Whitewashing is a thing that happens when Hollywood filmmakers, TV producers, etc think that non-white characters should be portrayed by white actors and actresses instead of actors of similar race, because that makes total sense. In fact, it makes so much sense that it happens all the time. And because it happens all the time, some white people think this is a bad thing... and if they think it's bad, then that means it must be bad. Naturally! Therefore, if you support—or otherwise aren't against—the whitewashing of non-white characters in the media, then you're a racist, because—among other things—you're taking away work from an nonwhite-American actors, including Asian-American actors such as... uh... Jet Li, Bruce Lee, Lucy Lu, Jackie Chan, and/or Harold & Kumar. And that's wrong. In fact, it's 100% TOTALLY Hollywood's fault that Whitewashing happens, and that just means the rest of us don't need to actually do anything about fixing this issue, other than pointing the finger at Hollywood and expecting them to correct it.
But as usual, the only real problem here is that white people have once again took it upon themselves to fight a battle no one asked them to fight. As it turns out, NONE of them actually talked to nonwhite people about Whitewashing in order to get a consensus about what should be done. Instead, White people just assumed that, just because THEY'RE offended by it, everyone else must be offended by it as well, and that it is their duty to fix things for nonwhite people. Because clearly nonwhite people are still SO oppressed by white people that they need other white people to heroically fight their battles for them.
Ultimately, most nonwhite people don't really give a shit about this. Hell, practically all countries racewash their own movies. Sure, maybe it would be nice if the right actor was hired to play a certain character, but that usually doesn't happen, so who cares? In the end most of the people who are angry about this are the white people who want to play the White Savior, thinking that fixing this issue will make up for centuries of "White Oppression". Whatever.
What's the deal?
There are two things you need to know about whitewashing: it's universal, and it's rooted in the audience's desire to see a familiar face. Sure, neither of this justifies doing it, but most people don't realize this and thus have all kinds of dumbass ideas or expectations about what SHOULD be done, none of which actually involves talking to the people Whitewashing actually affects.
Racewashing that nonwhite people actually complain about
You think Asian-Americans actually give two shits about whether an Asian character is portrayed by a white actor? Fuck no. In fact, they'll spent more time and energy pissing and moaning about the fact that, like, a Korean actor is playing a Japanese character, or a Vietnamese actor is playing a Chinese character. Asian Nationalism is takes center stage in the minds of so many Asians that the concept of Whitewashing is close to a nonissue as could be.
This happened twice, for example, in Star Trek alone: Korean actors Linda Park and John Cho were hired to portray two Japanese-American characters, Hoshi Sato and Hikaru Sulu, respectively. The Korean community went relative apeshit when news of this got out, prompting John Cho to point out that Sulu was meant to represent ALL of Asia on the bridge of the Enterprise, rather than only Japanese(-Americans).
Of course, the same white people who are so focused on fixing Whitewashing don't give two shits about THIS kind of Racewashing. To them, as long as an Asian character is played by an Asian, not a white person, that's all that matter. Despite the fact that, to many Asians, if you're gonna hire the wrong Asian race for a role, you might as well be hiring a white person to play an Asian, because in the end it's still not the right Asian being utilized. Hell, more Asians would be pissed off if a Chinese or Korean actress was hired to play Major Kusanagi instead of white Scarlett Johansson.
This is basically the root reason for why most Asians don't give a shit about Whitewashing to begin with; after years of dealing with the wrong kind of Asian being hired to play a specific kind of Asian (Korean to play Japanese, Japanese to play Vietnamese, etc), getting a white person to play an Asian character is just more of the same.
So white people; if you want to fight a battle that Asian-Americans REALLY care about, then try to make sure the right kind of Asian is hired for a particular Asian role.
- Cultural appropriation
- WE WUZ KANGZ
- White people
- People of Color
Whitewashing is part of a series on
Visit the Social Justice Portal for complete coverage.
Whitewashing is related to a series on AZNS.