Hollywood has a long history of whitewashing racialized characters

Faced with the surge of racist hatred against the presence of a black actress to embody Ariel in the live-action The Little Mermaid, it is necessary to remember that Hollywood erased, until recently, racialized characters from its films, by casting white actors and actresses in their place…

You couldn’t miss this week: the emotional reactions of dozens of little girls amazed to discover the first images of the live-action of The little Mermaid. Adorable heart-warming images as an answer torrents of racist reflections on social networks.

By choosing singer Halle Bailey to play the dreamy Ariel, Disney would have committed a terrible affront to this masterpiece of popular culture… really? As if an imaginary creature couldn’t be black and as if, in the past, the movie industry never took big liberties casting white actors and actresses to embody people — sometimes having really existed! – racialized.

To respond to all this bad faith marked by a good dose of racism, we have listed a few recent examples…

Jake Gyllenhaal in Prince of Persia

Frankly, when the name of a country or region is literally in the title of a work, one should expect minimal casting effort. By wishing to adapt the eponymous video game, Disney could have taken an Iranian actor… but no.

Jake Gyllenhaal has since expressed regret on this film choice, saying he learned a lot from the controversy.

jake gyllenhaal prince of persia
Walt Disney Pictures

Scarlett Johansson in Ghost in the Shell

In this remake of the cult manga of the same name, Hollywood did not hesitate to choose Scarlett Johansson to interpret Mokoto Musanagi. Despite a petition asking DreamWorks to reverse its decision, nothing has changed.

worst defense, that of saying that the character is not human but cyborg… and therefore that he can have any appearance. A hard to hear argument given the vastly lower number of role opportunities for Asian actors and actresses compared to their Caucasian counterparts.

scarlett johansson ghost in the shell
Scarlett Johansson plays The Major in Ghost in the Shell from Paramount Pictures and Storyteller Distribution Co. in theaters March 31, 2017.

Tilda Swinton in Doctor Strange

“We thought we were smart, and super avant-garde. We weren’t going to fall into the cliché of the old Asian, wise and who has magical powers. » Except that in trying to be smart, producer Kevin Feige made a mistake, and recognized it : Tilda Swinton for the role of the Elder was not such a subtle idea and instead continued the long and racist Hollywood tradition of roles of Asian people being played by white people.

tilda swinton doctor strange
Jay Maidment / Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures Germany

Rooney Mara in Pan

“I really hated, hated, hated being on this side of the whitewashing discussion. It’s true. I never want to be in this position again. I understand why people were so angry and frustrated. »

Targeted by a petition for portraying the character Lily the Tigress in a new adaptation of Peter Pan, therefore the role of a native-American teenager, Rooney Mara has long regretted this choice.

rooney mara pan
Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. and Ratpac-Dune Entertainment LLC

Emma Stone in Aloha

Critical and commercial failure, Aloha has almost caused more talk for its ill-advised casting choice. For the role of Allison Ng, a woman of Chinese and Hawaiian origin, Emma Stone was chosen.

Vanished by Sandra Oh on this subject in the middle of the Golden Globes ceremony in 2019, Emma Stone had yelled ” I’m sorry ! ».

emma stone aloha
Twentieth Century Fox

Christian Bale, Sigourney Weaver, Aaron Paul and Joel Edgerton in Exodus: Gods and Kings

To see Joel Edgerton, white and blond Australian actor with blue eyes copiously tanned by the sun to play Ramses II, one thinks that there were perhaps more relevant casting choices.

In this big-budget biblical fresco by Ridley Scott, we simply took four Caucasian actors to play the roles of racialized historical figures. A choice that the director made for purely budgetary reasons.

joel edgerton exodus
Twentieth Century Fox

Angelina Jolie in Undefeated Heart

Of Cuban and Dutch origin, the journalist Mariane Pearl saw part of her life brought to the screen in An unconquered heartwhich recounts the investigation into the assassination of her husband, journalist Daniel Pearl.

Yet it is Angelina Jolie who embodies it, a will of Mariane Pearl herself, who has nevertheless been questioned by many black actresses.

angelina jolie an undefeated heart
Paramount Pictures France

Max Minghella in The Social Network

Coming from an Indian family who immigrated to the United States, Divya Narendra was involved in the creation of Facebook. It was therefore natural to see him appear in David Fincher’s thriller.

Yet the role was not given to an actor desibut to Max Minghella, comedian of British and Chinese origin.

max minghella the social network
Sony Pictures Releasing France

And these are just a few recent examples, but the Hollywood industry has installed these practices for a long time… And you, do you have other examples of whitewashing?

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Hollywood has a long history of whitewashing racialized characters