This article was inspired after reading about Scarlett Johansson starring as the Major in the adaption of manga Ghost in the Shell. Critics and fans alike have called attention to the larger problem of Hollywood’s apparent refusal to cast minorities in ethnological specific roles, one that continues to spawn controversy to this day.
Whitewashing has been a problem historically, but it’s not an issue that’s been addressed. Recent films such as Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, The Last Airbender, Aloha, Pan, Noah, Exodus: Gods and Kings, and Argo have had accusations of racist casting, and it seems to be especially true in these examples I’ve listed. Caucasians have portrayed Asians, Polynesians, Native Americans, Israelis, Hispanics, Arabs, and numerous other ethnicities in film and TV. However, rarely have Caucasian roles been portrayed by “minority” actors.
Hollywood’s problem is that they still believe Caucasian actors have the widest appeal to audiences both international and national. The idea of a multicultural cast has been dismissed entirely, just for the sake of bigger profits and more money. The super-powered movie making industry has the power to make anyone a hero, yet they still choose the “safe” and wrong assumption that minorities won’t sell the tickets they need.
Racial bias is everywhere, both in front and behind the camera. Writers, directors, and producers are also mostly Caucasian while the minorities are underrepresented. Though Hollywood has been taking baby steps, for such an advanced industry, it should have been able to take the risks and prove to the world they aren’t as bigoted as most believe.
The Huffington Post has a blog that inspected all Oscar-nominated roles(Ex. 12 Years A Slave or Malcolm X) played by men of colour, and determined all but one of those “literally could not have been given to white actors.” The default setting for non-race specific roles is white, even though 44% of movie ticket sales in 2012 were purchased by ethnic minorities. To those who believe multiculturalism doesn’t sell, that remains to be a flat denial of the modern racism. It is so deeply embedded into the Hollywood consciousness that it appears in every part of the filmmaking process, from producing, writing, acting, directing—it’s enough to wonder how long it’ll last.
But as more and more people become aware of the rights being denied to non-Caucasians in Hollywood, hope is being birthed. Audience backlash at these racial issues is increasing, which may force Hollywood to perform some major changes within the flawed system. All whitewashing does is demonstrate ignorance and apathy towards racial issues, something that is not right.
Blatant racism is easier to see off hand, but when it’s insidious, inserted as a social norm in our consciousness, we begin to accept it as a reality. The greatest problem with that is this doesn’t have to be a reality. People can, and people will fight for the equality they deserve. The more we address whitewashing, and call Hollywood out on its racial bias, the more likely change will be facilitated.
In the meantime, we don’t have to beg Hollywood to give us a chance. Instead, we can create our own chances, through creating, writing, producing, directing, and acting—proving that we can appeal to a wider audience that they can only dream of.