Permanently Bald Othello

I suppose that Othello will always look like Lawrence Fishburne, at least for the foreseeable future. Not that Fishburne wasn’t a good Othello, or anything. But I wonder if in this day and age, an actor could play Othello, or an artist could depict him, with a look other than Black Dude With A Badass-Lookin’ Shaved Head.

Now, don’t get me wrong. Black Dude With A Badass-Lookin’ Shaved Head is a cool look and most movies, plays, and pretty much any other kind of entertainment media you could name are all enhanced by the presence of a Black Dude With A Badass-Lookin’ Shaved Head. Even movies that are otherwise seriously flawed. And yes, Othello is a warrior and a shaved head is obviously a practical hairstyle for someone whose job description includes hand-to-hand combat. So it’s not like there’s anything wrong with depicting Othello that way.

It just seems so… obvious. There’s more than one way to depict a warrior, especially one who is in repose, enjoying the fruits of his labors and his lovely, younger Venetian bride. One need not even have to have particularly dark skin to to play the role; such ultra-white actors as Anthony Hopkins and Orson Welles and Laurence Olivier have all played Othello effectively. And there are other ways to signal that some dude is officially a Mess-With-Me-At-Your-Own-Peril Badass than a Shaved Head.

Nevertheless, if Denzel Washington were to be cast as Othello today,* I bet that he’d shave his head for the role, too. What’s going on with that? Why must Othello always be bald?

* Maybe with Connie Nielsen as Desdomena and Ciarán Hinds as Iago?

Burt Likko

Pseudonymous Portlander. Homebrewer. Atheist. Recovering litigator. Recovering Republican. Recovering Catholic. Recovering divorcé. Recovering Former Editor-in-Chief of Ordinary Times. House Likko's Words: Scite Verum. Colite Iusticia. Vivere Con Gaudium.


  1. 1) Congratulations on getting the prediction about the bad guy in the next Batman movie right. Catwoman, it is!2) Olivier had… "cosmetic adjustment," let's say, which allowed him to play Othello and which would not fly today.

  2. 1. And she's being played by Anne Hathaway, who is teh Hawt! (YMMV.)2. Agreed; the Black Dude With A Badass-Lookin' Shaved Head, however predictable, is infinitely less likely to get your production boycotted than paying tribute to Al Jolson's performance in The Jazz Singer.

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