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Added by A.M.A on 19 Jul 2015 06:02
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29 Characters Who Were Whitewashed by Hollywood

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The video game Prince of Persia has been widely praised because its depictions of Arab people, who are often demonized in Western media, were so progressive. Ironically, when Disney decided to adapt the game into a movie, they decided the best choice for the male lead would be none other than the white Jake Gyllenhaal.

As the film's title implies, Gyllenhaal's character is the Prince of Persia, meaning he's... you know... Persian. Fortunately for Gyllenhaal, it's not like he was sticking out like a sore thumb or anything. Though the supporting characters in the film are all Persian as well, the entire cast of supporting actors were, like Gyllenhaal, white.
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Katniss Everdeen

In Suzanne Collins's Hunger Games series, the protagonist, Katniss Everdeen, is described as having "black hair and olive skin." Many other characters in District 12 were described similarly, and in fact, many fans of the series have argued that Hunger Games' sociopolitical implications were meant to extend to themes of racial segregation. This could have all added some rich and intriguing material to the film series, but instead, the studio decided to cast Jennifer Lawrence, as well as several other white actors, in key roles, and basically throw all of those ideas out the window.

To be fair, this wasn't entirely JLaw's fault - the casting call issued by the studio for the role of Katniss actually specified they were looking for white actresses only.
People who added this item 1572 Average listal rating (1092 ratings) 7.4 IMDB Rating 7.7
Argo (2012)
Tony Mendez

Tony Mendez is a character in the 2012 film Argo, but he's also a real person, and that person is Mexican-American. Mendez is the author of a book called The Master of Disguise, about his experiences aiding in the rescue of six U.S. diplomats during the Iran hostage crisis. Argo was directed by Ben Affleck, who felt it would be a better idea to grow a beard and play the lead role himself, rather than casting an actual Latino person.
People who added this item 241 Average listal rating (135 ratings) 5.1 IMDB Rating 5.4
Aloha (2015)
Allison Ng

Cameron Crowe got all kinds of flack earlier this year for casting Emma Stone in the role of Allison Ng in his movie Aloha. In the book that inspired Crowe's film, Allison Ng is described as being 1/4 Hawaiian and 1/4 Chinese, i.e. half white and half Asian. In response to public backlash over his lame choice to cast blonde and blue-eyed Stone, Crowe made a few half-assed excuses, and eventually apologized.
People who added this item 1385 Average listal rating (937 ratings) 7.3 IMDB Rating 7.7
Khan Noonien Singh

In "Space Seed," the episode of the original Star Trek series wherein he is first introduced, Khan is described as being Sikh, i.e. from the North of India. Originally, Khan was portrayed by Ricardo Mantalban (who wasn't Sikh, but hey, at least he was a person of color). In J.J. Abrams's 2013 film Star Trek Into Darkness, however, the role of Khan went to Benedict Cumberbatch, an actor who is often described as looking like he comes from outer space, but who for sure doesn't look Sikh.

People who added this item 380 Average listal rating (272 ratings) 5.6 IMDB Rating 6
Nearly the Entire Cast of "Exodus : Gods and Kings"

We've known since the moment the full cast was announced: nearly every major role in the movie is played by a white actor.

What makes it worse for many observers is that, on the flip side, virtually every black actor in the movie is playing a part called "Egyptian thief" or "assassin" or "royal servant" or "Egyptian lower class civilian."

Ridley Scott has attributed the casting of his film to pure marketing concerns: "I can't mount a film of this budget, where I have to rely on tax rebates in Spain, and say that my lead actor is Mohammad so-and-so from such-and-such. I'm just not going to get it financed. So the question doesn't even come up."

This is a rationale very much of our time -- including the thinly veiled racism of "Mohammad so-and-so" -- but it fails to account for the long history of the bleached-out Bible, in which Scott's movie simply makes up the most recent chapter.
People who added this item 356 Average listal rating (195 ratings) 6.4 IMDB Rating 6.6
Mariane Pearl

A Mighty Heart is the story of Mariane Pearl's search for her husband, Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, after he was kidnapped by disgruntled political insurgents. The film was based on Mariane Pearl's memoir of the same name, and stars Angelina Jolie. There's just one little snag, though - in real life, Mariane Pearl is Afro-Cuban and Dutch, meaning Jolie had to wear skin-darkening makeup and an afro-textured wig to match Pearl's physical appearance.
People who added this item 827 Average listal rating (611 ratings) 2.8 IMDB Rating 2.5

Things don't get much more Japanese than Dragon Ball Z, but when a live-action film of the popular animated series was produced in 2009, the filmmakers once again felt the character should be recast as a white person. This seemed especially odd since a majority of the supporting cast was, for a change, Asian. Dragonball: Evolution starred Justin Chatwin (and a whole big buttload of hair gel) as the iconic lead character, and was a huge commercial flop.
People who added this item 563 Average listal rating (331 ratings) 6.8 IMDB Rating 7
Cleopatra (1963)

