian actor might be asked to cover his eyes or a black actress asked to straighten her hair. Colourism is a subset of "degreeism" in which members of a marginalized group rank themselves based on how closely they resemble the dominant group. Variations of this casting trope are also seen in Latin America, Northern Africa/Middle East, and East Asia. This trope is a common source of Unfortunate Implications; given this trope's prevalence throughout the world's entertainment industries, there are numerous variations on this trope listed below. Note also how the changing definitions of desirability have resulted in new and/or different hiring biases over time. Also see But Not Too Foreign, and Ambiguously Brown. Contrast with But Not Too White. Compare The Whitest Black Guy for when a black characters are said to be 'acting white' as opposed to 'looking white.' Not to be confused with Light Is Not Good or Pass Fail, though it can be somewhat related to the latter insofar as the casting choice is concerned. Also not related to sitcom Black-ish, though the show does deal with this trope as a running theme.
If you was brown, stick around
But as you is black, oh brother,
Get back, get back, get back'"
If you was brown, stick around
But as you is black, oh brother,
Get back, get back, get back'"
—Big Bill Broonzy, "Black, Brown, and White" (1947)
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- Commercials would have you believe that all little black girls and not a few of the boys have long, curly, free-flowing hair when not only is the hair type fairly uncommon but braids and otherwise restrained hairstyles are much more usual and practical for small black children.
- Another example would be the Oil of Olay commercial featuring Denise Vasi who would also fit this mold. She was depicted a lot lighter than she is really, being more of a medium brown.
- Hilariously U by Kotex overtly lampshade this trope in this commercial
- The skin-lightening cream "Fair and Lovely" is sold in India and the Middle East. The commercials often feature pretty women who feel insecure because of their dark skin, and sometimes feel it's holding them back for some reason or another. But here's what makes them fall directly into this trope: the women already have very light skin to begin with. This is one of the ads, and there are plenty of others. Unilever, also makes Dove soaps and shampoos, which has been having one of those "Feel beautiful in your own body!" campaigns in the US. This is more Values Dissonance as in India, lightening your skin is considered the same as getting a tan is in the West. However even among some Indians this is viewed rather negatively.
- The same kinds of creams appeared in African-American periodicals right up until the late 70s. While the language became more subtle throughout the years (referring to skin as "glowing" rather than "light"), the before and after pictures always gave away the underlying message: you're not pretty if you're dark.
- The rest of South and Southeast Asia are also prone to skin-bleaching. Thanks to the history of Western colonialism, many countries have the additional twist of always casting part-European/Caucasian actors in leading film/TV roles, while relegating darker-skinned—often non-mixed—actors to supporting and extra roles. The Philippines is especially rife with colorism as it was colonized by TWO Western countries: Spain and America.
- It has been noted that skin creams that lighten your skin, that are sharply targeted towards blacks and Asians, are considered to be dangerous (physically, not just socially!). Decades ago there was a much worse product aimed at black people in the US to 'lighten' their skin. It involved giving them a hefty dose of X-rays. It lightened their skin, all right, and killed a good many of them rather quickly as well. In primarily Indian or Pakistani neighborhoods in Dubai, there are billboards advertising skin lightening cream. The model on the billboard is usually a very light skinned Indian in a business suit. Obviously, this is meant to imply that having lighter skin will increase your chances of being successful (unfortunately in Dubai, that may be true). Skin lightening creams are also popular in India. Most Bollywood actresses are very light, because it's very difficult for dark-skinned women to get acting jobs in India. Even in South Indian regional films, directors often prefer to cast North Indian actresses, as they tend to be fairer. And like Beyonce, they can be made to look even lighter on camera. There are a few actresses with tan or wheatish skin, who are often touted as "dark beauties", but rarely do you find truly dark actresses. Parminder Nagra (E.R. and Alcatraz), considered by some to be one of the most beautiful women in the world does have skin color about middle or average for Indian, but you wouldn't know it from her IMDB cover photo however ...
- There's a market in Kenya and Uganda where women buy products that bleaches their skin. It's outlawed in Kenya, but they are still able to buy the products due to smuggling. The products in question are extremely unhealthy, since it gives the women cancer and causes chronic skin poisoning. They use it anyway, because they want to look prettier. What's worse is that they are all encouraged by the culture, since women with a lighter skin have more advantages than a woman with the average black skin.
- Women with a lighter skin have more advantages than a woman with the average black skin, a huge medical concern in the Caribbean, where darker women are literally rubbing laundry bleach on their and their children's skin.
- The 2012 Acura commercial (staring Jerry Seinfeld and Jay Leno) casting call asked for a "nice looking, friendly, not too dark" African American car dealer.
- This promotional picture for Syfy series Eureka shows Alison Blake (played by the half-black Salli Richardson) as being much lighter skinned than she is in real life.
- Another L'Oreal ad featuring Beyonce, this time promoting True Match, and showcasing her skin color.
Anime and Manga
- The Ambiguously Brown Setsuna of Sailor Moon was originally drawn significantly darker than the rest of the cast. When the anime rolled around, it depended on the artist but she was often as light as the others. In the Sera Myu musicals, she almost always, if not always, has the same skin tone as everyone else.
- An aversion: In the manga version of Get Backers, Kudou Himiko was originally shown to have slightly darker skin than the rest of the cast. As the series progressed and gained a serious Art Evolution, her skin got darker and darker until, by the time the manga ended, she was closer in skin tone to black characters than the rest of the white cast. (Her race or ethnic background is never addressed, and her brother was drawn with a similar skin color.) The anime kept her at "slightly darker than the main cast", looking more like she just had a tan than she was of a different ethnicity than the main cast.
- A case of this appears in the adaptation of Axis Powers Hetalia from manga to anime. The manga gave the characters a variety of skin tones, but in the anime everyone except for Cuba was the same color, with Seychelles being a particularly noticeable example. This was eventually fixed in season five when Studio DEEN brought in a new animation team.
- Evil Chancellor Agrippa from Turn A Gundam. In contrast to the typical Ambiguously Brown anime character look, he has fairly prominent African features, but passes the paper bag test with flying colours. This is probably to make him a visual contrast to his opposite number from the Earth faction, the similarly scheming Guin Rhineford, who looks like a classic Phenotype Stereotype who's been trying to give himself melanoma at the tanning salon.
- Nadia from Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water, was going to have curly hair, according to early drafts. She ended having a smooth hair and a less dark skin, and the official explanation is that her character design was made simpler by the fear of the outsourced animation company quality of work.
- Inverted in Hellsing Ultimate.
- Integra's skin looks darker compared to the manga.
- Also inverted big time with Jan Valentine. In the Manga, he is portrayed as being light skinned like the rest of the cast, whereas in both of the anime series, his skin is even darker than Integra's.
- Inverted with Kei in Prétear: he had light skin in the manga, but the anime used a completely different character design with brown skin tone.
- When Nico Robin returned after the Time Skip in the One Piece anime, her formerly dark skin was all but gone, leaving her looking about 3 shades whiter.
- Michiko & Hatchin has Atsuko Jackson, a mixed Afro-Japanese cop with blond hair and blue eyes. It's possible she wears contact lenses, but she's shown with the blond hair even as a child.
- Berserk: Dark-skinned and Ambiguously Brown Casca is portrayed with significantly lighter skin and hair in the later animated adaptations. The film trilogy makes her more of a light tan compared to the medium brown she was in the manga and the '97 show, which some of fans who appreciated the unique appearance Miura originally gave her were very unhappy about. At first it seemed like Berserk (2016) made her skin almost as white as the European-looking main character Guts, which created a similar uproar, but this turned out to be largely caused by the high contrast visual effects applied to the flashbacks. In normal lighting she looks about the same shade as in the Golden Age movies, albeit with more reddish-brown hair as opposed to dark brown hair in the movies and black hair in the manga and '97 anime.
- Some of the official art for Fullmetal Alchemist lightens Paninya's skin, despite the fact that she's dark-skinned.
- Anthy Himemiya was a racially ambiguous (though likely Indian) love interest in Revolutionary Girl Utena with noticeably dark skin and kinky, wavy hair that made her stand out against the rest of cast; the video game supplement to the series even made her skin darker than it was in-series. However, when The Movie rolled out, Anthy's design was completely overhauled, and her previously dark skin was lightened to the point of looking barely tanned, and due to the Faux Symbolism of the series seemingly swaps hair type with Utena and now has very long, straight hair while Utena's is shown to be very wavy when not pinned down by braids.
- Some controversy has arisen over the fact that the international Cures from Happiness Charge Pretty Cure....don't look very international, aside from their costumes. Even the Cures from India and Egypt are suspiciously pale.
- Iris in the Pokémon anime is noticeably lighter than her games official art. Skyla from the same arc in comparison is inverted; having a tan tone she lacks in the games.
- In Viz's colorings for the XY mini-volume covers, both Shauna and Emma are considerably lightened. In Emma's case, it's extra egregious considering an earlier, original colored image of her had her even darker than her game counterpart.
- Comedian Paul Mooney joked about these people being "Double Agents", and only choosing to be black when it's convenient for them.
- Though X-Men's Storm is quite dark, she has white hair and blue eyes (when they're not completely whited out when she uses her powers), said to be marks of her bloodline, and for years was drawn with semi-European features. This comes from an early idea to give her features from different races - dark skin, light hair and Asian-featured eyes - to make her resemble Gaia. Later works, particularly during the lead-up to her marriage to Black Panther, actually drew mild fan criticism for the change of her facial structure.
- X-Men colorists must be fond of this trope, because M's skin tone is in a constant state of flux. When she first appeared in Generation X she had caramel skin. Towards the end of the book it was chocolate. When she was floating between titles it went back to caramel. But with her current stint in X-Factor, she's not even ambiguous anymore; she could be mistaken for white by readers who don't know better. It became especially baffling when other black characters started appearing in the book with more identifiable features. Her father is French, but of African descent and is rather dark-skinned. She should be caramel-toned at the very least. Later in the series' run, her skin tone has gone back more to what it should be.
- Another X-Men example is Sunspot, whose skin has been lightened over the years, along with a possible Race Lift. Sunspot is Brazilian, specifically of mixed-race Afro-Brazilian and White Brazilian descent and was drawn with dark skin with wavy hair. As the decades passed, Sunspot's skin has gotten lighter and lighter and now in his appearances in New Avengers and U.S.Avengers make him look like what most Americans think Latino people look like. X-Men: Days of Future Past casted Adan Canto (a Mexican actor of mixed Amerindian/White descent) as Sunspot, further complicating the issue.
- Issues of Justice League of America have drawn criticism for portraying Vixen with European features and fluctuating skin tones.
- Depending on who is drawing him, Karate Kid from the Legion of Super-Heroes often looks extremely white despite being half-Japanese. In at least some cases, this is due to the fact that his Japanese heritage itself was a Retcon; the character was clearly white when he was first introduced.
- Similarly, the Immortal Iron Fist series has occasional "lapses" where Misty Knight is drawn with a shag haircut and European features.
- Averted with Nick Fury Jr/Marcus Johnson, which lead to arguments about him being too black on the Bleeding Cool forum. As noted in the forum, it's perfectly possible to have very dark skin and 'black features' even when one of your parents is white; it's not common, but it's not impossible. Some users thought it wasn't and argued that Marcus Johnson couldn't really be Fury's son because he's too black.
