Whitewashing: Hollywood’s continual racism

Caroline Lozano/ Contributing Writer

The most horrific portrayal of a minority I’ve ever seen was that of Mr. Yunioshi, the Japanese landlord in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.”

Apart from being buck-toothed and squinty-eyed, the character was played by Mickey Rooney, a white actor, who exaggerated his eccentricity, giving audiences a stereotypical view of Japanese men. Of course, since the film dates back to 1961, you would think that the industry has expanded, becoming more diverse and inclusive as the years passed. However, we still face the problem of whitewashing in today’s film industry.

Whitewashing, in the simplest terms, refers to the practice of casting white actors in non-white roles. And, unfortunately, Hollywood has been getting away with it for decades.

Recent films like “The Last Airbender,” “Pan,” and even the upcoming “Ghost in the Shell” prove that the industry hasn’t quite embraced the idea of casting minorities for their respective roles.

Just take a look at last year’s film “Doctor Strange” in which Tilda Swinton, a white actress, played The Ancient One, a character who is supposed to be both Tibetan and male. It didn’t help that Marvel released a statement that was less than satisfactory against the backlash. According to Screen Rant, Marvel described the character’s title as being “a moniker passed down through time, and in this particular film the embodiment is Celtic.”

When a film studio tries to justify their whitewash of a non-white character, it hurts minorities just as much as it hurts the industry. It does a disservice to those who are less represented in film by denying them the role of a character that they can relate to. Likewise, a film loses realism when it attempts, for example, to pass off a white woman as a canonically Native American princess.

Now, I’m not trying to pin the blame on the actors nor am I insinuating that the actors in the films mentioned delivered bad performances. Excluding “The Last Airbender,” I think all of the actors in these films are talented people who gave decent performances, for the most part.

However, casting directors should put more effort in choosing the correct actors for the correct roles.



The opinions presented within this page do not represent the views of Panther Press Editorial Board. These views are separate from editorials and reflect individual perspectives of contributing writers and/or members of the University community.


Photo taken from Flickr.

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