Fall 2017

Whitewashed films not always disrespectful

There has always been a lot of controversy within Hollywood toward the subject of race and how people of color are cast and represented in movies and television shows.

One thing about the casting selection that gains a lot of criticism is the film industry’s use of whitewashing.

Whitewashing is the concept of casting a white person for a role that should be played by a person of another race due to the character’s ethnic background or previous adaptations. This practice is sometimes condemned for being disrespectful to the characters and the ethnicity they portray. But I feel that whitewashing is not always disrespectful and can be utilized so long as the actor respects the character’s origin and portrays them with a sense of decency.

adan opinion whitewash tjsIt is true that Hollywood has disrespected and misrepresented non-whites in past movies, such as “The Jazz Singer,” with the use of black face, but times have changed and we now live in a society with a greater sense of equality. People will always praise a great performance if done correctly and respectfully.

The movie “Passion of the Christ” was praised for being a respectful depiction of Catholic origins, and many of the actors who portrayed characters with Middle Eastern backgrounds were white, including Jim Caviezel, who played Jesus. In the movie adaptation of “Doctor Strange,” Tilda Swinton, a white actress, played the Ancient One, who is portrayed in the comics as a man with Tibetan origins who was born in the Himalayas. Both movies received a lot of positive feedback and good reviews from critics, and both actors were respected for their performances.

Whitewashing is hardly criticized when the actors of non-white roles respect the origins of the character and what they represent. It is only when actors play into the stereotypes and make derogatory jokes about the character’s background that makes whitewashing dishonorable.

Another argument against whitewashing is the lack of diversity movies will present if white actors begin to replace actors of different races.

Statistically, it is true that non-whites do not have as much representation in films and television shows as white actors. But we live in a new era where equality is becoming a prime focus of society. We have escaped societal customs of the past that were once an obstacle for non-whites in film and media. Despite the barriers, other races have increased their representation in movies and television shows in the recent years.

The recent “Power Rangers” movie has a racially diverse cast of five actors, while the original show had a team of five, with only two non-white actors. Even on television, shows such as “Empire” and “Fresh off the Boat” have a cast of characters where a majority are played by non-white actors.

No matter the circumstances, minorities are continuing to be represented in movies despite the use of whitewashing. Whitewashing may lessen diversity within the film industry, but there are now movies and shows that present diverse casts which exemplify a sense of growth and equality for other ethnicities. Utilizing whitewashing in movies will never change the representation and impact minorities have on screen.

The need for representation, respect, and diversity in film is something people will consider. So whitewashing will always receive some criticism. But whitewashing can still be utilized in film when the actors portray the characters with decency and treat their origins as something to be honored.

Categories: Fall 2017, Opinion

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