Hollywood Whitewashing

Hollywood White Washing

As defined by Wikipedia: "Whitewashing is a casting practice in the film industry of the United States in which white actors are cast in historically non-white character roles." 

If we take this definition given to us by the internet we can see that it specifies whitewashing as a casting practice. 

This casting practice has become, sadly, of common occurrence for the past decades in the United States and has rarely been seen elsewhere, despite the great land having no shortage of non-white actors to cast.

Regardless of the many triumphs Hollywood can take credit for, the discriminatory practice greatly overshadows all technological updates, editing advancement, writing successes, etc. that has been achieved in film.

The truth is, we've all seen it and it's cringe worthy. Many great non-white characters created in classic novels, comic books and scripts and more have been casted as white. This not only completely disregards a distinctive feature of the character but it also takes away from the character's background, possible ethnicity identification, traditions and the like, no matter how greatly the white actor plays this role. 

It is to be noted that the petty debate of which actors are better at their job is one of much lesser importance in the face of the possible erasing and ostracizing of a certain race. With such a diverse country that tends to distribute westernized ideals to the rest of the world through globalism, sending out the message of a white actor playing that role of a non-white character is a serious matter and possibly harmful.

Many non-white characters have had their good roles without defamation of the race they are portraying, it is however in most cases known, that most of these roles tend to lend themselves over to a handful of negative stereotypes and most for the sake of comedy. 

The idea here is to discuss why these choices are made and how they impact races, cultural clashes and the harmony between different people living together. It is indisputable that the misrepresentation in Hollywood is appalling, but what else is it doing to us? Consciously and unconsciously?

Leaving you with that thought, I invite you to go out and take a look at the following works of film.

You might see the film in a new light, now that you are taking the original intended race for the character in mind and also the harsh stereotypes at play.

1. West Side Story: Many of the characters were introduced with the "brown-face" make up to appear Puerto-Rican, like the character Bernardo played by white actor George Chakiris and white actress Natalie Wood playing the Puerto-Rican character of Maria.

(Image Courtesy of Deadline.com)

2. Dr. Strange: White actress Tilda Swinton will play The Ancient One in Marvel's upcoming film "Dr. Strange" and this character is originally known to be Asian.

(Image Courtesy of Joblo.com)

3. Prince of Persia: The video game character, a Prince of Persia, was played by White actor Jake Gyllenhaal and was depicted with the traditional clothing in a historical city. 

(Image Courtesy of Collider.com)

4. Aloha: Half-Asian character who is a pilot fighter Ng was played by white actress Emma Stone.

(Image Courtesy of Cinemablend.com)

Here are some 'dis' - honorary mentions of non-white characters playing major roles and the negative media uproar that occurred because of it:

  • Hermione Granger: being played by black actress Noma Dumezweni. (Whose character was described as "brown eyes, bushy hair and very clever" as quoted by J.K. Rowling).
  • Black Stormtrooper in Star Wars: The Force Awakens being played by black actor John Boyega.
  • Avatar the Last Airbender: Movie adaptation in 2010 had almost none of the original races from the actual show.

Becoming aware to whitewashing in such huge industries like that of film is only the first step towards fighting for equality. Another step towards the right direction is making sure you voice your opinion, think about what we can do to make it better, when you notice the ramifications of these practices in the media and in the world in general. 

We could avoid many of incidents such as:

  • #OscarsSoWhite because of the lack of races representing themselves through roles that were made for them, the vast majority of academy winners are white.
  • The violation of Leslie Jones' privacy, the online harrasment she recieved on twitter and the constant threats she dealth with.
  • A rumored remake of the Disney movie "Mulan" with somewhat no asian characters and more white characters than the original.