Possibly one of the most frequently whitewashed historical figures, Egyptian Pharaoh Cleopatra has been portrayed many times in fiction by glamorous white actresses, and only very rarely by women of color. She was portrayed by white film star Claudette Colbert in 1934, and again, most famously, by Hollywood bombshell Elizabeth Taylor thirty years later. Supposedly, Angelina Jolie is in talks to play her too, in yet another film slated for release in 2016.
People who added this item 84 Average listal rating (51 ratings) 6 IMDB Rating 6.4
Stuck (2008)
Brandi Boski

Possibly the weirdest choice on the list, the fictional character of Brandi Boski was based on a real person who became embroiled in a stomach-churning incident whereby, following a car accident, a man was left to slowly bleed to death while trapped inside her windshield. The actual woman who did this, Chante Jawal Mallard, was African American, but Stuart Gordon chose to cast a white woman instead.

This might have been a slightly less weird decision if Brandi Boski, the fictional character played by Mena Suvari, didn't have cornrows, hang out at hip-hop clubs, and seem to only be friends with black people. The three people who helped Mallard cover up the murder in real life are, indeed, played by African American actors.
People who added this item 1374 Average listal rating (897 ratings) 6.8 IMDB Rating 7.2
Eugene Simonet

In the novel that inspired the film Pay It Forward, the character played by Kevin Spacey is a black man named Reuben St. Clair. For the film adaptation, both his name and ethnicity were changed, which is especially disappointing since this character is presented as an inspiring role model living in a mostly-white community.
People who added this item 1019 Average listal rating (669 ratings) 6.5 IMDB Rating 6.8
Warm Bodies (2013)

The 2013 zombie comedy Warm Bodies features a character named Nora, who is described as half-Ethiopian. It seems like it would have been kind of a no-brainer to cast a woman of color in this role (or at least to a person with slightly darker feature, sheesh). For some reason, though, the role went to blonde and blue-eyed Analeigh Tipton.
People who added this item 320 Average listal rating (202 ratings) 6.1 IMDB Rating 6.2
Coleman Silk

In The Human Stain, a film which deals intimately with social prejudice, Anthony Hopkins plays a character masquerading as Jewish who turns out to actually be a light-skinned black man passing for white. It's not hard to understand why the filmmakers wanted to cast a big name for this role, but many critics agreed that Hopkins' high-profile reputation made the racial dimension of the casting even more awkward and difficult to get behind.
People who added this item 960 Average listal rating (593 ratings) 6.1 IMDB Rating 6.4

Johnny Depp was already pushing it when he let Disney put his hair in dreadlocks for Pirates of the Carribean, but his role in 2013's Lone Ranger movie was just too much. In the 1950s TV series, Tonto was played by a Mohawk named Jay Silverheels. Though the show's depictions of Native American culture were, needless to say, often problematic (the show was one of the major early sources of the "savage indian" trope), the issue was by no means redressed by Disney's film adaptation.

Not only did they cast Depp, a white man, to play Tonto, but his bizarre mannerisms, face paint, and costume (what the heck is going on with that mounted, taxidermied crow on his head??) made things even more weird and uncomfortable. To give credit where credit is due, the film did make an attempt to morally condemn the Native American genocide, and to incorporate themes about racism and cultural elitism into the plot.
People who added this item 1424 Average listal rating (852 ratings) 7.2 IMDB Rating 7.4
Cloud Atlas (2012)
Hae-Joo Chang

Cloud Atlas is a movie based on themes about reincarnation, so we can understand where the decision must have come from to just cast a white actor and put some prosthetics on his face in later scenes to make him appear Asian. Jim Sturgess, who also stood in for Asian MIT students in the movie 21, appears in Cloud Atlas as Hai-Joo Chang, a Korean man. We get that this was an extension of a gimmick that pretty much defines the entire film, but imagine how much more gut-level uncool this would have been if one of the white actors had appeared in blackface.
People who added this item 1429 Average listal rating (957 ratings) 6.3 IMDB Rating 6.6
Eben Oleson

Both the comic book and the film adaptation of 30 Days of Night are set in Alaska. The real-life town where the story is set, though has a population that is only 22% white. The majority of citizens are Inuit, so it makes perfect sense that the lead character, Eben, is Inuit as well. At least he's Inuit in the comics - in the movie, Eben's last name was changed from Olemaun to Oleson, and he was recast as a white man, played by Josh Hartnett. To add insult to injury, only one other character in the film is depicted as Inuit. Like Hartnett, almost everybody else in the town is white.
People who added this item 1234 Average listal rating (818 ratings) 4.1 IMDB Rating 4
Nearly the Entire Cast of "Avatar: The Last Airbender"

