by T. Mack
The term “whitewashing” in most common vernacular means one of two things. One of them is acceptable. The other is really, REALLY NOT. Allow me to illustrate the difference.
DEFINITION OF WHITEWASHING:
1. To whiten with whitewash (whiting,
2. The practice, as in Hollywood movie-making, of casting white actors in ethnic roles and pretending it’s okay and that no one will notice or be flippin’ pissed off about it. (UNACCEPTABLE)
Please see examples below of acceptable and unacceptable forms of whitewashing:
2015 was a terrible year for bad whitewashing. Three of the four unacceptable whitewashing examples above came from that year alone (Aloha, God’s of Egypt, and Pan). Many of us were hoping that the backlash from those would start to turn the tide in 2016. However, the latest whitewashing controversy does not have us hopeful.
The first pictures have surfaced of Scarlett Johansson as Major Motoko Kusanagi in the live-action version of the manga series, The Ghost in the Shell. There was an uproar last year when Johansson was first cast as the Asian character, but now that the photos are out, the controversy has renewed. And rightly so!
I understand that studios make movies to sell tickets because they have to sell tickets to make money. I get that they often need big names to do that. But they need to understand that white is not the default race. Making a character white does not mean they will automatically appeal to everyone, ESPECIALLY when the character is already established in source material as a completely different race. Not only is it ridiculous to cast white actors in these roles, it’s also disrespectful and infuriating! I love S.J. And you all know I’m all about some Black Widow. But this is just wrong. She should not have been cast in this part.
This series means a lot to the culture from which it originates and it reflects that culture throughout. An actor who is part of that culture should have been cast in order to respect the material, allow authenticity and give a minority the opportunity for a leading role, of which there are very few.
I’m so sick of talking about this topic. But I will NOT stop until there is a change for the better. Hollywood needs to understand that minority stories matter and they should be told and shown by minorities whenever possible. Whitewashing was not okay in 1963 when Liz Taylor was Cleopatra, it wasn’t okay in 2013 when Johnny Depp was Tonto in The Lone Ranger, and it won’t be okay in 2017 when Scarlett Johansson will be on the big screen as Major Motoko Kusanagi, whom they will now simply refer to as “Major.” Don’t kid yourself, Paramount. We know the character’s name! And we know that you whitewashed her for this movie.