Updated: Oct 9, 2018
It's 2016, and movie studios still operate on the antiquated model that Non-White actors and actresses can't sell movies, even when they choose to "adapt" stories from media outside America.
It’s been a bad couple of days for people of color: first, the Doctor Strange teaser trailer debuted, with Tilda Swinton cast as a whitewashed The Ancient One. And today, a photo still emerged from the upcoming Ghost in the Shell live-action movie with Scarlett Johansson as a whitewashed Motoko Kusanagi.
In case you’re not aware of what whitewashing is, here’s the definition from Wikipedia:
Whitewashing: the casting practice in the film industry in the United States in which White actors are cast in historically Non-White character roles.
Whitewashing is a practice that’s as old as the film industry itself; white actors, whether on the stage or screen, have played nonwhite characters, usually as caricatures and stereotypes with blackface and yellowface for added insult, which in turn, only helped to magnify and perpetuate racism on systemic, societal, and cultural levels.
As the film industry became more integrated, blackface and yellowface via actual makeup was discontinued, but to this day, nonwhite character roles continue to be filled by White actors and actresses, with excuses ranging from:
-lack of Black/Latinx/Asian talent
-myth of nonwhite actors not being able to sell tickets+fill theater seats
-lack of monetary support and interest from investors and movie producers. Remember how Ridley Scott flat out said that if he didn’t cast White actors, he wouldn’t have been able to fund “Exodus”?
This is ABSOLUTELY UNACCEPTABLE. Not only are the first two points untrue and have been refuted countless times, the third point illuminates that Hollywood, even with integration and with network TV proving that people will watch and put their money behind content with diverse casts and stories, continues to operate as if they’re creating content for White people ONLY!
Whitewashing PoC characters tells PoC that we don’t exist, that we cannot be more than the hateful stereotypes White Supremacy created to disenfranchise us while propping Whiteness and White people up as the standard and superior in ALL THINGS, most especially aesthetics. Movie investors and producers of GitS, in casting ScaJo as Motoko, are not just saying they don’t believe having an Asian woman in a lead role can sell a movie, which is HORRIBLE BY ITSELF. They’re rendering Asian people invisible, saying that they’re not capable of selling THEIR OWN DAMN STORIES!! They’re incapable of seeing an Asian woman as anything other than a supporting or submissive character; she can never be a competent LEAD character who saves the world and keeps people safe. That’s a very toxic and ignorant lens to perpetuate and it needs to END.
Sadly, in these instances, only money can make Hollywood open its eyes---even if it IS a squint instead of totally opening---so I say we give this Ghost in the Shell movie the Gods of Egypt treatment: don’t go see it.
Since money is speech, let your voices be heard through it. Support movies and other media that have diversity. Let Hollywood know what happens when they don’t heed these words…