- There was a bit of a mini-controversy for the second volume of Mighty Avengers. Spectrum (aka Monica Rambeau aka Captain Mar-Vell aka Photon aka Pulsar) debuts a new, short hairstyle with her hair straightened, whereas in previous appearances Monica always wore her hair naturally with her dreadlocked look being the most remembered one. This was later addressed in an issue where Monica was shown to be horrified when a little black girl said she wanted to straighten her hair to look like Monica's, and she's since gone back to her dreadlocked look.
- The people behind the Avatar: The Last Airbender continuation series has been criticized for lightening Katara and Sokka's brown skin tone by a couple of shades. Even Aang is pointed out as having his skin lightened.
- In the tie-in comics for the Young Justice cartoon this occured to the half-Vietnamese and half-white Artemis. Her skin is darker than Wally's in the cartoon but in the comics she is presented as lighter skinned than in the source. She is also blue eyed when Word of God is her eyes aren't supposed to be blue, and in the cartoons they look black.
Film - Animated
- Lampshaded in one of the special DVD features for The Incredibles. Frozone and Mr. Incredible watch a really, really awful licensed cartoon. Frozone is offended that the version of him in cartoon was a soft brown — combined with the faded print, he comes out as lightly tanned at best — not to mention talking like a Beatnik. The canonical movie had him looking very similar to his voice actor, Samuel L. Jackson.
- Intentionally averted with Disney's first black protagonist, The Princess and the Frog's Tiana. She has a wide nose, full lips (though not racist caricature full), strong cheekbones, a slightly protruding jaw, wide-set brown eyes, and a skin-tone as dark as Michelle Obama. Basically, she's her voice actress Anika Noni Rose with big huge Disney eyes. There has been controversy about how her hair is pulled up in a tight knot, unlike in concept art where it's loose and curly, however that could be due to how hard curls are to animate.
- There was also some debate as whether to make her prince, Naveen, black ("Disney hates interracial relationships!") or not-black ("All the other ones had princes of their own race! Disney hates black men!") The plot calls for the Jerk with a Heart of Gold prince to be something of a gigolo who's trying to seduce a blonde southern debutante for her money, which would certainly earn it a place on the Unfortunate Implications page if he were to be black. Disney ended up making him Ambiguously Brown and from a fictional Mediterranean country, so that people see him as their own race, or more likely, whatever race offends them the most.
Film - Live-Action
- Spike Lee's film School Daze references the old practice of black fraternities and sororities performing "the paper bag test" on their potential applicants - only those with skin lighter than a brown paper bag would be allowed in.
- Spike Lee's Get On The Bus features a culture clash between a very light-skinned and Anglo-looking black man (played by Spike Lee Joint regular Roger Guenveur Smith) and the darker black men on the bus. The rest of the bus riders see him as an outsider and criticize his anecdotes about his white mother.
- Most light-skinned African-American actors benefit from this trope. Halle Berry (White mother and Black father) is the most frequent example, being mixed race. Berry has also had plastic surgery on her nose, which had the effect of making her look more European.
- Mixed-race actress Rae Dawn Chong is probably one of the earliest examples of a light-skinned actress constantly being paired up with white males.
- Jessica Alba is almost notorious for this, as she'll seemingly change her tone based on whatever demographic she wants to appeal to. Case in point, how she looks in something like Fantastic Four (2005) versus Honey.
- Mixed-race actresses such as Thandie Newton (half-White and half-Black), Paula Patton, and Kandyse McClure are often paired with a white male co-star.
- In the Hairspray movie, it is kind of hard to listen to the light-skinned Queen Latifah sing the line "...with a darkness/as black as my skin" without thinking of this trope. Both the film and the musical have the song "Run and Tell That" with a chorus of: "The blacker the berry, the sweeter the juice, I can say it ain't so, but darling, what's the use? The darker the chocolate, the richer the taste, and that's where it's at, so run and tell that!"
- A major plot point for the film Imitation Of Life
- Satirized in Undercover Brother when The Chief said "We can make the world a safe place for black people of all races", which was a Take That to black people who like to subdivide themselves based on skin tone.
- Laura Gemser from the Black Emanuelle Sexploitation/Grindhouse franchise counts. The lead isn't even black but Indonesian.
- Mixed race Lisa Bonet (half-White and half-Black) claims to have turned down roles because of this trope.
- Averted with light-complexioned actresses like Michael Michele, Nicole Ari Parker, Kristen Wilson, Leila Arcieri, and Rochelle Aytes as they're usually paired with black men. Although this could still have other kinds of Unfortunate Implications for black men.
- Will Smith said that Eva Mendes was cast opposite him in Hitch because casting a black actress would have made it a "black movie" that would turn off white audiences. And apparently so would have a white actress. Likely why the kiss between Smith and Charlize Theron was cut in Hancock. So not even Will Smith at the height of his popularity, when he was considered a bigger box office draw than any white actor, was immune to this trope.
- In many "race movies" (films made in the US by blacks for black audiences prior to the 60s), the female lead was typically played by a light-skinned black, sometimes so light she could be mistaken for white. Meanwhile, dark-skinned females were cast as the heroine's maid, or other servants. This also applied to the men less so, though it was still rare to see light-skinned blacks cast as porters and waiters. This still exists to a certain degree in current black media. See the silent film Happiness, the cowboy serial The Creole Kid, and 1939s Moon Over Harlem.
- Anthony Hopkins' The Human Stain covers this.
- Parodied in Robert Townsend's Hollywood Shuffle. In the sketch about "Black Acting School," the host of the commercial asserts that Hollywood prefers dark-skinned black actors to play thugs and low-lifes, and implies that these are the only roles available to black men.
- Used in the French movie 99 Francs: the CEO of a dairy company (a clear Expy of Dannon) refuses to cast a black woman in a yogurt commercial (claiming it's "too much Africanity for our audience" and that a Black girl will scare people); the main character chooses to cast a fair-skinned girl from Maghreb (thus African as well) and nobody complains, the CEO even says she looks less vulgar than any black girl would, even though the audience knows she is a prostitute (Octave smiles to himself, and Charlie smiles at him, while remembering it). Considering the movie is the adaptation of a Take That against the advertising business, the whole point (rich, upper-class people can also be stupid, racist assholes, even when they are worth tens of billions) is rather Anvilicious, but then again....
- Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay: Lampshaded with a light-skinned black security guard. Kumar accuses him of racism when is "randomly selected" to be searched. The security guards says he can't be racist because he's black, to which Kumar calls him barely black. Note that the guard could easily pass for a Caucasian.
- Rosario Dawson's mixed racial features allow her to play a variety of races and open up her opportunities for pairings. Similar to Eva Mendes, she can pair up with a white male, black male (Seven Pounds), and has even passed herself off as Middle Eastern (Alexander).
- Vin Diesel's semi-autobiographical film Multi-Facial details the difficulties of a multiracial actor, who can't get parts because he's too black to play white but too white to play black. Diesel's star power has apparently allowed him to jumped the hurdle. He's even played a real-life Italian-American mafioso in Sidney Lumet's Find Me Guilty.
- Wentworth Miller also overcame this. But most probably don't know his actual ethnic background, which is African-American/Jamaican/English/German/Jew/Cherokee/Russian/French/Dutch/Lebanese/Syrian.
- Inverted in Get Shorty: Elmore Leonard's novel included several pages of dialogue between Chili and Harry about Bo Catlett's skin color — Harry, who'd known Bo for years, had never even realized he was black. In the movie, Bo was played by the dark-skinned Delroy Lindo. Obviously, those pages of dialogue were removed from the script.
- Gabrielle Union is a gorgeous woman, and a pretty good actress, but definitely too black for mainstream Hollywood. Her work has been pretty much exclusively in black cinema.
- Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, of African American and Samoan heritage.
- He's been on the covers of Jet and Ebony magazines, and Mick Foley described him as black in his autobiography Have a Nice Day! (specifically to make fun of Margaret Carlson for describing The Rock as a "white skinhead hateful wrestling guy").
- The Rock is popularly thought to be "raceless," even though he doesn't downplay his ethnicity outside of his roles. Some roles have even featured him as "baseline" white characters (such as on an episode of Saturday Night Live, where he played Superman/Clark Kent).
- "Sex Is..." a documentary from 1993. 59 minutes in, Wayne Corbitt, a black man who is into white men, says, "I have rebelled against anybody telling me what I ought to be, and that includes the gay community, who doesn't really want you to be too black: 'Uh, don't get so Black Specific with those issues.' And the black community, which goes, 'Huh! SM? A black man who LIKES getting whipped?! Do you know blah blah blah lynchings in the 20s and blah blah blah.' Yeah, I do know that did happen. I didn't do it. I'm not a part of that. This is 1992 in San Francisco."
- Justified in Eve's Bayou, which was specifically about black Creoles, who were of mixed ancestry and often formed their own communities.
- Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li has Chun Li played by Kristen Kreuk, who's got Chinese heritage but looks decidedly mixed. And it really stands out when all the child actresses who play her in the prologue are decidedly Chinese.
Film Brain: Chun Li is the only person in the world who grows less Asian.
- "Chun Li" also played an Indian Muslim woman in Partition, looking very out of place alongside British Irish/Indian actor Jimmy Mistry playing an Indian Sikh.
- The documentary Dark Girls is about this trope, dissecting its implications and how it creates prejudice within the black community. In a strange twist, one (rather dark skinned) interviewee said that black men found her attractive and exotic, but refused to actually date her because she was too dark for them to be seen with in public. Be warned: Tear Jerker.
- Averted with Sidney Poitier, Eddie Murphy, Wesley Snipes and Don Cheadle. Not averted, however, with most of the women playing Eddie Murphy's love interests, as they tend to be light-skinned African Americans.
- The 2013 film The Bling Ring is based on a group of thieves who targeted celebrities. Rebecca Lee, the Expy of real-life ringleader Rachel Lee, is played by Katie Chang, who is one-fourth Asian. For reference, this is what Katie Chang looks like and this is what Rachel Lee looks like.
- The Wedding, a TV movie about a wealthy light-skinned Black family on Martha's Vineyard, played this trope straight and subverted it all over the place. Halle Berry plays the lead Shelby, who faces a great deal of judgement from her family and friends for marrying a white man. Her sister, Liz, is married to a very dark-skinned man which has caused some pretty severe intra-family strife, especially with their white great-grandmother, since they pride themselves on being fair-skinned. There's also a flashback where Shelby and Liz's mother, Corinne, is implied to have aborted her third child since she didn't want to risk having a baby who looked like her (dark-skinned) father (her mother was white.)
- This trope plagued the Lifetime Movie of the Week "Aaliyah: Princess of R&B" (a biographical feature on late R&B singer Aaliyah). Originally, Zendaya Coleman was cast in the title role only for online criticism of the casting (particularly with Coleman bordering on Ambiguously Brown) led to Coleman dropping out and the movie being placed on hold. Eventually, the producers cast Alexandra Shipp, who is still a fairly light-skinned actress but actually looks more like Aaliyah.
- The announcement of Alexandra Shipp as the teenaged Storm in X-Men: Apocalypse has been met with many fans decrying the casting of Shipp as not being "black enough." Halle Berry is also frequently called out with this for the previous films (Berry and Shipp both had African-American fathers and Caucasian mothers). It should be noted that Storm in the comics has been drawn with a mixture of Caucasian, African and Asian features - with Word of God saying it was to portray her as "a woman of the world", resembling Gaia. Storm's full background however does have two parents who were definitely African.
- Retired porn star Heather Hunter claimed that earlier in her career she was pressured to do scenes only with white performers. Although most of her partners were white (and mainly females), she arguably never fully obliged. On the other hand she didn't start having black co-stars until her last couple years in the industry, so there might have been some hesitation. To her credit she did bring in more black performers into the industry and was the first black major contract girl.
