ByHeather Snowden, writer at
Lover of bad puns, nostalgic feels and all things Winona. Email: [email protected] Tweet: @heathbetweetin
Heather Snowden

Oh Hollywood, you really should know better by now.

It's no secret that, throughout history, the film industry has struggled with racial representation. So often accuracy is forsaken for a 'safe' American name in order to boost general appeal and guarantee a cinematic hit. In a wildly infuriating reality, the ethnic representation in movies is lightyears behind the actual ethnography of the US. How are we still seeing such an outrageously disproportionate representation?

When the number of white actors and actresses so vastly outnumber minorities in leading roles, it has become depressingly apparent that POC are generally only cast when a part directly specifies their race and, as the below list proves, sometimes not even then.

Here are 10 Hollywood movies from the last 10 years that have whitewashed minority characters:

1. Emma Stone as Allison Ng in Aloha (2015)

Although he eventually apologized, director Cameron Crowe received all sorts of flack when he cast Emma Stone in his 2015 movie, Aloha, to play the character of Allison Ng, a woman described as being 1/4 Native Hawaiian and 1/4 Chinese - i.e Asian-American. Critic Jen Yamato wrote in a The Daily Beast review entitled, “The Unbearable Whiteness of Cameron Crowe’s ‘Aloha’: A Hawaii-Set Film Starring Asian Emma Stone”:

“Crowe might’ve even gotten away with it if he’d cast any of his supporting characters with minorities, more accurately repping the ethnic makeup of the islands. Instead, his ‘love letter’ to Hawaii feels about as authentic as a mainlander’s to that one exotic Oahu vacay years ago, sipping Mai Tais on the beach at sunset while watching the hula show.”


2. Jake Gyllenhaal as Prince Dastan in Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time (2010)

Unlike the video game, which was widely praised for its representation of Arab people, the film adaptation induced quite the opposite reaction from critics due to it's debatably discriminative casting. It's believed that fame was prized over racial accuracy as, rather than getting a Middle Eastern actor to play the Persian prince, Jake Gyllenhaal was cast instead. In fact, the majority of the Persian kingdom was played by white actors, including the British Gemma Arterton who was hired to play Gyllenhaal's love interest, Tamina.

3. Benedict Cumberbatch as Khan in Star Trek Into Darkness (2013)

The Sikh character, Khan, was first introduced in Space Seed, the original episode of the Star Trek series. However, in J.J Abram's film Star Trek Into Darkness the role of the character was played by Benedict Cumberbatch, who although is 'often described as looking like he comes from outer space', sure doesn't look North Indian.

4. Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games (2012)

The debate surrounding Katniss Everdeen's ethnicity was a strong topic in The Hunger Games fan community ever since the on-screen adaptation was announced. The character, described by Suzanne Collins as having dark hair, olive skin, and gray eyes, has inspired many readers to believe Katniss to be of Mediterranean decent. Additionally it was believed that the sociopolitical implications of the District's divisions descends to issues of racial segregation, too. However, when the calls for casting were announced, they were apparently specifically looking for Caucasian candidates only.

5. The Cast of Memoirs Of A Geisha (2005)

The Geisha is one of the biggest symbols of tradition in Japanese culture, so naturally the Japanese were more than a little bit pissed when many of the larger roles in the 2005 adaptation of Memoirs of a Geisha went to Chinese actresses such as Zhang Ziyi, Gong Li and Michelle Yeoh.

6. Ben Affleck as Tony Mendez in Argo (2012)

Directed and starring Ben Affleck, Argo, told the true tale of Tony Mendez, a CIA agent who was tasked to save the lives of US embassy staff during the Iranian Revolution in the late '70's. Adapted from Mendez' book The Master of Disguise, the film was based on true happenings and received rave reviews from festivals and critics alike. There was one blinding oversight however, Tony Mendez was Mexican-American. Rather than casting a Latino person, Affleck decided to grow a beard and play the role himself.

7. The cast of Avatar: The Last Airbender (2010)

Avatar: The Last Airbender received a ton of attention for all the wrong reasons when they hired a predominantly white cast to play characters in a fantasy Pan-Asian universe. Adding insult to injury, the only notable POC actor casted was Dev Patel as the role of Zuko, the villain.

8. Carey Mulligan as Irene in Drive (2011)

Although it's undeniable that Carey Mulligan was fantastic playing Irene in Drive, we were disappointed to discover that the character who inspired the screenplay was in fact a young Latino woman. Adding smoke to the fire, when asked about his casting decisions, director Nic Refn's commented on Mulligan's vulnerability, describing her as "the sort of person you want to protect." Refn also said that the romantic storyline between Mulligan and Gosling's characters would've been too complicated had they come from different ethnic backgrounds... really?

9. Johnny Depp as Tonto in Lone Ranger (2013)

A huge racial debate surrounded 2013's Lone Ranger when Johnny Depp was cast to play the role of Tonto, the Native American-Indian 'trusty scout'. Smothered in stereotypes, Native American's found Depp's representation deeply offensive and destructive to their legacy. And, as Disney depicted Tonto with a painted face and a large vulture upon his headdress, I can understand why.

10. Angelina Jolie as Mariane Pearl in A Mighty Heart (2007)

The internet was in outrage when Brad Pitt's production company cast Angelina Jolie to play the character of Mariane Pearl in the 2007 movie A Mighty Heart. Based on a true story, the film is an adaptation of Pearl's novel, 'A Mighty Heart: The Brave Life and Death of My Husband Danny Pearl', which told the story of the search for her husband, the kidnapped Wall Street Journal journalist, Danny Pearl. One issue though, in real life Marianne Pearl is Afro-Cuban and Dutch, so viewers understandably weren't so happy with Jolie's skin-darkening make-up and afro-textured wig.

(Source: What Culture, Ranker)


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