Timeline 1900 – 2017

Wuthering Heights (2011)

Wuthering Heights is a 2011 British film based on Emily Bronte’s novel about the passionate and destructive relationship between Heathcliff and Cathy. The director, Andrea Arnold cast James Howson, an unknown Leeds actor from a mixed racial background, as   Heathcliff.

The casting of Howson, a dark-skinned actor, provoked some discussion amongst critics and audiences, though Bronte herself in the novel indicated that Heathcliff was a Liverpool founding and described his appearance as that of a ‘dark-skinned gypsy’ or ‘a little Lascar’. A number of scholars have speculated that, given Heathcliff’s appearance and his discovery in Liverpool, home to a well-established black and mixed race population in the 1840s when the novel was written, Bronte envisaged Heathcliff in the vein of the ‘tragic mulatto’ - an archetypal literary figure of mixed racial heritage whose inability to fit in socially leads to marginalisation and, typically, suicide or death.