- The casting of Shana in the Jem and the Holograms Live-Action Adaptation came under fire for casting Aurora Perrineau, a biracial actress with straight hair. Shana is fairly dark skinned and has a tightly-coiled afro in the cartoon.
- Nina caused controversy when mixed-race actress Zoe Saldana was cast as African-American musician Nina Simone. Saldana's skin is darkened and she wears a prosthetic nose to better look the part.
- In The Sapphires, the story of an Aboriginal girls quartet that toured Vietnam entertaining the troops, one of the group members, Kay, is a member of the stolen generation, and her time spent in Melbourne passing as a white girl (after being taken away by an agency and put into a mission as a child) is a source of tension between her and Gail, the darkest member of the group who deals with whatever insecurities she has about her complexion by almost relentlessly bullying Kay. And rather than lording her light complexion over the others, Kay has her own insecurities about it (probably due to Gail's ill treatment)—in the course of developing a relationship with a black GI, she feels it necessary to point out that even though she's "pale black", she's still black.
- The Hunger Games drew controversy with the casting of Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss. She's described as olive-skinned and dark-haired in the books - and Word of God is that everyone in the universe is mixed race to some degree. While Ability over Appearance comes into play, the main source of controversy was that the casting was restricted to white actresses only. This is especially ironic, as some fans erupted with controversy over Rue being played by a black actress, despite her being described as brown-skinned in the book.
- Justine Larbalestier's novel Liar:
- It had a cover featuring an obviously white girl, although the protagonist is black. Especially given the story, since the chosen cover called into question one of the few true things, according to the author, that the protagonist shared about herself.
- The publisher finally rectified the situation with a new cover, except some readers state that the cover model is still too fair-skinned and long haired compared to the character in the book.
- Another Contemptible Cover comes from the second book in The Mysterious Benedict Society series. Sticky appears to be a very, very pale boy, even practically Caucasian, while it is stated in the books that he has light brown skin.
- Some critics have noted that Robinson Crusoe describes Friday, a Carib Indian from South America, as remarkably European in appearance: small nose, thin lips, a brighter skin tone than "other natives of America," and generally "all the sweetness and softness of a European in his countenance." As author J.M. Coetze put it, when talking about his Crusoe Deconstruction novel Foe, the original Friday "is a handsome Carib youth with near European features".
- Janie from Zora Neale Hurston's Their Eyes Were Watching God, who's considered to be beautiful, is described as having straight hair and a relatively light complexion. Mrs. Turner admires her for those Caucasian traits and even tries to set her up with her lighter-skinned son because she doesn't like her Not Too Black idol being married to a very dark-skinned man. Halle Berry quite appropriately plays Janie in the movie version of the novel.
- The Bluest Eye is a novel that examines the relationship between beauty and race. The protagonist is a dark-skinned black girl who notices how light-skinned black girls are given more respect than she. Eventually she gets it into her head that if she only had blue eyes then people would stop treating her so horribly.
- In one novel by Andrew Vachss a black character explains "the paper bag trick" to his white friend. Paraphrased: "I know lots of black guys who do the paper bag trick— they hold a brown paper bag up next to their face in the mirror; if their skin is darker than the bag they're going nowhere in life. Nowadays black mothers want their daughters to marry lighter."
- The whole point of Don't Play In The Sun.
- Ditto The Blacker the Berry by Wallace Thurman.
- In the Tell-All biography Confessions of a Video Vixen the author explain how her mother was favored by her grandmother due to her light complexion which put a wedge between her mom and aunts.
- Feast Of All Saints touches on this.
- Played straight - historically straight - in Barbara Hambly's Benjamin January novels, a series of historical mysteries set in New Orleans in the 1830s, a place and time where it mattered a great deal what shade a person of color was.
- In Uncle Tom's Cabin, the main character Eliza is one quarter black, with skin just light enough for her to pass as white. She takes advantage of this early on in her escape. Her husband is mulatto, and with a little makeup was able to pass as Hispanic while on the run. The 1927 film adaptation took this to the extreme by casting white actors for both parts.
- In Aphra Behn's Oroonoko, the titular character, an African prince, is explicitly described as having European facial features and having "a perfect ebony" complexion as opposed to "that brown rusty black which most of that nation are" and the description she gives makes him seem less like a real person and more like a statue carved out of black stone. The fits with the overall theme of the novel, which does not condemn slavery so much as say that Oroonoko should not be a slave because he is royalty and different than the other citizens of his country, who are fair game.
- The first edition of Octavia Butler's Dawn had the main character portrayed as a white woman when she was really black. More examples here.
- In the Hudson books by V. C. Andrews, heroine Rain is praised for her beauty including being lighter-skinned than the rest of her family. This turns out to be because she's actually biracial and her biological mother is white.
- Day, a protagonist from Marie Lu's Legend Trilogy, is half-Asian and half-white but is described as having blond hair and blue eyes. The author explains how this is possible here.
- This trope was just one of the many, many reasons that Save The Pearls: Revealing Eden fell down flat on its face with its message about the pains of racism. So it's far in the future, blacks are on top culturally, whites are on the bottom, and as a result, the standards of beauty lean black... and yet when white girls "pass" as black (using, yes, exactly the means you think they do), they've still got some pretty damn straight hair.
- The cover art version also comes up on the covers of The Runelords novels. Princess Iome is specifically noted in the books as being a result of a mixed-race political marriage between her white father and Fantasy Counterpart Culture Middle Eastern/Indian mother (it's a bit ambiguous, as the region her mother came from covers a wide-enough range to fairly match that of "from the Middle East to India" and is internally very diverse; given political marriages, being Raj Ahten's cousin is no indicator). After her own political marriage, a common woman in her husband's homeland is shown wondering if pale complexions will become unfashionable now that the darker-complected (and very popular) Iome is to be their new queen. On the covers she looks like a white woman who never goes outside.
- Nicole from 'Beauty Queens is quite black. She states how difficult it is for her to manage her hair. However, her mother bought her skin bleaching cream to make her appear more white.
- In 19th century adventure novel King Solomon's Mines, Umbopa/Ignosi, a Zulu, is a noble leader who speaks to the white men as an equal. So of course he must be described as "very light-coloured for a Zulu".
- Around the World in 80 Days, published in 1872, features protagonist Phileas Fogg falling in love with Aouda, an Indian princess that he meets on his travels. Verne makes his mixed marriage easier to swallow for 19th century readers by describing Aouda as having "skin as white as a European's" and expressing herself "in perfect English".
- In the original illustrations of Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, Captain Nemo doesn't look remotely Indian. This is for two reasons: his nationality wasn't revealed until the sequel, and he was originally planned to be a Polish noble fighting against the oppressive Russians. France being allied with Russia at the time, Verne's editor convinced him to use a more traditional (to the French) Acceptable Target, and Nemo became an Indian fighting the British.
- In Fevre Dream, a man who procures beautiful slave women for vampires to feed on talks about his taste for quadroon and octoroon girls. Period-appropriate racism is expressed by various characters in the book.
- Outliers: The Story of Success is a book by Malcolm Gladwell that looks into how systems and cultures can accidentally create bias where none might otherwise exist, predisposing some people to succeed and others to fail. The most dramatic example is in the Canadian Youth Hockey League (in Canada, hockey is Serious Business and begins at an early age), where the majority of players are born in the early months of the year. This is because each league is age based and the cut-off date is January 1st. Children born earlier in the year are older, larger, and better coordinated than children born later in the year and as they progress, continual sifting and selection gives them better coaching and more practice such that by the time they're 17, when the accident of birth no longer matters in terms of native talent, the cumulative effect of all that extra work has made them into elite players. The theme of accidental success is personal for Gladwell. Generations earlier, one of his African ancestors was purchased to be a concubine in Jamaica, thus granting all her descendants extra whiteness. Jamaican racism, as described by Gladwell, differentiates with acuity based on the skin color, and he credits much of his own success to the easier successes of each generation of his family. His mother grew up relatively affluent, which allowed her to get a better education, eventually studying in London before moving to Canada.
- The protagonist of The Skin I'm In has been bullied for years by her equally black peers for being dark skinned.
- Inverted in the Film Noir Monster Mash Fifty Feet Of Trouble. Those jaguar people, a monster basically known for being physically attractive, of African American descent tend to get even darker after their change.
- On an episode of Oprah during Tiger Woods' meteoric initial rise to national attention, there was considerable controversy after Tiger said that when he was a child, knowing he was of mixed heritage—having not only white and black, but Asian and Native American (American Indian) ancestry—led him to cobbling together a word for himself, "Cablinasian". Some black celebrities took offense to this, with one even citing the "one-drop" rule (that being, if you have one drop of black blood, you're black). It was noted on a follow-up episode discussing the issue and how it related to race in America that this was a rule invented by slavers to expand their potential "product base". Inverted in the Gatorade Focus commercials, in which the animators seem to have assiduously eradicated any trace of non-black features on animated!Tiger.
- Lincoln Heights both plays it straight and averts it. Jenn Sutton is very dark, while Eddie Sutton is of a medium brown complexion. The Sutton kids go in order with the oldest being the lightest, the middle being being slightly more tanned, and the youngest being extremely dark like the mother. Most likely the casting directors didn't care about the skin complexions of the actors as long as they were all black.
- Portrayed in Frank's Place. Frank, a medium-dark man, is invited to join a black men's society that historically limited their membership to those who passed the "paper bag test," but now want to distance themselves from their past. Ultimately Frank decides to refuse their invitation:
Frank: I was the first black man at my prep school, I was the first black man in my dinner club at Harvard. But I will not be the first black man in a black men's club.
- Homicide: Life on the Street averted this in its earliest seasons - of the three black principal characters, two had dark skin and one had lighter skin. As the series progressed however, and probably as a result of NBC president Warren Littlefield's constant demands on the producers to make the show more eye-catching to viewers, most of the new black characters had lighter skin, including one whose main character trait was that she was beautiful. The issue was also confronted in-story with an episode in which Lt Giardello said that he had been turned down by black women because his nose was too flat and his skin too dark — and Giardello was part Italian.
- Satirized in Curb Your Enthusiasm, in which Wanda wants Larry to get her script looked at by his colleague and explains how to "play the race card", telling him to emphasize that she's "one of those light-colored black folks".
- Janet Hubert-Whitten, who originally played Vivian Banks on the The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, was replaced by the lighter-complexioned Daphne Maxwell Reid in the last few seasons. This was lampshaded on her first appearance. However only the change in actress was lampshaded. No mention was made of the half-shade difference in color◊. Even worse, the change in actress (and, with that, skin tone) also corresponded with a change in personality from an assertive outspoken career woman—more specifically a professor—who was every bit her husband's professional equal, to a docile, permissive housewife who appeared much less often.
- Simone (Tawny Cypress) from Heroes.
- Micah is justified, however, because he has a white mother.
- Averted with Monica, although she didn't last long and no explanation was ever given for her dropping out of the storyline.
- Played for laughs with redneck truck driver Sam Douglas, who is played by Asian American actor Ken Choi.
- In one episode of the first season of MacGyver, a Jerk with a Heart of Gold makes a sarcastic comment about a woman's race ("Yes, I am a cripple. And you, madam, are black.") to help establish his initial Jerkass tendencies. The actress playing the woman in question, however, is so light-skinned as to appear Caucasian.
- Averted in Misfits by Curtis Donovan (played by Nathan Stewart-Jarred); played straight, however, with Alisha Bailey (played by Antonia Thomas).
