Whitewashing within Hollywood films is something that is known about a little bit, but until it’s pointed out, you’re not really aware that it’s happening. Whitewashing is where characters are a different race in the book or comic or even anime adaptation, but when the content is being made into a film, the main characters are changed from their original race to white. I’m sure you’ve seen it before.
It’s little things like when there are films about Greek Gods, all of the main characters are white. It’s when fans are very excited about an anime being converted into a film, until they realise that the main character who is supposed to be Asian is going to be played by Scarlett Johannson. It’s when Emma Stone is cast in a role where the character is supposed to be Hawaiian for no other reason apart from that she is white.
It’s this kind of constant whitewashing that can leave minorities feeling a little (a lot) angry at directors in the film industry. Rightfully so too. They have every right to feel angry, especially when fans of the content are excited to see it put forward into a film. When will directors learn that hell hath no fury like a bunch of people who have read the book and will watch the film with a fine toothed comb to see if it’s accurate?
When Exodus: Gods and Kings was due to be released, it came to the fans’ attention that despite the extraordinarily large amount of money being spent on the film, all of the main characters were white. This was still the casting choice, despite the film being set in Egypt. It really didn’t help things when the director Ridley Scott was asked by Variety to comment on his casting choices and said:
“I can’t mount a film of this budget, where I have to rely on tax rebates in Spain, and say that my lead actor is Mohammad so-and-so from such-and-such.”
Way to not stoke the flames of the angry people. He could’ve just decided to spend less money on the film, which only ended up raking in $24 million in the box office. I know, $24 million sounds like a lot. However, it’s literally nothing in comparison to the amount that was spent on the movie, which was $140 million dollars. I can’t even fathom that amount of money being spent on a film, let alone one about Moses.
So I feel like it’s my duty to tell you that it’s happened AGAIN. Whitewashing, a concept that has been happening for centuries within the film industry and therefore putting forth lack of representation consistently, has unfortunately not been left in the past where it belongs and so shamefully follows us into the present and future.
Last week, the trailer for The Great Wall Of China was released. Naturally, due to the title, you would assume that a Chinese man would be in the lead role. Right?
Matt Damon, who is the whitest man ever, has been cast as the dragon slayer and chosen one to protect the Great Wall of China, despite not being Chinese and being born in Massachusetts. Another white man put into the lead spot.
However, Constance Wu, who is a lead character in Fresh Off The Boat openly condemned this casting and said in a note on Facebook that this casting was more proof of ‘hero bias’. ‘Hero bias’ is where white men are cast into roles that should be casted to men of colour but aren’t, because apparently only white men can save the world.
In her note, she touches on key concepts about whitewashing within the American film industry, which may have been eyeopening to some, but to others, it was something they have been saying for years.
‘It’s about pointing out the repeatedly implied racist notion that white people are superior to POC and that POC need salvation from our own colour due to white strength’.
You can read the full note here.