14 Times Hollywood Was Called Out for Whitewashing

10th June, 2020

Brownface, yellowface, blackface—Hollywood’s done it all since the age of silent films. Check out some of the most recent whitewashed roles in Hollywood.

14 Times Hollywood Was Called Out for Whitewashing DISNEY/KOBAL/SHUTTERSTOCK

In 2017, Scarlett Johansson was cast as Motoko Kusanagi in Ghost in the Shell . Based on a Japanese manga series by Masamune Shirow, the movie faced outrage for the casting. Over 100,000 people signed an online petition, “Stop Whitewashing Asian Characters.” Unsurprisingly, nothing substantial came out of it. After all, it’s Hollywood. Some things never change and Hollywood whitewashing character roles seems like one of those things that is here to stay. Here are some jarring instances that drew criticism.

1. The Entire Cast – 21

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The MIT Blackjack Team, based on whom 21 was made, had a majority of Asian American students. But the makers of the movie picked an all-white cast, including Jim Sturgess in the lead. The movie was also criticized by the Media Action Network for Asian Americans.

2. Jennifer Connelly – A Beautiful Mind

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Based on the book A Beautiful Mind, this movie won four Oscars including Best Supporting Actress. Jennifer Connelly plays Alicia Nash, a Latina immigrant born in El Salvador. Her ethnicity is mentioned multiple times in the book, which the makers of the movie clearly ignored.

3. Angelina Jolie – A Mighty Heart

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Based on Mariane Pearl’s memoir, A Mighty Heart, this movie received critical acclaim but also drew criticism for casting Angelina Jolie as Mariane Pearl, who is multiracial. Though Pearl personally approved of Jolie in that role, the movie was heavily criticized for this color blindness.

4. Emma Stone – Aloha

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In this movie, Emma Stone plays Allison Ng, a character of mixed racial ancestry. Stone looks far from a person of mixed race and this was one of the most jarring aspects of the movie that barely made a dent. However, an apology for this choice was issued by the director, Cameron Crowe. Quite a rare occurrence in Hollywood!

5. Ben Affleck – Argo

Tony Mendez, the protagonist of Argo, is Hispanic. Although the movie was a significant career milestone for Ben Affleck, he received a bit of backlash for casting himself as Mendez. Nevertheless, Argo received critical acclaim, including an Oscar and a Golden Globe.

6. Liam Neeson – Batman Begins

There’s no denying the powerful performance of Liam Neeson as Ra’s al Ghul in Nolan’s Batman Begins. However, there were some questions raised about choosing an Irishman to fulfill the role of an Arab-origin character with a name that literally means “the demon’s head” in Arabic.

7. Main Cast – Exodus: Gods and Kings

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Ridley Scott’s film on the biblical figures of Moses and Ramses, drew its fair share of flak for casting British and Australian actors like Christian Bale and Joel Edgarton respectively. In true Hollywood style, Scott shrugged off the accusations of whitewashing by saying the critics should “get a life.”

8. Gerard Butler – Gods of Egypt

Historical dramas are infamous for miscasting. Alex Proyas’ Gods of Egypt belongs to this club. Scottish actor, Gerard Butler, played an Egyptian demigod. But we’ll give brownie points to Proyas. He and Lionsgate acknowledged the lack of diversity by issuing an official apology.

9. Rooney Mara – Pan

This is one of the worst instances of whitewashing in Hollywood. Rooney Mara played Tiger Lily in Pan. The beloved character is Native American, while Mara is well… not. Obviously, the movie received backlash from critics and fans alike for the odd choice.

10. Jake Gyllenhaal – Prince of Persia

We were appalled when Disney picked Jake Gyllenhaal as Prince Dastan in Prince of Persia. We love Jake, but couldn't the makers scout for an actor who could be from say Persia!? It’s in the name, guys!

11. The Entire Cast! – Speed Racer

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What’s worse than whitewashing one character? Whitewashing the entire cast of the film! Speed Racer is based on Mach GoGoGo, an original manga series and Japanese anime. The makers of the movie decided to Americanize the entire movie, opting to put Emile Hirsch as the lead. Well, that backfired… heh.

12. Benedict Cumberbatch – Star Trek Into Darkness

As Khan Noonein Singh, Cumberbatch and his cheekbones kept us on the edge of our seats. Undoubtedly, his performance was critically acclaimed. But eyebrows were raised about casting a white actor in this character that was clearly South-Asian.

13. The Entire Cast (Nearly) – The Last Airbender

Avatar: The Last Airbender, an animated TV series was set in a world similar to Asia. So, the characters were naturally, Asian. But the makers of the movie, The Last Airbender, chose an all-white cast with the exception of Dev Patel, the only Asian in a pivotal role.

14. Johnny Depp – The Lone Ranger

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