- Averted by The Jeffersons, where the darkest-skinned character (Roxy Roker's Helen Willis) was married to a white man, but Roxie Roker was actually married to a white man (Sid Kravitz; Lenny is their son). When the producer doubted she could play a black woman married to a white man, she showed him a family photo and got the part.
- Averted in The Wire, where over half the cast is black, with skin tones being just what you'd expect from Baltimore residents. Also worth noting that arguably the show's moral core, Lt. Daniels (Lance Reddick) is very dark-skinned. This has also been speculated to be a reason for the show's low ratings.
- A decent number of Soap Operas has been accused of this trope. Hispanics soapies even more so, since, save in Venezuela and Brazil (who follow this trope to a T), they tend to Monochrome Casting favoring white people.
- Margaret Cho's short-lived sitcom All-American Girl is very But Not Too Asian. She makes reference to this a lot in her live shows. Ironically, they had hired an "Asian consultant" to teach the Korean-American woman to act more Asian. She was both too Asian and not Asian enough. Much of Cho's comedy stems from the fact that she has "Classic" Asian looks, but has a very American Gen X attitude. The network wanted someone who looked western (read: slender) while certain Moral Guardians within the Asian-American community wanted her to act a certain way, essentially inverting her stage persona.
- Averted in several Star Trek iterations:
- Lt. Uhura in The Original Series, Captain Sisko in Deep Space Nine, Geordi LaForge in TNG, and Tuvok in Voyager are all quite dark and have "typically" African facial and hair structure (when Sisko had hair, anyway). Same with Mayweather in Enterprise. Yes, there was such a character.
- The 60s series was also very daring in refusing to sweep under the rug the fact that their non "average white American" characters were... not average white Americans. (Remember, they faced network pressure to have no non-white characters.) They could have easily named Uhura "Sue Jones" or something, but they all tend to have names that reflect their ethnicities. In addition to Uhura and Sulu, there was a black doctor named Dr. M'Benga who was a Recurrer. Chekov's white, yeah, but... in the 60s, when Russians were still the "bad guys," we have as a main cast member a guy named "Pavel Chekov" who always talks about how Russia did everything first. He's never treated as being any less than the other crew members.
- Due to the quality of black and white television sets when The Original Series was first aired and the makeup Nichelle Nichols wore that emphasized the almond shape of her eyes, she states in Beyond Uhura: Star Trek and Other Memories that some earlier fan mail that got sent to them praised the television show for having both a male and female strong positive role model for Asian-Americans.
- Very much intentional when it came to the casting of Anne Rice's Feast of All Saints. Because well, it was basically about fair skinned Creole folks during pre-Civil War America in New Orleans. A dazzling yet damned class caught between the world of white privilege and black oppression.
- Averted where Toni, the most attractive of the central characters (most attractive as in both seen that way by male viewers and treated that way on the show) is also the darkest skinned.
- Played straight on the actual show as well; Toni refused to date anyone darker than her and eventually married and had a child with a White doctor.
- They justified it in one episode by having her explain that she was apparently teased for her dark skin when she was younger and didn't want her own children going through the same thing, and it's later double-subverted in a way in that aside from her skin tone, of the titular girlfriends Toni fits the most into European beauty standards; long flowing hair, small nose, and slim-and-busty physique. This probably isn't intentional.
- Also played straight with biracial Lynn. An early episode reveals that she was very culturally White growing up (justified since she was adopted by a white family), and her interest in exploring black culture is very recent. This is later revisited in Season 2 when her white adopted sister Tanya, who thinks she's pretty fly for a white girl, takes her act a bit too far and ends up saying the N-word in a salon full of black customers (including other main girlfriend Maya, who had up until that point been the only girlfriend who didn't mind Tanya's antics), leading to this confrontation:
Tanya: Ain't this a trip? Suddenly you're the authority on what's "black?" Two years ago, you were a biracial grunge girl, and before that, you were just some pretty white girl!Lynn: That doesn't matter. Because when you use that word, only ONE of us gets hurt! And there is pain behind it that you will never know.
- In Season 8, Lynn hits another racial brick wall after the manager at her record label explicitly tells her that the higher-ups don't know how to market her music (primarily indie rock) because she neither looks nor sounds "black enough."
- Kendra from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, averted with Olivia.
- Jennifer Beals plays a biracial woman on The L Word. One episode focuses on her and her white wife at a group therapy session being accosted by a radical black lesbian poet. The latter accused her of embracing her lesbian lifestyle but ignoring her own blackness. Previously, she requested her wife accept a black donor's sperm for their child so s/he could racially reflect both parents, so she argued the poet down, but was very hurt.
- Jennifer Beals played Cal Lightman's ex-wife on Lie to Me. Although she could be mistaken for white, her character's heritage mirrors her own (Black father and White mother), and again a character with the same parental mixture on The Chicago Code. Beals has insisted on this as background for her characters.
- One HBO special, George Clinton's Cosmic Slop, was a set of several 'Twilight Zone' short episodes. In one episode, aliens land in the United States, and offer to solve all their economic and energy problems. In return, they wanted all the black people in America - everyone who would 'fail' the paper bag test - for undisclosed purposes. Guess how that story ended.
- Rashida Jones is of mixed-race ancestry (her father is music mogul Quincy Jones and her mother is white actress Peggy Lipton) but few of Rashida's characters are actually identified as black. They made her look really white on this cover◊ of Bust magazine, and Rashida rarely if ever plays mixed characters let alone black ones.
- Played straight and averted by Fringe; while Astrid is very fair-skinned, Broyles is very dark.
- The whole main cast of UPN's Second Time Around was accused of this.
- It averts this with Mercedes, who is fairly dark-skinned, but plays it straighter with Matt. In addition, Mercedes' hair was curled in the pilot but gets straightened in later episodes.
- Glee cast the very fair skinned Brian Stokes Mitchell as Rachel Berry's African-American gay dad. This one is justified as Rachel doesn't know which of her fathers she's biologically related to - obviously a man with skin too dark is not going to be her father.
- Gossip Girl gives Vanessa a Race Lift to be played by the mixed race Jessica Szohr, and casts Gina Torres as her mother. This has the effect of making Vanessa the Token Minority in the very white cast - save for Penelope (Latina) and Nella (Asian) in Blair's Girl Posse.
- Averted on Dexter. Doakes has very dark skin and non-white features. LaGuerta, being Hispanic and black, still has a skin tone darker than the police force's other Hispanic cop, Angel. Then, at the end of season one, they bring in a very dark and beautiful woman who is also explicitly stated to be Haitian. Given that her Establishing Character Moment involves doing the right thing even when she knows it'll piss of her boss because she refuses to let a serial killer go free for the sake of job politics, the fandom was quite pleased.
- Averted in the show Family Matters where Laura Winslow, the girl Steve Urkel is in love with (and has been on more than one occasion been referred to as 'the prettiest girl in school') is darker skinned. Ironically, many people in the fandom seem to think the very light skinned Myra, Urkel's on and off again girlfriend on the show, was much better looking... though that might better be explained by the Buxom Is Better trope.
- Averted in 1980s cop show 21 Jump Street. Female police officer Judy Hoffs (played by brown skinned Holly Robinson Peete) is the object of everyone's affection, including Italian Doug Penhall (Peter DeLuise) Asian Harry Ioki (Dustin Nguyen) and White/Native American Tom Hanson (Johnny Depp, who briefly dated Robinson in real life). Hoffs has multiple love interests of all ethnicities, mostly White.
- Averted in Boy Meets World. Player Shawn Hunter becomes monogamous for the first time when he is romantically involved with new character Angela Moore during the last 3 seasons. In addition to not being light skinned, Angela wore her hair natural on the show.
- Friends of course fell into Monochrome Casting very early on - with few people of colour appearing. But in the later seasons the darker skinned Gabrielle Union and Aisha Tyler appeared as love interests.
- Averted and played straight in Saved by the Bell. Lisa is the object of Screech's affection, and while certainly a pretty girl, she had very fair skin and angular features, and her hairstyles were rarely very different from Kelly's or Jessie's (it helps that '80s Hair tends to look "ethnic", no matter who is sporting it). The character was originally supposed to be a white Jewish Princess. Lark Voorhies got the role based on the strength of her audition, despite the fact casting specifically asked for only white females.
- How long before someone calls this on the leads of Undercovers? NBC's promos for the show (and all of their new programming) flash the phrase "more colorful" at the end, likely a nod to it.
- The Law & Order episode "Blood" revolves around a black man who tries to pass himself off as white.
- Cold Case:
- An episode cast a dark complexioned actress as the victim and used lighting techniques to make her appear light-skinned, which didn't become relevant until near the end when her white lover tried to convince her to pass for white so they could be out in the open with each-other.
- In two other episodes both a suspect and victim respectively were African American but so light skinned that they were believed to be Caucasian.
- Also averted with the two series regulars Thom Barry and Tracie Thoms. While she is considerably lighter than him, she keeps her natural hair the entire time.
- That's So Raven, with a cast of dark complexioned actors playing Raven's immediate and extended family (the members not played by Raven herself) but the title character and her friend being light-skinned.
- Averted on My Name Is Earl with both 'Crabman' Darnell and Earl Jnr.
- While Degrassi: The Next Generation has had several black characters over the years, the only ones with any real development were Jimmy and Liberty. Both characters were portrayed by biracial actors. By comparison, the much darker-skinned Shante Black was on a high school show for six seasons before she got any character development.
- Ugly Betty has an in-show example. Wilhelmina Slater underwent surgery and skin bleaching in order to conform to the fashion industry's standards as a model. Even as an ex-model, she is still ashamed of her previous appearance and real name, Wanda.
- Criminal Minds: Derek Morgan has a white mother, black father, and several sisters. The actresses who played his sisters had range of skin tones. Shemar Moore himself has a black father and white mother.
- The two leads of Key and Peele cater to this....and poke fun at the fact.
- Pleasantly subverted with Angel Coulby on Merlin: in the promotional shots for series two she appears quite fair◊, yet in the shots for series four (the season in which she becomes Queen), she is portrayed as considerably darker◊.
- It's a judgement call where Firefly's Gina Torres lands on this trope. She's of Cuban descent with mixed-race features. Early in her career she had a minor role in an episode of Law & Order (she found the corpse), and when a white cop at a coffee shop commented on her beauty, his black partner said it was only because she had "white features". She identifies as Latin.
- Parodied on an episode of Howard Stern's syndicated TV show from the early-1990's. The segment was called "Black Folk With White Features" and was hosted by Stern dressed in Malcolm X gear, giving his name as 'Howard Washington Stern' and claiming that he and Robin Quivers were brother and sister, the idea being that he was a light-skinned black man instead of white.
- On Chappelle's Show Charlie Murphy relates his friend Rick James' nickname for him: "Because of my complexion he used to call me 'Darkness'. He calls me and my brother Eddie 'Darkness'. Called us the "Darkness Brothers". See, this is long before Wesley Snipes. Back then we as the blackest niggas on the planet according to Rick James!"
- Power Rangers is an interesting example. In almost every season, the show has had one Black person as a Ranger, ranging from the dark-skinned Joel and Zack to the medium-toned Jack to the very light skinned Kevin, and many shades in between. What's a bit unfortunate, however, is how Kevin, the most recent one, is not only fairly light skinned but also seen by many as an Uncle Tom. Sundai Love, an actress trying out for Power Rangers Megaforce says she was told that they couldn't cast her in the show, since they already cast a black actor. And the black actor chosen (John Mark Loudermilk) is very light-skinned at that.
