Petition to boycott Michael Jackson film starring Joseph Fiennes at over 20,000 signatures

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A petition has been signed by over 20,000 to boycott a new TV movie, as Joseph Fiennes has been cast in the leading role of Michael Jackson.

The first images and a trailer dropped, showing the actor in the role of the King of Pop, and have reignited the controversy over his casting.

Shakespeare In Love star Joseph plays the late singer in the Sky Arts series Urban Myths, which tells a collection of fabled tales including one about Michael taking a road trip from New York to Los Angeles with Elizabeth Taylor and Marlon Brando following the terrorist attacks in America on 9/11.

Joseph Fiennes as Michael Jackson (Screengrab)
Joseph Fiennes as Michael Jackson (Screengrab)

There was an initial backlash when white actor Joseph was confirmed to be portraying the black singer, who died in 2009, and now that the trailer has been revealed, a petition launched to boycott the film has now received over 20,000 signatures.

The campaign against the movie, which stars Stockard Channing as Elizabeth Taylor and Brian Cox as Marlon Brando, was set-up on petition site Care 2 over a year ago.

It reads: "It's easy to see why the story would make a compelling film - but it's harder to understand why the actor best known for his role in Shakespeare in Love was the first choice to play one of the world's most iconic black musicians."

The campaign prose also described how Michael suffered with skin condition vitiligo throughout his life, thereby causing the lightening of his skin.

The author of the petition, Julie Rodriguez, wrote: "While there was much speculation during his life that Jackson "wanted to be white," the simple fact of the matter is that Jackson's own words and actions showed that was untrue time and time again.

"Despite a public struggle with vitiligo, a rare skin disorder that results in the loss of pigment, he identified in interviews as a proud black man, and went out of his way to fight for better treatment of black artists in the entertainment industry. In fact, in a 1993 interview with Oprah, he was offended at the very suggestion of being played by a white actor in a commercial!"

"This casting is an insult to the very real professional struggles and health issues Jackson dealt with during his lifetime."

She added: "It's bad enough when actors of colour are denied opportunities to play fictional characters of their own ethnicity due to the preferential treatment of white actors.

Joseph Fiennes
Joseph Fiennes (Chris Radburn PA Archive/PA Images)

"But it's absolutely inexcusable for a film to whitewash a movie based on an actual human being, whether his appearance was typical of what we expect a black man to look like or not."

Julie said that she felt compelled to start the petition in part because a member of her family suffered from the same skin condition.

According to the website, it is the responsibility of the petition's owner to "deliver the petition to the target".