This was a particularly grievous example that generated a ton of negative publicity for the film. Although it's a fantasy series, the mythology of Avatar the Last Airbender is intimately connected with Asian culture, including traditional clothing, fight styles, and metaphysical concepts. To cast so many white actors in a film adaptation of a series where almost every human character was of Asian descent was really a slap in the face. To add insult to injury, the film's antagonist, Zuko, was played by Dev Patel, meaning that the only significant POC character in the film was a villain.
People who added this item 2593 Average listal rating (1834 ratings) 7.8 IMDB Rating 7.8
Drive (2011)

Don't get us wrong, Carey Mulligan was wonderful in Nic Refn's movie Drive. We were super disappointed, though, when we learned that, in the novel that inspired the screenplay, Mulligan's character was described as a young Latina woman.

We're sure he meant well, but when confronted about his decision to cast a blonde and blue-eyed white actress instead, Refn sort of made things worse by extolling Mulligan's innocence and vulnerability, calling her "the sort of person you want to protect," inadvertently implying that that quality is either in short supply among Latina actresses, or that it would be less believable if the woman displaying it was Latina.

Refn also suggested that the movie's love story would have somehow become overcomplicated, for some reason, if Ryan Gosling's character and Mulligan's had come from different ethnic backgrounds. Super lame, Refn. Super lame.
People who added this item 2678 Average listal rating (1622 ratings) 7.7 IMDB Rating 7.7
Mr. Yunioshi

It's hard to think of a more truly wince-inducing example of overt racism than Mickey Rooney's uncomfortably memorable turn as Mr. Yunioshi in Blake Edwards' 1961 classic Breakfast at Tiffany's. With orange hair and freckles, Rooney was about as Irish-looking as it's possible to be. For the role of Yunioshi, his hair was dyed black and slicked backward, and he spent the whole film squinting profusely behind a pair of large spectacles. Most horrific of all, he wore a mouthpiece that made him appear "bucktoothed," a stereotypical attribute of Asian men that was popular at the time.

Rooney's entire portrayal was deeply and offensively racist, and remains one of the most frequently cited examples of ethnic caricature in the history of Hollywood. It was such a lingering embarrassment for the studio that a 2009 DVD release of Breakfast At Tiffany's even included an apologetic short documentary, elaborating on the sordid history of "yellowface" in film.
People who added this item 4840 Average listal rating (3207 ratings) 7.6 IMDB Rating 8.2
Alicia Nash

A Beautiful Mind was based on the life of mathematical genius John Nash. The book that inspired the film went into extensive detail about his wife, Alicia's, immigration from El Salvador to the United States, and her story was as much a part of the narrative as John's was. The filmmakers' decision to cast Jennifer Connelly as Alicia necessitated the removal from the film, not just of her ethnic heritage, but of her entire personal history leading up to the point at which she and John Nash first met each other.
A.M.A's rating:
People who added this item 22 Average listal rating (8 ratings) 7.1 IMDB Rating 7

There have been many, many embarrassing screen depictions of Othello, a Shakespearean protagonist who is explicitly described in the play as being Moorish, i.e. dark-skinned. The most striking film portrayal of Othello by a white actor was in 1965, when he was played by distinguished British actor Sir Laurence Olivier.

White actors often attempted to fudge the characters' race by ruddying their complexions somewhat - Orson Welles, for example, directed and starred in his own black-and-white screen adaptation of Othello in 1952. Olivier's 1966 portrayal, however, was shot in color, and the British actor was coated head-to-toe in extremely thick, dark brown makeup. Not only that, but he wore a kinky, afro-textured wig, and to complete the effect, the insides of his lips were painted bright cherry red. Between Olivier's high camp characterization and his over-the-top appearance, many critics rightfully observed that his portrayal of the classical monarch seemed more inspired by minstrelry than by Shakespearean theater.
People who added this item 182 Average listal rating (130 ratings) 6.7 IMDB Rating 7.7
Kung Fu (1972)
Kwai Chang Caine

Most of these examples are from films, but believe it or not, there was actually an entire television series in the 1970s in which a white dude plays an Asian character. Technically, the character was played by two different white guys - primarily by David Carradine, but occasionally, in flashbacks, by the teenaged Keith Carradine.