- Averted on A Different World. Set at a historically black university, the show featured African-Americans of a wide variety of skin tones and no skin tone in particular was portrayed as more intelligent/successful/desirable than the other. In fact, it was the dark-skinned, full-figured Kim who was both the smartest—aspiring to go to medical school—and paired with a white love interest. Though there might still have been Unfortunate Implications in that the light-skinned Whitley was cast in the role of the Rich Bitch.
- Averted and stomped into submission by Scouts Safari. The show is set in post-apartheid South Africa, all but one of the main character's friends are black, and they are typically very dark skinned. It's notable that the show averts the Magical Negro trope by giving the ability to communicate with animals to Scout, who is white, and that her best friend, who she has multiple moments of Ship Tease with, is very dark skinned and embraces his Zulu heritage. The number of one shot characters who are black outweigh those who are white numberwise. Despite the perceived Minority Show Ghetto, it did very well during its' initial run on Discovery Kids, and subsequently went on to get good ratings in reruns over the course of several years.
- Rainbow from Blackish, played by mixed-race Tracee Ellis Ross, has a Running Gag about this. "If I'm not black, could someone tell my hair and my ass?"
- Bonnie Bennett from The Vampire Diaries is of African-American descent but she is relatively light complected and she could be seen as more of a light skinned African-American. Her Grams also appears to be very light skinned as well as her mother Abby so this could be a genetic thing or it could be a possibility that Sheila was biracial and had a white parent although this has not been proven or confirmed. The reason for Bonnie being light skinned and appearing rather Caucasian in terms of her physical features is because Bonnie's portrayer Katerina Graham is actually biracial and is half black, half white (her mother is White Jewish of Polish and Russian descent and her father is Black of Liberian descent). Katerina is only slightly darker than Caucasian and olive skinned Nina Dobrev (who is of Bulgarian descent) and Katerina also has hazel-green eyes and predominantly slight, narrow and Caucasoid facial features.
- Covered on the old Donahue daytime talk show - talking to lightskin blacks who tried to pass as biracial or white when in reality they were just black usually born of two light complected parents. Some changed their stance when they got older; needless to say some of their relatives weren't too pleased with their black acceptance.
- Tyra Banks had a few episodes about this subject on her talk show, with one mixed black man (who was not terribly light-skinned himself) saying that he thought all dark-skinned men looked like cockroaches.
- On a French talk show, model Noemie Lenoir & and fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld argue about this trope and how it applies to the modeling/high fashion world....They disagree. Karl said that there is no racism in fashion. Noemie said the contrary. Then Karl said she's the proof there's no racism because she's famous. Noemie points out that light complected and or biracial black models are the new trend.
- K.C. Undercover star, model, and singer Zendaya Coleman has faced this issue a number of times with her being Ambiguously Brown and able to crossover. But she is unapologetic about embracing her black side and often speaks out about black women being stereotyped in the entertainment industry.
- Law & Order: UK inverts this when a dark-skinned suspect taunts the light-skinned DS Joe Hawkins, calling him a "mongrel". Joe's reaction indicates that this is a sore point for him and that this probably isn't the first time someone has made comments like this to him—his explanation to Ronnie makes it clear that colorism goes both ways.
- An episode of the Lifetime series Any Day Now had the dark-skinned Renee clashing with her light-skinned campaign manager (she was running for DA), feeling that every suggestion the woman made was an example of this trope. But during a huge argument, Renee was shocked when the woman accused her of colorism. It turns out that what Renee saw as standing up for herself and embracing her complexion, the other woman perceived as insulting her for being fair-skinned and of biracial heritage.
- Luke Cage received some criticism over the casting of Simone Missick to play Misty Knight - given that she is lighter skinned than some of her male co-stars. Her skin is also slightly lighter than how Misty's is drawn in the comics. But since Simone Missick has been named by critics as the show's "standout performance", Ability over Appearance may have come into play.
- Supergirl (2015) drew some criticism in its first season for featuring no women of colour in the main cast - with only Tawny Cypress in a couple of episodes as Senator Miranda Crane, and Eve Torres as Maxima. Season 2 introduced two - Maggie Sawyer (also a lesbian) and M'gann aka Miss Martian. Both however are still lighter skinned than Mehcad Brooks (Jimmy Olsen) and David Harewood (Hank Henshaw).
- Soul Food. Maxine accuses her son Ahmad of this when she notices that out of the two girls who have come to visit him, he completely ignores the dark-skinned girl in favor of the light-skinned one, even though he has more in common with the darker girl.
- Elle Magazine has been accused of lightening the skin of actress Gabourey Sidibe.
- Time Magazine caught a lot of flak for artificially darkening OJ Simpson's skin in the mugshot that ran on their cover. Back when you could actually get in trouble for "fauxtography", as opposed to it being par for the course.
- Averted by former Suffocation drummer Mike Smith, who was as dark as they came while playing an a heavily white genre. Likewise, Kele Okereke, frontman of Bloc Party.
- Terrance Hobbs, also of Suffocation, is decidedly lighter-skinned, but he's also the force driving the band and shares Face of the Band duties with Frank Mullen.
- For that matter, there's also Caller of the Storms from the Canadian black metal act Blasphemy. Dark-skinned while playing in an extremely white (and occasionally racist) genre, in addition to being a hulking juggernaut who met the other original members over, among other things, a mutual interest in powerlifting and bodybuilding. There are multiple stories of his beating other musicians who made racist comments or insults to a pulp floating around.
- Probably a large part of the reason Drake (who is actually biracial) is more successful than say, Frank Ocean. Keep in mind that his suburban middle class Canadian upbringing was also considered part of his appeal as a rapper as well.
- Naturi Naughton of the R&B girl group 3LW was booted from the group for being too dark, though the other two members claim that was the reason they chose her to be in the group in the first place. Ironically when they became the The Cheetah Girls she was replaced by the very fair-skinned Sabrina Bryan - who is Caucasian (on her mother's side) and Mexican (on her father's side). All of the above had serious collateral damage too. Which caused HUGE Flame Wars and utterly decimated their fan base, especially their urban fans. Which is why the group was rebooted as the The Cheetah Girls so they could rebuild from the ashes of 3LW. It also caused burned bridges with rap group Bone Thugs-n-Harmony as they featured 3LW on their first single off of their Thug World Order album. The single was released, but the break up of the group put the music video up in the air, which kinda rubbed bone the wrong way as the single was doing very well. But it also didn't help that the group was actually forced on bone by Executive Meddling in the first place.
- Hip-hop stars have come under fire for having predominantly light-skinned black women or other oiled up ethnically vague women of color (biracial, multiracial etc..), including Latina or even only white women in their videos. It could be argued that it's the casting director's fault, and not the fault of the artists themselves. This is also likely due to the fact that modeling agencies tend to favor ethnic women of a lighter shade, so they're more likely to be cast by default.
- Hip Hop videos tend to cast dark-skinned models in large groups as the background eye candy but any video focusing on a single girl playing the singer's main squeeze will almost invariably be played by a model of caramel skin or lighter.
- R&B videos have gotten the same type of criticism.
- Alicia Keys was accused of benefiting from this once she received more Grammy wins over her much darker complexioned peer India.Arie at The 44th Grammy Awards, especially since India had 7 nominations and won none.
- Consider both Musician-Singer-Songwriters have put out four albums:
- India Arie: 6 million worldwide and 3 Grammys.
- Mixed-race (White mother, Black father) Alicia Keys: 31 million worldwide and 12 Grammys. (And is a favorite in 2011 to get even more)
- Tommy Mottola wanted mixed-race Mariah Carey to be very vague about her background earlier in her career. Some believe she intentionally undermined this by appearing on the cover of Ebony Magazine's April 1994 issue.
- Similarly Whitney Houston while not "light skinned" was marketed in the beginning by only sending her to white A/C radio stations while avoiding Urban Radio stations to promote her debut album.
- Perri "Pebbles" Reid has also had album covers depicting her a lot lighter then what she actually was. This is especially jarring considering she was already fairly light complexioned.
- Alternative hip-hop group The Jungle Brothers covers this trope in a song called "Black Is Black".
- Mixed-race Lenny Kravitz said that his music was considered not black enough for some record labels, and not white enough for others. Of course he never changed his sound. And continues to blend retro-soul with classic rock.
- Lampshaded by Nelly Furtado in the song "Powerless".
- Michael Jackson's albums became a subversion of this starting with the Dangerous CD due to his music becoming more urban and less Pop/Rock oriented. Well in some fans opinion anyway, particularly the ones who preferred the more R&B disco Off The Wall Album to his Thriller, and Bad album.
- Notoriously, Jackson's actual appearance seemed to be playing this trope straight. His gradually paling skin from the mid-1980s onwards was the subject of much speculation that he was intentionally bleaching it, even though he was already hugely successful and didn't have to worry about this trope. He explained in a 1993 interview that he had the skin disorder vitiligo, which destroyed his skin pigmentation. Still, combined with his plastic surgeries, jokes may always be made about how he resembled a white woman (at best) in his later years: i.e. "Only in America can a poor black boy grow up to be a rich white woman." (You can do anything... IN AMERICA!)
- Some people say MJ enforced this trope with his children, using a white sperm donor and a white surrogate because he didn't want black kidsnote
- R&B girl group from The '90s called Shades averted this by embracing their varied skin complexions. Two of the members being fairly light skin, one being caramel toned, and the lead singer being brown.
- Hip-hop mogul, Diddy has also come under fire. In March of 2009, he placed an ad seeking models for a Ciroc Vodka promotion - as long as they were "White, Hispanic, or light-skinned African American."
- Teena Marie is an inversion as she was initially "But Not Too WHITE," so due to Executive Meddling her debut album didn't show her picture or let her appear in public.
- Cab Calloway may have been one of the first people this trope was applied to. His lighter skin made him easier to accept for whites at the time (this being the 1930's, back when performing in blackface was still okay). He also came from a middle-class background - quite rare for blacks at the time - and so was able to transcend the "ghetto" and "sharecropper" stereotypes applied to poorer blacks.
- Jelly Roll Morton was known to brag about his fair appearance and White ancestry and mocked other African-Americans for looking blacker than him. When interviewed about his past, he would emphasize his Cajun ancestors and gloss over his African ones.
- Beyoncé anyone?
- She not only has very light skin but has dyed her hair progressively lighter colors over the years (so that it's basically blonde now).
- This is highlighted in the music video for "Beautiful Liar" where Beyonce duets with Shakira. Throughout the duration of the video, it is often difficult to identify which singer is which. Seriously. Check out the video on youtube here, you might start to doubt your powers of facial recognition.
- Beyonce came under fire for an African-inspired photo shoot in which she wears dark makeup.
- Beyonce's skin has ranged for brown to light, depending on lighting/makeup/tanning. Naturally, she's "damn near white." That Beyoncé is also rumored to bleach her skin in real life only adds to the confusion.
- Besides the above mentioned Cab Calloway the Ur-Example for female artists was probably the The Ronettes, Especially Ronnie Spector.
- Nicki Minaj is a mild example, she is of Afro-and Indo- Trinidadian descent. Though some see this as unfortunate anyway due to hip-hop music showcasing light-skinned black females.
- Thin Lizzy have maintained a strong cult following, and their Live and Dangerous album is often mentioned as among the greatest, if not the greatest, live albums in rock history. However, they achieved only moderate success in their day, and singer Phil Lynott has been described as "too black for America". Keep in mind: whether or not this was the case, if the record label believed so, then they were not going to be receiving adequate promotion. And it could fairly be said that they did not receive adequate label support; they remained semi-obscure despite a series of consistent albums, and a sound that went on to influence later hugely-successful acts such as Def Leppard and Iron Maiden. Same could be said about most black rock artists. As it was covered in the documentary, Electric Purgatory.
