They found the choice a bit soul-less.
Disney Pixar’s latest film, “Soul,” has received a fierce backlash online, with viewers deeming Tina Fey’s role in the flick “racially insensitive.” The criticism comes amid a flurry of glowing reviews lauding the Disney+ release’s music, animation and depiction of black culture.
The groundbreaking animated movie, which feature’s the studio’s first African American protagonist, follows middle school jazz teacher Joe Gardner (played by Jamie Foxx), whose untimely death prompts him to embark on a posthumous pilgrimage to recover his lost soul.
Along the way, Joe helps a disillusioned spirit named 22 (played by Fey) rediscover her reason for living — and in the process gains a greater understanding of what it means to be alive.
Needless to say, Fey’s casting came under fire from the always outspoken Twitterati, who felt the pivotal role should have gone to a black actor or actress.
“Yea casting Tina Fey as 22 in Soul did not do it for me, 22 should’ve been voiced by a black boy instead,” scoffed one social media watchdog.
Another wrote, “I think they should’ve gotten Regina King or Tiffany Haddish to voice Tina Fey’s character instead.”
Some viewers were especially divided over the long stretch of the film where Fey’s voice commandeers Gardner’s body a la “Freaky Friday.”
“The studio’s first Black Protagonist needed the soul of a middle-aged white woman to get his life on track,” snarked one critic of the cinematic white savior-ism. “Thank you for being mindful of ‘racist imagery.’ Wheww…”
Joe Gardner, voiced by Jamie FoxxDisney Pixar
Another griped, “The inclusion of Tina Fey for the body-swap bits and not a predominately Black comedian feels a lot like someone said ‘We dont want to alienate our white audience’… …and I’m even more disappointed by the film because of it.
“Soul” isn’t the only project to be accused of race-inappropriate casting of late. “Wonder Woman 1984” star Gal Gadot was ripped over her portrayal of Cleopatra, with critics saying that an Arab or African actress should have played the iconic Egyptian leader instead of the 35-year-old Israeli actress.
Gadot was quick to shut down detractors. “First of all, if you want to be true to the facts, then Cleopatra was Macedonian,” she told BBC Arabic. “We were looking for a Macedonian actress that could fit Cleopatra. She wasn’t there. And I was very passionate about Cleopatra.”