Racist takes decrying casting of West End's 'Romeo and Juliet' mocked with memes and jokes


Baz Luhrmann’s ‘Romeo and Juliet’ becomes racist rallying cry after Black woman cast in stage revival

'Did anyone consult William Shakespeare before they did this DEI'


Katherine Huggins


Posted on Apr 4, 2024

Racist and racially-coded discourse ran amok on social media earlier this week after the cast of the forthcoming West End production of “Romeo and Juliet” was announced, with Tom Holland as Romeo and Francesca Amewudah-Rivers, a Black woman, as Juliet.

But some social media users are hitting back at the discourse with memes and quips of their own.

Outrage over the casting of Amewudah-Rivers was all but immediate—and drew similar reactions to the racist backlash against the casting of Halle Bailey as Ariel in The Little Mermaid.

“It’s the usual thing where they aren’t racist, they just don’t think you should change the race of characters,” one Reddit user posted, along with a screenshot of some examples among Facebook comments.

“The idea that they are being casting purists about Shakespeare of all things is very funny,” the user added. “If they really want to be accurate to the original, they would cast Timothée Chalamet in drag as Juliet.”

And on X, the commentary was no different—with a sprinkling of racist meme reactions and takes that quipped, “Did anyone consult William Shakespeare before they did this DEI, Romeo and Juliet?”

But one viral post calling attention to the casting in particular has drawn a flurry of memes mocking the outrage.

“Romeo & Juliet movie then vs. now. They are rewriting history in front of our very eyes,” the post reads, contrasting images of Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes as Romeo and Juliet in the 1996 Baz Lurhmann film with Holland and Amewudah-Rivers.

Using the same caption, one user mocked the post by replacing the latter image with the cover of the 2011 film “Gnomeo & Juliet.”

A separate user posted an image of a man playing the role of Juliet—much like it would have originally been performed during Shakespeare’s time.

“Wokeness has gone too far,” joked another user, who also referenced “Gnomeo & Juliet.”

Others mocked the original user’s comparison to the 1996 film, which was set in the fictional modern-day, Miami-like city of “Verona Beach.”

“Romeo + Juliet 1996 apparently not rewriting history btw,” one person wrote.


“I’m going door to door with this picture of Harold Perrineau’s Mercutio until the children are educated,” cracked someone else.

“Ah yes, the historical documentary, Romeo and Juliet,” joked another person.

Quipped someone else: “ever get so racist it makes you believe romeo and juliet were historical figures?”

The West End production is slated for a limited run from May 11 until Aug. 3 at the Duke of York’s Theatre in London.

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*First Published: Apr 4, 2024, 12:31 pm CDT