- Lil Kim. When she first came out with Hard Core she looked like this◊. And now she looks less like a light-skinned black person and more like something that crawled out of the Uncanny Valley. Despite that, she kept the plastic surgery coming, and now people have made some harsh jokes that now she looks closer to "an Asian LaToya Jackson."
- Some rappers have come under fire for praising light skinned black women while trashing dark skinned women. Rapper Yung Berg, who is barely fair skinned, made a statement on XFM radio that he doesn't like dark skinned women, going on calling them "dark butts". He then states in order for him to date a woman, they must pass a pool test. The pool test is if a woman jumps in the pool and doesn't look better than she did before jumping in, meaning her hair is nappy, then it's "not a good look". The day after he made an apology and stated that his mother is dark skinned.
- Lil Wayne made a similar comment when he encountered a dark-skinned black female fan. After another rapper, Gudda Gudda, commented that she was attractive for a dark girl, Wayne agreed by quoting a lyric from his song "Right Above" (Beautiful black woman, I bet that bitch look better red). The fan asked him how he could say something so disparaging when his oldest daughter shares his own brown skin tone, he allegedly replied "my daughter is a dark skinned millionaire. That’s the difference between her and you."
- Rihanna is light-skinned to begin with, but for a British Vogue cover, they still lightened up her skin. The blurb for that link asks, "You think somebody forgot to tell British Vogue's retoucher that Rihanna is black?"
- During the 70s and 80s, light-skinned black male artist were the most popular and presented to the public media in America, mainly because they had crossover appeal and were popular with both black and white females. Groups like Debarge and singers like Al-Be-Sure and Lionel Richie were the face of R&B music. Rappers like LL Cool J and Will Smith were the face of rap music. This changed during the 90s after gangster rap became popular for showing mostly dark-skinned black men in a strong, masculine, light regardless of the many negative factors of the music itself. It would help put dark-skinned black men on an equal playing field with light-skinned black men in the rap industry.
- J Cole on his song "Crooked Smile"
"Look at these eyes, baby blue, baby just like yourself/If they were brown Shady'd lose, Shady sits on the shelf""Let's do the math: if I was black, I would've sold half"
- Worth noting that Eminem himself has said he believes his success is in part to do with being white, declaring on his song "White America":
- Crossed with But Not Too White, musically this was Fishbone's biggest problem early in their career, since black radio wasn't interested due to the Punk Rock element, and white radio wasn't interested because they were a black band that didn't sound like anything else.
- Afrobeat musician Fela Kuti tackled this topic in his 1976 song "Yellow Fever". It was a common view in Africa that lighter skin was more beautiful, and many women became physically ill from using unsafe skin-lightening creams. Fela criticized that view as a holdover from colonialism, and pointed out that those lightening creams just made you look sick anyway.
- Elvis Presley was largely considered this, and was basically a 50's version of Eminem. Funnily enough Elvis himself was well aware of and hated this trope, and resented the fact that people preferred him over Fats Domino (whom Elvis considered the true king of Rock 'n' Roll) just because he could pass for white and Domino couldn't.
- A variant has happened over time to Cayla from Funky Winkerbean. While her skin tone hasn't changed, her hair and facial features have become gradually more Caucasian over time, to the point where she's gone from being unmistakably black to a dark-haired white woman with a tan.
- Done with Data East's Star Trek pinball, where the depictions of Lt. Uhura on the playfield show her as notably lighter than Nichelle Nichols, to the point of looking like she has a mild tan.
- Mostly avoided in WWC, where Carlos Colon's light skinned, head shaving son Carly openly referred to himself as black. Valet of the Dominican heel team, Destiny, was also referred to as black by fans and reporters despite being light skinned and having long blonde hair. (Although it does bring to mind Destiny's Child, whose lead singer was also a long haired light skinned black woman and valeting next to Black Rose may have helped. Also became more obvious when Carly grew a huge afro) Despite this though, you'll occasionally hear/read comments like "not black, Puerto Rican" in regards to members of WWC and IWA PR's rosters, as if the two are mutually exclusive.
- In what could have been a Take That to this trope, in 2003 the very dark Teddy Long developed the gimmick of an oppressed black man and starting a stable with black wrestlers and having them squash white jobbers in what he dubbed the "White Boy Challenge". The kicker? Most of the wrestlers he recruited were very light skinned such as D'Lo Brown and Rodney Mack. However he did also recruit the very dark Jazz and Mark Henry.) Jazz and Rodney Mack are married in real life, so they were a package deal)
- WWE has averted this with regards to its female performers. For a stretch, African-American females made up the majority of the roster as it include Alicia Fox, Kharma, Cameron Lynn, Naomi Knight and the mixed race Layla El. Alicia Fox has also been paired with many white superstars though in 2012 they did start putting her with black superstars like Booker T and JTG. Throughout much of the 2000s, however, WWE played the trope straight. The latte-colored Layla was the only Diva of African descent for quite a while (except for Booker T's wife Sharmell, and she was not a wrestler for most of her career). At the same time, interestingly, WWE offered up blonde Caucasian Divas - Stacy Keibler, Kelly Kelly, Maryse Ouellet - who were relatively dark-skinned. With the Spicy Latina Divas (most of them relatively light-skinned or even of mixed blood) added to the mix, one gets the sense that WWE in the past decade was aiming for an Ambiguously Brown collective portrait of its women's division.
- Professional Wrestler turned movie star The Rock ran into this issue when he first heel turn. As part of said heel turn, The Rock joined a militant black pride group (the Nation of Domination, loosely based on the Nation of Islam) and his skin color suddenly darkened considerably◊ from its normal shade◊. The Rock, being well aware of and uncomfortable with some of the implications, had his character make both the heel turn and joining the Nation be more about fan disrespect than about color. This trope in relation to Dwayne Johnson was parodied in Family Guy, when the voiceover for the trailer to a movie starring him and Stewie shows confusion over what his ethnicity actually is. It then moves on to others, such as asking "Come to think of it, what the hell is Jessica Alba?" Of course, Rocky himself is of mixed Black and Polynesian ancestry (Alba is Danish, French, Spanish, and Amerind).
- Noted here where it's said how, although African-American Divas have been Women's Champion, none of them were pushed significantly if at all. And although Sasha Banks (who is mixed black and Hispanic) eventually netted a push, it took her two years to finally get one - in contrast to other Divas who got them rather quickly. Likewise any Latina Divas who are lighter skinned, have historically downplayed their ethnic backgrounds in favour of being either Anglo or Ambiguously Brown. Things became even more questionable after the article was published when Sasha Banks did become Women's Champion - only to drop the title twice back to Charlotte after short-lived reigns.
- In addition to the points outlined in the article above Layla always wore her curly hair straight as soon as she started getting proper pushes. Her first title win was a co-champions deal with the white Michelle McCool, and her second saw her getting barely featured. Alicia Fox likewise held the Divas' title around the same time, also coincidentally switching her afro hairstyle out for a more Anglo set of curls.
- Ice hockey goaltender Grant Fuhr played 19 seasons in the NHL, helped the Edmonton Oilers win five Stanley Cups, and was regarded by no less than Wayne Gretzky as the greatest goalie in hockey history. Only when be was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame did many fans realize (or, more likely, had themselves beaten over the head with the fact) that Fuhr is black, and notably, the first black inducted to the HHoF. Being raised in Alberta by white Canadians and spending his entire career in the older-style goalie mask may have had something to do with that.
- Played with in Passing Strange: The Youth's high school infatuation Edwina wants him to "get some soul" and blacken up a bit, but, as she notes, not so much that he'll "become unhirable". The casting of the show itself naturally disregards this trope completely.
- A stage direction in The Merchant of Venice refers to the Prince of Morocco as a "tawny moor", as opposed to a "black" moor.
- The first black Barbie dolls had the right skin tone, but were processed from the same mold used to make white Barbies; thus they had African-American skin but Caucasian features. The Barbie So In Style line attempts to avert this, with mixed results. The dolls do have green/blue eyes and straight hair, but there was an effort to include many different types of skintones and they have distinct African facial features.
- The American Girl dolls have a similar problem to Barbies, but with hair. While the black dolls arguably have black facial features, their hair is usually thicker than the white dolls but not as thick as most actual black dolls.
- In the Disney Princess Merchandise, Jasmine from Aladdin, while not black, seems to have widely varying skintone. Sometimes she'll be the same tone as she was in the movie, but a lot of merchandise features her with much lighter skin. In at least one of the children's books, she was almost as light as the Caucasian princesses! A similar non-black example occurred with Mulan in the 2013 relaunch of the Disney Princess franchise, which included more "stylized", "fashionable" redesigns for the characters. In addition to her skin being lightened until she was literally whiter than Snow White, her face was altered to have more of an Anglo look and her eyes were made blue. Due to backlash, the skin tone and eyes, at least, were corrected to something closer to the movie.
- This is a common problem in many games with a "Create A Character" mode. In many cases, the option to play a really dark-skinned character doesn't even exist. This is especially jarring in games which allow you to play a "Dark Elf" which is black in the most literal sense, but do not allow you to make a dark-skinned human. Sometimes, even when there are options to darken the skin, there are still no facial features or hairstyles to match. So what's left is either Ambiguously Brown or the "white person in blackface" effect. Fortunately, there are exceptions.
- The darkest gnome skin in World of Warcraft could barely pass for hispanic. Black humans, dwarves, and even orcs are creatable, though.
- In Soul Calibur III, the first appearance of a black character and a create-a-fighter mode doesn't translate into a black skin option, as the darker you try to go, the more the saturation drops. So even though there's at least one face option that has somewhat African features, trying to pick a naturally darker skin color to match it just makes your character gray.
- Oblivion is a very bad offender. Whenever you try to make a dark-skinned Redguard, they turn out with ugly green splotches that should NOT be there. Makes you wonder if the people at Bethesda have never seen a real dark-skinned black person before. The fact that Redguards share a skin texture file with the other human races does not help.
- Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas are just as bad as Oblivion about this. "Black" characters often end up looking like dark-skinned Caucasians.
- Elena from Street Fighter III has a caramel-colored sprite, which is especially ridiculous when you remember she's from Kenya. She also lacks any African features and has blue eyes and straight white hair. Though in 3rd Strike her official character art did get changed to a more realistic chocolate color.
- The protagonist of The Suffering. If not for the photo he carries of his family (In which, for some reason, he's quite a bit darker) there'd be no way to tell if he was actually black. It came across like the studio got cold feet when making the character. Made worse in the sequel, where they lightened him up to look like a tanned white man.
- Sheva from Resident Evil 5:
- Yahtzee described her as looking like "a white woman who's been dipped in tea." She also doesn't sound very African, using some sort of meandering British/Australian accent. She was motion captured and modeled after an Australian actress Michelle Jade Van Der Water, who is on the lighter side...though it does cater to the trope in that every other African is darker in the game and she happens to have green eyes.
- There is also the controversy after rumors that Sheva was only made black at all to combat the accusations of racism the game was receiving for having dark-skinned African villagers as the "monsters" of the game, so some people saw Sheva's light color as being an insufficient compromise and example of this trope (dark skinned Africans = crazy diseased zombies, light skinned African = female lead.
- Sheva has always been a character in the development of the game, but her role changed after the allegations. However, Sheva's appearance is really jarring when compared to Josh, who averts the trope.
