Another white person has been cast in the lead role in a movie that is supposed to be about people of color. It was recently announced that Johnny Depp would be starring in the movie Labyrinth, a film about the murders of Notorious B.I.G. and Tupac. Depp will be playing Russell Poole, the detective who tried to solve the murders. The problem with this is clear: Hollywood has taken a story of two black men and has turned it into a story about a white man instead. Tim Wise said that white people don’t have to think about how we fit into society, and this Hollywood framing of the Notorious B.I.G/Tupac story demonstrates that; white people don’t have to think about how we fit into society because the media tells us that we are always at the center of society. In almost every (if not all) major film that is released, a white person is in the forefront. This is an interesting article that discusses what goes on in the behind-the-scenes casting processes of Hollywood.

This is not the first time a white actor has been inserted inappropriately into a film. In fact, it happens quite a lot. For instance, Scarlett Johansson was recently cast as the main character of the upcoming film Ghosts in the Shell, which is based on a manga. The character in the manga is an Asian woman, but that didn’t stop the casting directors from hiring Johansson. Additionally, Jospeh Fiennes, a white man, was recently cast to play Michael Jackson in the film Elizabeth, Michael and Marlon. These casting decisions make it even harder for people of color to see themselves represented in media. There are very few mainstream movies that tell POC stories, and even in movies that supposedly are centered around POC narratives, white people are cast as the main characters.

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2 responses »

  1. socalens says:

    Speaking of Johnny Depp – his portrayal of Tonto in the “Lone Ranger” that wasn’t so a’lone.

  2. bhedigan says:

    Adding a bit of specific knowledge here: I took a class last semester discussing race and american crime films, and It was horrifying to see how many noir films utilized people of color to add an element of danger. Even worse: most of these films had white actors portray these grossly stereotyped caricatures of PoC. Because the noir film genre was born after World War II, yellowface was the most common offense perpetuated by these films, as Asian villains were thought to lend a level of exoticism. Though it’s years too late, thank goodness whitewashing (especially of Asian characters) is finally receiving the media attention it deserves. There are many recent examples: ScarJo and ‘Ghost’, Emma Stone as a part-Hawaiian character in Aloha, and Tilda Swinton as a Tibetian monk in Doctor Strange, to name a few. However, this whitewashing has been going on for ages with little scorn from white audiences. After all, the movie adaption of Avatar the Last Airbender got panned for its godawful direction, but very few media sources criticized how it took a series of Asian characters and cast white actors as three of the four main characters. Hopefully the media noise generated by recent attempts at whitewashing won’t die down – very public criticism will at least make casting directors stop and evaluate their choices before they case another white actor as a person of color (or at least, it hopefully will).

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