"White-washing" is a big problem in Hollywood. The term refers to the overwhelming domination of white actors and characters in our current media. At the Oscars, over 80% of nominees are white; it has nothing to do with acting talent of minority actors and everything to do with the fact that minority actors are denied opportunities to act. Many times that minority actors are lauded for their performances, it's in movies centered around racial struggles; it's rare that a minority actor is given a chance to shine in a movie unrelated to race.
This is no new issue, either. If you look back at some of our great classics, you'll see horrifyingly offensive examples: Laurence Olivier playing Othello in black face, for instance, or Elizabeth Taylor playing Cleopatra, or Mickey Rooney and his awful performance pretending to be an Asian man in Breakfast at Tiffany's. We see these examples and shudder at how offensive they are, but we're still casting white people as people of color today!
Take the film Gods of Egypt, for instance, which released in February of this year. The film takes place in Egypt, so you'd assume there would be a lot of people of color given opportunities in this film, right? WRONG. There are few non white actors in this movie. Why? Why is this movie, which supposedly celebrates ancient Egyptian culture, all about white people?
Still don't believe we whitewash our media? See for yourself! Here are twenty examples of white actors playing ethnic characters.
20 Mena Suvari in Stuck
19 Russell Crowe in Noah
Oh, Russell Crowe and Jennifer Connelly. This is your second movie on this list. You two had better watch out.
18 Christian Bale and Joel Edgerton in Exodus: Gods and Kings
17 Carey Mulligan in Drive
16 Analeigh Tipton in Warm Bodies
15 Josh Hartnett in 30 Days of Night
14 Jim Sturgess in 21
13 Jennifer Connelly in A Beautiful Mind
12 Natalie Wood in West Side Story
11 Emile Hirsch in Speed Racer
10 Jake Gyllenhaal and Gemma Arterton in Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time
9 Johnny Depp in The Lone Ranger
Do we even have to explain this one?
8 Justin Chatwin in Dragonball: Evolution
Here's another white-American appropriation of Japanese culture. Get ready for a lack of surprises.
7 Rooney Mara in Pan
6 Ben Affleck in Argo
5 Benedict Cumberbatch in Star Trek Into Darkness
4 Emma Stone in Aloha
3 Nicola Peltz and Jackson Rathbone in The Last Airbender
2 Kusanagi in Ghost in the Shell
1 Jennifer Lawrence in The Hunger Games
That's right: Katniss Everdeen was originally intended to be a black character.
In the Suzanne Collins books, Katniss is described as having dark, olive skin. Love you, Jennifer, but you don't exactly match that description; you've got more like porcelain white skin. Katniss was more than a hero to the fictional world of Panem, she was a hero to young girls reading the books and watching the movies and believing they had the power and strength to change their world. Katniss was a real hero. While Jennifer Lawrence did a great job playing the role, can you imagine how powerful it would have been to have a young actress of color playing this role? Inspiring efficacy and confidence in young women everywhere? Can you imagine how empowering and inspiring that would have been to young girls of color? Unfortunately, all we can do is imagine because the studios thought a white girl was a more marketable option than a black one.
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