Whitewashing when it comes to Hollywood is nothing new, although the international conversation about it has only recently begun. If you don’t know what whitewashing is, whitewashing is casting white actors for roles that, in the original context of the story, was held by non-white characters, mostly Asian roles. You may have heard some of the stories, so I am going to compile some of the examples of Hollywood and tendencies for whitewashing.
The first time I had heard of Hollywood’s whitewashing on social media was with the movie Ghost in the Shell. I have not seen Ghost in the Shell, but it is my understanding that, for a Japanese anime, it is one of the best-selling Japanese animated movies in the world, making it a cult classic. So when it was revealed there was going to be a live-action remake, people were excited; until it was found out that the main role, a Japanese woman, was being handed to Scarlet Johansson, who is pretty white. The blow was made even worse when instead of just casting an Asian woman, they just used technology to make Johansson look Asian. People argued that Scarlet Johansson was there to make the movie money, but instead, it lost 60 million dollars. The reason why the outburst over whitewashing is so vital is that Asian Americans don’t have many roles in Hollywood movies and other TV series, and when they do have roles, it is heavily stereotyped.
More recently, what makes the problem with Ghost in the Shell even worse is that actors can step away from their roles over situations like these. Recently, it was announced that the comic book series was to get a movie. The role of character Major Ben Daimio, an Asian character in the original comic, was given to Ed Skrein, who is Definitely Not Asian. However, unlike actors before him, Ed Skrein did the right thing and decided to step down from his role, an action that was applauded by even the creator of Hellboy. This just shows that yes, actors can step away from their roles for cases like these, so actors before them cannot say they have no choice. They do. Thankfully, the director also listened to the outcry and casted Daniel Dae Kim, who is Asian, as Major Ben Daimino. Why they didn’t choose him first is beyond me.
Why, perhaps, might Hollywood do such things? The obvious answer is, of course, racism, but let’s take a look at one such “example”. Recently, in a book published called “Reel Inequality: Hollywood Actors and Racism”, an anonymous casting director claims that white actors are given Asian roles is because “Asians are a challenge to cast because most casting directors feel as though they’re not very expressive”. If you know anyone that is Asian, whether it be through your personal life or through the Internet, or anywhere really, you know that that is truly false. If you want to know first hand how utterly false this claim is, hop on twitter and search the hashtag #ExpressiveAsians. Most of them are definitely more expressive than I can ever be.
I know that this post may seem like bare bones to you, but this is all a small example. I, as you may have noticed in class, am pretty white, and my voice pales in comparison to people who experience stuff like this every day. My post only serves as a gateway; please listen to your non-white peers.
As a bonus tip in regards to this topic, please don’t be an idiot and dress up as other cultures and races for Halloween. You just look like an asshole.