Whitewashing is a phenomenon where white actors are cast to play the roles of non-white characters. Sadly, this happens all too often and there are numerous examples of the same. This is problematic, yet time and again we see it happen. It becomes more visible when popular characters are whitewashed. There is outrage and protest for a few days on the internet and then things go back to normal. Today, we take a look at times when Hollywood whitewashed popular characters.
1. Max Minghella as Divya Narendra in “The Social Network” (2010)
Whitewashing becomes even more troublesome when the character being whitewashed is not fictional. In this case, a living person, Divya Narendra was cast by the British – Italian actor. It was severely criticized. The actor did a fine job, but it would have been appropriate if a person with an Indian background had played the part. It would have been more authentic.
2. Joel Edgerton and Christian Bale as Ramesses II and Moses in “Exodus: Gods And Kings” (2014)
Racially appropriate casting was ignored in this film and the director, Ridley Scott shot his foot by justifying the same by saying: “I can’t mount a film of this budget … and saying that my lead actor is Mohammad so-and-so from such-and-such. I’m just not going to get it financed.” It faced immediate backlash and it was considered that such a film about ancient Egypt should have been cast in race-appropriate actors.
3. Angelina Jolie as Mariane Pearl in “A Mighty Heart” (2007)
This is often touted as Angelina Jolie’s best performance. She played the role of the wife of a murdered journalist, Daniel Pearl. It was an infamous case that rocked the mid-2000s. It is quite unfortunate that her best performance is overshadowed by criticisms of whitewashing. To be fair, finding an actress of the precise ethnic mix as the French-born, Afro-Chinese-Cuban-Dutch Pearl would have been a challenge. Further, Jolie’s cast was indispensable for the film. Yet, things could have been different. Moreover, her strong get-up, thick accent, afro hair, and big belly made her subject to yet more criticism. All in all a great film sullied by the criticism of whitewashing.
4. John Wayne as Genghis Khan in “The Conqueror” (1956)
This film is quite famous for giving its cast cancer. This is as the film site was irradiated by nuclear weapons tests. The same was suppressed for many decades. On top of that the lead character, Genghis Khan, who was a central Asian Mongol, was played by a white American cowboy.
It was an instant disaster from the get-go. The movie was a total flop. The lead was also quite uncomfortable and awkward in his portrayal of the Mongol Warlord.
Ultimately, a disaster of a film, further tarnished by whitewashing.
5. Kirk Lazarus as Staff Sergeant Lincoln Osiris in “Tropic Thunder”/”Tropic Blunder” (2008)
Lazarus is a well-appreciated actor who has won 5 Academy Awards. He was great in this film too, going as far as having a pigmentation alteration surgery to fit his part. The film faced some issues later on and many scenes were cut. However, this was again, an example of whitewashing, where the actor played a character from a minority.