Hollywood sets the global standard for the film industry, and to maintain its position as the top dog it has not been afraid to let quantity trump quality.
If you take a look at Hollywood, you will realise that it’s stuck in a repetitive cycle- whereby the predominantly white A-list actors continue to take precedence over newcomers. This cycle has left no room for development in the industry and has led to the damaging and controversial whitewashing of characters.
Here are some of Hollywood’s most recent whitewashing offenses:
1. Nina (2016)
Zoe Saldana as music legend Nina Simone is definitely a bizarre casting choice. Not only has the actress shown no liking toward jazz (or singing) but physically, Saldana bears little resemblance towards the icon. Simone Kelly spoke to The New York Times about this matter;
“My mother was raised at a time when she was told her nose was too wide, her skin was too dark,” Kelly said, adding “Appearance-wise this is not the best choice”.
-Ms Simone Kelly
Casting Zoe Saldana, a woman of Puerto Rican and Dominican descent, is not the right casting choice! It takes away the history and context of the character and simultaneously withdraws casting opportunities for black actresses.
2. The Great Wall (2016)
Another movie in the firing line this year is The Great Wall. Set in ancient China around the construction of the wall, it would be right to expect an all-Asian cast for the film. Despite this expectation, the movie’s leading cast is made up of predominantly white actors. This casting choice continues to promote the cinematic trope where only a ‘white person can save the day.’
3. Aloha (2015)
Emma Stone plays the character Allison Ng, of mixed Chinese, Hawaiian and Swedish descent. The continued enforcement of Caucasian actors playing ethnic roles disallows new castings to be made and limits audience’s exposure to new great talents that could fit the role description! Check out My Adventure Correcting Yellow Face to see how casting a POC adds authenticity to a role.
4. The Lone Ranger (2013)
Johnny Depp’s portrayal of Tonto offered little to the film that was already struggling with ratings. First of all, the actor is not Native American, and secondly, the characterisation of his character was heavily reliant on stereotypes.
5. The Last Airbender (2010)
When a much-loved series becomes live-action, producers are gifted with the chance to take a risk and hire outside the ‘known actors of Hollywood.’ The Last Airbender is one such film to be offered this opportunity, unfortunately, instead of embracing this, the cast did not provide an ethnically appropriate representation. Instead, of depicting the three protagonists in their accurate Asian descent, they chose to offer the leading roles to white actors. Not only this but the antagonist was portrayed by a POC, leaving audiences with nothing but poor representation and disappointment.
Overall, these movies did not end up doing too well at the box office, and they caused a lot more controversy than good. Maybe it is time the industry stops what it is doing and looks at the pros and cons of providing accurate portrayals onscreen? They might finally discover what the audiences really want to see!