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?