- In Half-Life 2, if the player weren't shown Alyx Vance's father (who is an example of this trope himself), boards would probably be awash with debate around whether she was supposed to just have a tan or was multi-ethnic- which is because she's half-black, half-Asian. As a result, she's left off many lists of notable badass video game women of color. And the only way we know she's supposed to be half-Asian inside the game is a picture of her with both of her parents from before the Black Mesa Incident.
- Metal Gear series:
- Crying Wolf is African, but looks more like a Japanese woman with a tan. Her look is based on model Mieko Rye who is light-skinned (and apparently mixed with other ethnicity) herself.
- You can also accuse Screaming Mantis and Raging Raven of this...they're portrayed by fair-skinned women who aren't even the same nationality - Screaming Mantis is South American played by a Slovakian model and Raging Raven is Indonesian played by a Japanese woman.
- Fortune from Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty is African-American, and her in-game model is pretty brown-skinned (if not chocolate-toned, she's definitely not light skinned.) The official art for the character tells a different story, as she is very fair-skinned◊. She and her father are both blond (with blond eyebrows) and with blue eyes. The comic adaptation adds to this, as the colour/lighting of the comic is essentially "white with very dark and bold colours as the shadows", which has the unfortunate effect of making her look white in a majority of pages. The only pages in which she looks like her game counterpart are her introductory page (in which the lighting is mostly red and brown) and a watercolour image of her a few pages later (that still manages to be paler than she is in-game).
- The Central Americans in Peace Walker consist of two pale, freckled, green-eyed redheads, and a blue-eyed girl with blond hair and fairer skin than the white Big Boss. (Weirdly, she mentions in one of her dialogues that she's not a "pale skinned Anglo-Saxon", suggesting her portrayal is for art reasons, but still...) There's also the weirdness that people repeatedly say Big Boss looks just like Che Guevara.
- Well, the Che Guevara was indeed caucasian, he was from Argentina. Also, there's nothing weird of having latino characters who are white, plenty of people from Argentina, Brazil and Chile are caucasian.
- Mortal Kombat
- In Mortal Kombat II and Mortal Kombat 3, Jade had a dark skin tone and in her next appearance in Mortal Kombat: Deception, that got lightened a bit to a brown shade. In the concept art for Mortal Kombat 9 Jade is barely tan◊. However in the game, she has her usual brown shade. The team behind the game can't even decide what race she is, the casting call for the game asked for a African-American or Middle Eastern voice actress. The two alternative DLC skins she has (from Mortal Kombat II and Mortal Kombat 3) are barely darker than Kitana and Mileena.
- The trend almost continued in Mortal Kombat X with Tanya, who had brown skin in her previous appearances in Mortal Kombat 4 and Mortal Kombat: Deception. In Mortal Kombat X, her skin is lightened to an olive tint, with her overall look being Ancient Egypt inspired. Tanya's fans were not happy at all, and voiced their frustrations, and Tanya's model was changed back to the brown skintone. Averted by Jacqui Briggs, the daughter of Jax Briggs and also Jax himself going back to his original dark skintone.
- Subverted in Pokémon Battle Revolution, of all things. The Japanese version had everyone "white", and the Western ones added tanned and black versions of all the various trainers. It was implemented a bit awkwardly, but it's there.
- Averted in Pokémon Black and White. While the series has its fair share of Ambiguously Brown characters, the two undeniably black characters (Lenora and Marshal) in the series are quite dark AND have afro-textured hair. Their strange hair and eye colors are simply the result of the Pokemon games having an anime art style.
- Pokémon X and Y unfortunately have this. While you have a good number of customization options for you character, the darkest you can have your skin be is light brown. Averted with some of the NPC trainers though.
- Pokémon Sun and Moon added a dark brown skin tone option.
- In Mass Effect, there were many Caucasians, Asians, Hispanics, and Ambiguously Brown characters, but no dark-skinned Africans until Jacob in the second game. Character creation is mixed on this. There are broad noses and full lips to select, but no appropriate hairstyles, at least for black men (unless you go for a Bald Black Leader Guy). The best attempts at creating a black male Shepard will still look off when standing next to Jacob, whose features are unique.
- Dead or Alive does this to Zack and Lisa in the fifth installment. Compare how they looked in previous◊ games◊ to how they look◊ now◊. Interestingly enough, due to DOA 5's new "realistic" aesthetic for the fighters, Lisa actually looks like a black woman (and the Asian characters look Asian and the White characters look white) instead of a generic anime babe painted brown.
- Similarly, Virtua Fighter has Vanessa, a dark skinned Vale Tudo fighter with long straight white hair. In her debut, her skin tone was very dark, even darker than the resident Scary Black Man Jeffry. Fans loved her, but a small minority found her to be something of Scary Black Woman thanks to Vanessa also being very buff and having a tough, tomboy attitude and gruff voice. In the next game after, Vanessa's skin tone was made much lighter, on top of losing muscle mass and her voice becoming more feminine. Thankfully, customization options in the last update allowed fans of her original look to make her skin dark again.
- An odd example from Dragon Age II: in the promotional materials for the game, Isabela had a far lighter skin tone than she actually has in-game. Unfortunately, this has persisted in comic covers and art books even after release.
- The character creation also makes it hard for you to create a person of East African descent. You can make their skin dark brown, but there are no facial features or hair to complete the package.
- Averted in Dragon Age: Inquisition. Not only is party member Vivienne a dark-skinned black woman, but there are a few black NPC's and background characters as well, plus it's much easier to make your character black. It has also been revealed that the tropical nation of Rivain is the Fantasy Counterpart Culture of the Caribbean, and this is where the setting's black people come from.
- Averted in Left 4 Dead 2 where two of the main protagonists are black,and realistically portrayed so. Also averts the Black Dude Dies First trope in the original game with Bill's deathin The Sacrifice campaign.
- Averted in Remember Me; the main character Nilin is bi-racial (black and white) and has brown skin and has appropriate Caucasoid/black facial features.
- Played for Drama in Dumbing of Age: according to Sal, her twin brother Walky received Parental Favoritism because he "came out whiter," which Walky denies. (The pair have a white mother and mixed-race father.) There's no noticeable different between their skin tones, at least at the time of the comic, but Sal has naturally kinky hair that she works very hard to straighten.
- Zig-Zagged a little bit with Bloody Urban: Camille is of African decent but has blue skin and no features that would obviously read 'black'. However, since vampires in this universe lose their Undeathly Pallor after feeding on blood, she's occasionally shown with very dark skin.
- This Vlogger Talks about how people automatically assume that you're DIRECTLY biracial if you're light complected with curly hair. Not realizing that they could just be black.
- This is often a concern of Jazmine Dubois, the mixed-race girl on The Boondocks.
- Particularly when the subject of her hair comes up. Meanwhile, Huey is often prone to accusing her of not being black enough, particularly in regards to her hair. Poor girl can't win.
- She could be Aaron's take on a Tragic Mulatto. Her mother is white and has blonde hair, which explains why Jazmine has lighter hair and skin than other characters.
- On a least one occasion Uncle Ruckus claimed the Freeman family are stuck up because of their relatively light skin. Ruckus himself in very dark skinned, which is (probably intentionally) ironic considering he is racist against black people. He claims to have "de-vitiligo" that makes him get darker.
- Also mentioned by Huey when describing the typical storyline for one of the Tyler Perry expy's movies.
- Spider-Man: The Animated Series:
- Blade is so light that it's difficult to tell he isn't white, well until you notice his other features.
- Blade's mom is clearly African-American too.
- In Archer, the character Lana is a light-skinned black woman. Archer calls her "black... ish." When she gets offended, he defends himself, saying she exploded when he called her a quadroon. Archer himself appears to have this preference as evidenced by his ringtone
- It appears every black character on Zevo3 falls into this trope, they're all caramel-colored.
- American Dad! lampshaded this with Condoleeza Rice when Stan tries to sober up a drunken George W. Bush:
Stan: Coffee! I'll get you some coffee! How do you take it?
Bush: Well, Stan, I like my coffee like my Secretaries of State, not too dark and a little sweet.
- Rocket Power: Twister's brother Lars for the first season had a dark skintone, but the seasons that followed afterwards, he had the same light brown skintone that his brother had. This was either Unfortunate Implications by lightening a character's skin or an aversion of the Unfortunate Implications since Lars was the Jerk Ass bully and "villain", and the only dark-skinned character at that.
- Disney's Sofia the First features the first Latina princess, a very fair-skinned girl with reddish auburn hair. It is a given that Latinos come in a variety of shades, races and colors but a lot of people are taking issue that Disney declared her Latina just a short time before the show premiered. Mainly the fact that it seems "after the fact" and just declaring her Latina just to have a Latina princess, one of doesn't even debut in proper Disney Animated Canon movie, no less. Not to mention fair-skinned Latinos have more representation in the media. It since seems Disney has retconned her as not being Latina. They made such a big deal of another princess, who has brown skin and black hair, being their "first Latina princess".
- Spyke from X-Men: Evolution had blond hair and spoke with a Totally Radical skater boy dialect. The writers were trying very hard to make him black without seeming "too urban" or something.
- It's been noticed that in promotional works for Avatar: The Last Airbender, Katara's brown skin and Aang's olive tint get lightened to a light complexion.
- Subtly alluded to on South Park. When the girls start Photoshopping their pictures to make them unrealistically hot, Nichole, the one black girl, makes her skin lighter. (Though oddly, later it's shown dark again.)
- Averted by Spartakus and the Sun Beneath the Sea, which features two Caucasian kids but also has the medium-brown Arkana and a very dark brown title character.
- In her debut Luna, the keyboardist, from The Hex Girls in Scooby-Doo is Ambiguously Brown and a Dark-Skinned Redhead. Future appearances lighten her skin to be like her bandmates, wth the exception of Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated.
- There's been debates with Rugrats fans about how Susie is colored in All Grown Up!. Her skin and general coloring is lighter in season 1 but became even lighter in season 2. At least part of it is blamed on Art Evolution, as everyone became more pastel in season 2.
- This common criticism of Orange Blossom in the current 2007 incarnation of Strawberry Shortcake. Due to her hair being straight and Only Six Faces being in action, she comes off as Ambiguously Brown instead of the very unambiguously black she normally is.
- In slavery times of the colonial era throughout North and South America (1500s-1900), lighter-skinned blacks were more likely to be house slaves (partially because some of them were illegitimate children the slave owner had with a slave woman), whereas dark-skinned blacks were the ones more likely to work out in the field. Thus, it was generally preferred to be lighter-skinned, since it meant you had a great chance of working indoors instead of outside in the hot sun all day. Some have suggested that it partially explains why lighter skin and European features are often preferred among blacks and the media as the beauty standard. Not to mention sometimes mixed-race slaves were treated better by their owners, sometimes being arranged to get an education and apprenticeships. Light skinned slave women were particularly sought for that reason, which in turn produced even more light skinned slaves. This resulted in so many slaves indistinguishable from their owners by the 1850s, particularly in Louisiana, that it was claimed that thousands escaped slavery every year just by moving out of town and adopting a new name.
- Pre-Civil War American Southern plantation owners used to hold "Octoroon Balls" (which were named after what one eighth-black people were called), where they would judge whether partially-black women were "white enough" to join "polite society". The fate of the losers was... ugh. In contrast, during the Spanish colonial domination, any non-white person who wasn't a slave and could amass enough money, could buy his/her "whiteness"... or, more accurately, the privileges of the white people and the legal right of being treated as "white", no matter what skin color or racial ascendant could have. Not that it wasn't controversial, to say the least. In Venezuela, there was the case of the Bejarano sisters, a trio of beautiful sisters of mixed race in the very spirit of this trope, who made a fortune thanks to their famed dessert-making abilities, and then, to the scandal of colonial society, bought their "white rights". Certain people of "high class" complained, and when the sisters tried to buy more privileges, those were denied because of their non-whiteness.
