Film Corner: An Observation About Whitewashing

Every time Hollywood takes a role that is a character of color (like Tonto in the Lone Ranger) or is traditionally played by a person of color (like Khan in Star Trek) and awards that role to a white actor, defenders of whitewashing point out that the white actor is very talented, did/will do a great job with the role, and will insist that this isn't an act of systemic racism which denies rare roles to actors of color but is rather only about letting the Best Possible Actor play the part.

And that actor just so happens to be white this time. Coincidence!

Yet every time a role is gender-bent (like Joan Watson in Elementary) or race-bent (like Ford Prefect in Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy) or just plain played-straight but in a way that a large portion of the fanbase didn't pick up on in the original literature (like Rue in Hunger Games) then THE WORLD IS ENDING because a white and/or male role went to a woman or a person of color and what about CANON and AUTHENTICITY and TRADITION. And, NO, it doesn't matter if the bending makes the canon character more interesting or if it injects some much-needed diversity into an otherwise white and/or male cast because obviously that's just politically correct drivel and it's ridiculously silly to suggest that audience members might like to see more people on-screen than white men, and NO, it doesn't matter how good the actor is because this isn't about letting the best possible actor play the part if that means bending the character's privileged race or gender, dammit.


It's almost like the people who defend the whitewashing of roles really aren't all about letting the best actor act and are instead motivated by something else.

Related: Johnny Depp’s Tonto is Based on a White Man’s Painting of an Imaginary Native American
Related: 25 Minority Characters that Hollywood Whitewashed
Related: Hollywood Whitewashing (Yes, It Really Hurts)
Related: I Guess Whitewashing is Okay Again
Related: It Matters If You’re Black or White: The Racism of YA Book Covers


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