The Carradines combined to portray Kwai Chang Caine, a Shaolin Monk attempting to navigate the American West. The show was very popular, and we're generally big fans of David Carradine, but it's still disappointing that the studio chose not to cast an Asian man for such a visible project about a popular Asian fight style. Even more heartbreaking, according to Herbie Pilato's The Kung Fu Book of Caine, the person originally considered for Carradine's role was, in fact, Hong Kong martial arts legend Bruce Lee. Lee's wife would later claim in her own autobiography that Bruce Lee had actually come up with a similar concept for a television show himself, but had it stolen out from him by Warner Brothers.
People who added this item 1225 Average listal rating (721 ratings) 7.1 IMDB Rating 7.5

Inspired by Romeo and Juliet, West Side Story is a musical about racism in America. In it, American teenager Tony falls in love with Maria, a Puerto Rican immigrant, but their love is ultimately thwarted by gang hostilities, along ethnically divided lines. Given the movie's overtones about the tragedy and pointlessness of racially-motivated violence, it's especially ironic that a white actress, Natalie Wood, was cast as Maria.

Many of the Puerto Rican American supporting characters are indeed played by people of color (including Rita Moreno, whose performance as Anita is one of the film's most haunting), but it's unfortunate that a production about racial prejudice couldn't see its way to casting a Latina actress in its starring role.
People who added this item 59 Average listal rating (42 ratings) 6.7 IMDB Rating 6.4
Apache (1954)

Burt Lancaster was a respected actor in his day, so it's not surprising he was eventually recruited to star in a western. We just wish the western in question hadn't been Apache, a film whose protagonist (as the title implies) is Native American. Lancaster wore heavy brown makeup for his role in the film, which chronicles his character's struggles with forced relocation by white settlers.

Unlike most of the oblivious white people on this list, Marlon Brando at least had the decency after the film's completion to express regret about the casting. In The Teahouse of the August Moon, Brando plays Sakini, a Japanese translator and go-between for American occupying military forces attempting to find common ground with a quirky cast of Japanese villagers. Brando had to dye his hair and be heavily made up for the role in order to appear Japanese.
People who added this item 1638 Average listal rating (1054 ratings) 6.4 IMDB Rating 6.8
21 (2008)
The Entire Cast of "21

This movie was inspired by a true story about a group of MIT students who learned how to count cards and made a fortune in Vegas. Early in the casting process, however, it was indicated by studio higher-ups that "most" of the actors should be white, with "perhaps an Asian female." In real life, almost all of the students who inspired this movie were Asian men. Most notably, the lead character, Ben, is played by a white actor named Jim Sturgess, although the final cast did end up including a couple of Asian characters as well (possibly in response to preemptive criticism).
People who added this item 56 Average listal rating (37 ratings) 4.4 IMDB Rating 3.6
The Conqueror (1956)
Genghis Khan

Aside from being offensive, this entry is also just plain weird. John Wayne, well known for his roles in classic Westerns like She Wore a Yellow Ribbon and The Searchers, was somehow cast in 1956 as legendary Mongol warlord Genghis Khan in the movie The Conqueror. The film was a critical and commercial flop, and is routinely cited as one of the worst films of the 1950s (and, indeed, even as one of the worst films of all time).
People who added this item 20 Average listal rating (11 ratings) 6.6 IMDB Rating 6.2
Dragon Seed (1944)
Jade Tan

Kind of like Marlon Brando's turn in Teahouse of the August Moon, Katharine Hepburn's starring role in Dragon Seed was considered progressive for its time. To modern viewers, it's hard to understand how anyone could have thought it was a good idea to organize an entire film around a Chinese protagonist, and then cast a white woman in the lead role.
People who added this item 956 Average listal rating (586 ratings) 8.2 IMDB Rating 8
Touch of Evil (1958)
Miguel Vargas

Charlton Heston's brash Mexican narcotics officer in the Orson Welles noir classic Touch of Evil isn't exactly a figure to be revered. His greasy mustache and artificially darkened skin make Charlton Heston seem like an odd choice, however, especially since the majority of the movie is actually set in Mexico.

German actress Marlene Dietrich makes a questionable appearance in this film too, as a thickly-accented fortune teller, looking unusually swarthy, and wearing a dark, curly wig.

It's no secret that Hollywood has a problem with racial representation. The vast majority of leading roles in the film and television industry go to performers who are white. The ratio of white actors to POC actors in leading roles is so dismal, generally hovering between 1 to 10-20. Even in supporting roles, it often seems like the only acceptable excuse for casting a person of color is when the film's story explicitly demands a non-white performer.

While the overall situation is frustrating enough, the real kick-in-the-pants is when black characters, Asian characters, Latino characters, or other characters who are described clearly as people of color (either in the movie's script, or in the source material that inspired it) are "whitewashed," meaning that white actors get to play the roles of black (or latino, or asian) actors, too. Why does Hollywood have such a big problem with casting POC actors?

Whitewashing comes in two major varieties - white people playing non-white characters (sometimes with the help of makeup or prosthetics that darken their skin, and/ or make them appear more "ethnic"), and non-white characters being rewritten entirely, thereby allowing a white actor to take on the role. On the opposite end of the spectrum, it's very rare to see a black character cast as a white character

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