- Australian historical example: Part Aboriginal children were often taken away from their parents (citing "child protection") and sent to orphanages or missions. The lighter skinned ones could be adopted by white families and become part of white, mainstream society. The darker ones were sent to be trained as domestic servants so they could be sent to work for white men and produce more lighter skinned kids. The "whiter" Aborigines were sometimes able to claim citizenship denied to their darker skinned counterparts.
- In South Africa under apartheid, if you were "Coloured" (mixed-race), you were legally better off than Blacks — you could vote (after 1983), though with significant restrictions, for example — but still not quite equal to Whites, and still subject to segregation and relocation. It should be noted, however, that not all Coloureds are mixed race, with many being descendants of the Khoisan (the original inhabitants of South Africa before blacks and whites started pitching up) and Malay people who were brought to the Cape by the Dutch as slaves. "Coloured" was a catch-all category for people who were regarded as neither White, nor Black, nor Asian. Though after apartheid they did not receive any Affimative Action benefits. As one person said "Not white enough for apartheid; not black enough for ANC". They in some ways had it the worse in South Africa, along with Asians who were in a similar position with them (except for Japanese, South Koreans and Taiwanese people. Their countries were quite close (economically) to the apartheid government so, to avoid embarrassing race issues, their citizens were declared "honourary whites" — the same thing happened to the (very rare) African-American singer who was willing to tour in South Africa). This was supposed to have changed with the introduction of Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment (BBBEE); but since few Coloureds are members of the ANC, and "empowerment" is most often used as a (transparent) blind for nepotism, it hasn't made much of a difference.
- Anthropology has an actual racial classification for this: the Ethiopid race, which includes the human populations of the Horn of Africa, as well as certain other African peoples such as the Tutsi in Rwanda. "But not too black" describes their appearance pretty well: although dark-skinned, most people who live in, say, Ethiopia have facial features that are more European-looking, and may in some cases have slightly lighter complexion. In many African countries, European colonists used this fact to their own advantage, elevating the more white-looking peoples in power and using them as a sort of intermediary between Europeans and their subjects.
- In the post Civil War United States this was very much an invoked trope among the more affluent (or at least financially successful) black community. Back in those days, any form of a tan on anyone was a sign of poverty because it meant they had to work in the sun. This went double for rich black people who felt they had to distance themselves from "the common negro" as much as possible. As a result these people never went outside without the protection of a wide brim hat or a veiled bonnet, so that people wouldn't think they were lowly.
- This is one reason among many that Rosa Parks became one of the faces of the Civil Rights struggle in the United States.
- This Vlogger talks about how people automatically assume that you're DIRECTLY biracial if you're light complected with curly hair. Not realizing that they could just be black.
- Played straight in Western gay culture. Gay people of color with heavy ethnic features are often shunned by the majority of white gays and are rarely featured in gay media, being Fetish Fuel at best and nonexistent at worst. On dating sites profiles often make falsified claims of being "mixed" for the sole purpose of getting some attention. Racial bias (sometimes leading to flat-out racism) has long been the gay community's dirty secret.
- Retired porn star Heather Hunter claimed that earlier in her career she was pressured to do scenes only with white performers. According to another porn industry blog, if the black female performer has a nice body, and especially if she's Ambiguously Brown chances are that their partner will almost always be white. Nina Hartley had a alternate explanation, saying that a lot of top white female actresses didn't want to do IR because of the fear of a backlash from their white male audience. However any taboo of interracial porn held by consumers has almost been completely shattered. The ones who refuse to do it likely don't because of a personal preference that they don't want to own up to. Alektra Blue pretty much confirmed the preference thing, at least on her part.
- Parodied by The Best Page in the Universe here.
Maddox: She should be dark enough to score that hip diversity dollar, but not so dark as to scare away that heartland racist dollar.
- Note that in comic strips and animation, it is allegedly justified for fully black characters to be lighter than in Real Life, because outlines, the only way of defining facial features, don't "read" as well against dark skin tones. The counterargument is that the industry doesn't have much need to find a way to better depict dark characters, because they historically haven't had to, thus perpetuating a vicious circle. (It's also common for darker complexion characters to be created simply because it looks cool rather than indicating race per se.)
- Anyone who has ever taken a drawing class or used a 'how to draw' book that focused on drawing faces has probably run across this, or at least something which will LEAD to this, and will probably have people parrot it at them on artistic message boards and the like. There are certain well established rules to how to draw faces, specifically how to establish the proportions of features in relation to each other. These rules are all based on white people, but they are presented as universal, and if your face is not within the stated guidelines it is 'out of proportion' and thus, many artists believe, unrealistic and ugly. The one most relevant to black people is the nose width 'rule' which states that a nose is never, ever, wider than the width of the space between the eyes (which are in turn one eye width apart) When you get into how to actually draw the nose, again, you will get detailed instructions on how to draw Caucasian noses, with no guidance on any other ethnicity. This simply isn't applicable to many black people, but for some artists is is VERY hard to break out of this mindset, so the result is a lot of art of supposed black people with Caucasian features. There are exceptions, but it is very rare, especially when dealing with actual books rather than amateur made tutorials on the internet which, ironically, are often far better than the professional ones.
- Dollbase art on DeviantArt:
- In theory, a good way to practice shading and study anime anatomy or Art Major Biology as it applies to different series - the models are naked and in outline, showing body proportions better and allowing you to learn another artist's style better. The problem is that nearly every doll base is white. White couples, white girls, and white men make up the vast majority of this artwork. If a black person is shown, they'll be one in a group base of four or five, or be relegated to a Black Best Friend, and have no noticeable facial changes from the facial features base artists prefer. On the other hand, attempting to supply a black base starts a flame war over what the 'base tone' should be. Too dark and it's unusable, too light and it's racist. Most people who have black characters either work excessively hard on changing the whole base, or they do nothing but dunk a character in chocolate (or, as Zero Punctuation noted, tea) with no regard to hair texture or appearance being different between races. However, if you're anything that is neither white nor black, you will find no bases whatsoever supplied for your race. At all. This is the source of much controversy over on DeviantArt.
- This is a big problem in the pixel dolling community - when it comes to bases, it's pretty rare for alternate skin tones to be provided, and when they are it's usually a straight re-colour of the 'default' white base, leading to, as described above with Barbie, dark skinned dolls with Caucasian features and generally Caucasian hair.
- Fan art is notorious for lightening the complexion of brown skinned characters. Examples are cataloged here.
- Contemporary depictions of Eliza Harris (who inspired her namesake in Uncle Tom's Cabin) and her heroic escape from slavery with her grandson on her arms by leaping across the ice over the Ohio River universally depict her as a white woman (the baby might even be light haired). It is unknown if she was deliberately whitewashed by abolitionists to make her story better appeal to white audiences (the idea that random white northerners might be abducted by slave catchers and sold as "light skinned negroes" in the South proved very effective at the time) or if she was really that light skinned because she had barely any African ancestry.
- The vintage clothing website Mod Cloth was accused of this trope due to having only one person of color as a model when they launched. As of this writing during February 2014, they currently have four white models, three Asian models (one of Malaysian descent, one who is Chinese-American, and one who is Japanese-Canadian in origin) and two black models. Their black models both have very, very dark skin. Any Unfortunate Implications regarding everyone's hairstyles can be justifiably addressed by the fact it's a vintage clothing store and many of their models are fangirls of the site and the vintage scene in general. Back when they did interviews with the models and put their on their website, Grace Ohta, the aforementioned Japanese-Canadian model, stated this was the only vintage clothing store that would let her model because she was 'too dark' for others, meaning this trope is very alive and well in the vintage scene, if not as discussed as it should be.
- Gothic Charm School has seen many questions answered in regard to Goths of Color, and it has in fact been the sole subject of three articles entirely. In these articles' comments section you'll find many people who embrace Goths of Color as One of Us, but at the same time the only reason there are enough letters to constitute whole articles is because of this trope, complete with black Goths saying they've fared better if they have light skin and worse if they have dark skin when it comes to being accepted. The runners of the site find this appalling, which is why it's one of few topics they come back to repeatedly.
- On the podcast Another Pagan Podcast, they discuss a stereotype that applies to black pagans in particular - that all black pagans must follow an African pagan path. If they don't, they're viewed as trying to be white by white people and black people alike. And of course, in the spirit of this trope, mixed or mixed looking people get a pass on this.
- This is oddly, very common in Latin American media. Although Latin American people come in a variety of colors due the diversity of their population, given the kind of actors that get main roles in tv, you would think that most of the Latino population are fair skinned Caucasians. Chile may be the worst offender, since most mainstream actors are light haired white actors with colored eyes (and most of them even have Anglo-Saxon surnames) but you just have to take a walk around any Chilean city to notice that most Chilean people have a wide range of brown skin tones, black hair and dark brown eyes. This has more to do with Chile's strong classism than an outright racism, since European-features are associated with a high economical and social position. However, since opportunities for the low and middle class have risen and the richest families have been diluted and dispersed (There are people with "important" last names that aren't getting any money outside their jobs because they are way too distant relatives) the portrayal of dark skinned Latinos in major roles has become bigger, although it is still small comparing it to the real population and it's still played straight in advertising, where it seems that 90% of Chilean population is blue-eyed and blond, for example in a TV Spot for an Eye Glasses store about "How Chileans see themselves" everyone except for one guy were either blonde or light brown haired, even when they mention diversity and showed an Afro-descended woman, said woman was a very light skinned black that looked very different to the average Afro-Latina woman.
- There are plenty of places — in the Caribbean for example — where there are layers and layers of this. History records that quite a few of the immigrants to the UK from the Caribbean were appalled to be described as 'black', having been several grades of colourism 'higher' back home. The British, for their part, have a distressing historical tendency to take the "one drop" rule Up to Eleven; their racists target basically everyone who isn't "ethnically British"note , which is even-handed if nothing else.
- This was a trope in Trinidadian calypso music of the 50s too. You couldn't be 'too African', nor could you be 'too Indian', 'too Chinese', and there was something of a class divide between all of them. Lighter skinned Calypsonians saw a better chance of breaking in the US, which naturally saw bitter rivalries (Harry Belafonte vs. anyone singing their own original stuff, basically) Even being from another Caribbean country might get you stigmatised (Trinis were not big fans of being associated with Jamaicans, because Trinidad is a much richer country).
- Like their northern neighbors Cubanos also acknowledge the one drop rule, but it's inverted in that having a single drop of white blood makes you white. Many people defend their whiteness no matter how prominent their African features are leading to the saying, "White with your hat on, black with it off."
- Most residents of the Dominican Republic have some African ancestry, but since all things African are associated with "job stealing" Haitian migrant workers, its hair straightening is a popular way for Dominicans to distance themselves from any such associations, while skin color, no matter how dark it is, will be attributed to Amerindian heritage, usually Taino, rather than anything African. Even socially, practitioners of African derived religions, such as the ever popular Voudon branches, will mask it with Spanish or English names, so as to distinguish themselves from what they think Haitians are practicing, even though the fundamental aspects remain the same.
- Averted in a Harris Interactive Poll that in 2001 named Martin Luther King and Colin Powell as two of the top three choices of hero/role model for Americans (the other one was Jesus). And Jesus was probably as dark as either of those two gentlemen. If you want to talk about famous people who are "lightened" in most depictions, you can start with him.