Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Movie Monday: Just Say No to Whitewashing

Me in the short form western I wrote.
Ok, I get that it's Tuesday but I was filming yesterday so there you go. Here it is, this weeks Movie Monday!

I think I need to preface this by stating two things. One: I'm a ginger-glow-in-the-dark white girl. I write screenplays, sometimes with myself in mind because they are roles I want to play. It is the only role I write with a particular race in mind because, as mentioned before, I glow in the dark. Two, I strive for diversity in my films as much as humanly possible. As I've grown as a writer and producer, I make a point of seeking actors I may not know at first to fill every role. I write full back stories for even the most minor of roles and honor the heritage of whomever we cast- don't believe me look at this cast I've assembled for my next feature. 

That's said, here we go.

There are some people who believe that a great actor can play any role. I disagree. A gifted actor can play any role...except when the character's race or gender is explicit to who they are. Audiences would not accept a white actor playing Martin Luther King Jr.- a stage production recently learned that the hard way. Nor would they accept a person of color playing Abraham Lincoln or Princess Diana.

While these are historical figures, the problem remains when a popular work of literature- let's say Ghost in the Shell- is a Japanese story but being made by an American studio. By casting a different race, you ignore the history behind the character that defines them.

So, let's talk about the whitewashing that is Hollywood. We all know who the big culprit is. The studios, for whatever reason- Freddy Wong has a good guess- decide that they need a star to fill their title role. They don't do a simple Google search to find a few of the zillion results for "Top 40 Asian Actresses" or anything like that. That's too hard. Let's cast someone "recognizable" which is studio code for white... also, Max Landis can bite me. 

Forget for a moment that a fan favorite like Ghost in the Shell is even being made in the first place BECAUSE of the fan following. That is to say the bankable reason it will make money is because of the fans it already has- fans who love and understand that it is a Japanese story. And the studio KNEW that, because they did this horrible thing.

We know this sin, because we've seen it time and time again. We can get angry and rant about the studios all we want. Yet they still sit comfortably behind iron gates in ivory towers, laughing at us while they count their money. You're still all going to see the movie so they don't care if you're pissed about casting.

So let's talk about someone who CAN be held account for it. Someone who CAN tell the studios this is wrong.

The actors.

The actor has a responsibility to themselves and to the fans to ask the question "am I right for this role"? Because that is the way this stops. That is the only way the studios figure out that there are talented actors of all colors and shapes and ages. When the actors they approach to play beloved roles say, sorry I don't think that I'm right for this role.

I get it, I do. The studio offered you $10 million to take the role. That would be hard to pass up. Except you're an actor, a pretty good one at that. You likely got into acting for the craft or fun of it. Because lord knows most actors never make the kind of money being offered here. Most actors decided to get into acting because they enjoy the art of telling a good story through crafting a character that is so real your audience forgets the actor and believes.

So if you're taking the $10million it's not for the art of it. You're in it for the money which is fine. But don't lie to the fans- or yourself- and tell us it's because the role was so special for you. If that were true, Scarlett, you would have politely told the studios something like this:

 "I'm honored you would think of me, but I really feel Koyuki Kato or Keiko Kitagawa would be better suited for this role- they are Japanese after all. Hey, Keiko was in Fast and the Furious, I'm sure your marketing team could use that. Or event better, what about Rinko Kikuchi? She was in Pacific Rim and did an amazing job! But if you really need a "face" Americans will recognize- though I should mention she's Chinese, not Japanese- Ziyi Zhang would be great! Remember her in Memoirs of a Geisha? We totally did this cross casting an Asian actress for a face Americans knew thing before. Call her up!"
Seriously, ANY of these fabulous women would have been a better choice.

But until you do that actors, I'm calling you out Scarlett. You should have said no to the role. You too Emma Stone. Please do not try to explain it (Cameron Crowe). If you have to justify it, you have to ask yourself why you went with that casting in the first place. Don't think I forgot you Tilda. Or you Gerard Butler and NikolaESPECIALLY you Johnny Depp, I don't care how much "native" blood you have. You're on my list. There are too few studio films- and even fewer quality roles- that go to minorities, particularly Asian or Native actors.

You do the whole industry a disservice by taking roles that were NOT meant for you.

Studios don't tell me you can't find one because you didn't look hard enough. It took me 5 minutes to compile my list. Five. Minutes.

Actors it's your turn. Stand up for your fellow actors. Say no to whitewashing.


  1. Awesome entry, Erin. ...and before you said anything, I definitely had already noticed the diversity of your cast for ITWT and props to FvF for being at the forefront.