Hollywood has had a long and torrid love affair with whitewashing characters, as well as participating in blackface, yellowface, and all the inappropriate racial stereotypes that you can think of. Birth of a Nation, for instance, was at its time considered to be the best film of its generation. It was the Star Wars of 1915. However, not only was it a film about how the Ku Klux Klan was a good thing, it contains horrendous instances of blackface. And yet, a chase scene featured in the film where a white woman commits suicide is still referenced in its cinematography today.
Inappropriate casting has continued into the modern age, with films such as Ghost in the Shell, The Lone Ranger, Argo, Exodus: Gods and Monsters, Aloha, Death Note, and many more. Many directors of these films have continued to defend their casting choices, despite audience criticism. Screenrant, the director of the Netflix adaption of Death Note, defended his casting choices on Twitter by saying, “There is no conspiracy to remove Japanese culture from Death Note. It’s a fresh version of the story set in Seattle.” The producer of Ghost in the Shell, Steven Paul, defended the casting of Scarlett Johansson as a Japanese character by saying, “Ghost in the Shell was a very international story, and it wasn’t just focused on Japanese; it was supposed to be an entire world.” It seems like directors blatantly ignore the fact that they are casting white actors as characters who aren’t white, for the sake of getting a popular performer.
But, is Hollywood on the verge of change? Once and still sometimes guilty of whitewashing, Disney has been working on the casting of new, live action remakes of their previous animated works. The most notable right now is Mulan, which I am sure we all know is the story of a young Chinese woman who saves China from the Huns. The world has had a close eye on the casting choices done by Disney so far, and, surprisingly, they have yet to disappoint. The character of Mulan has been cast. She will be played Yifei Lu, a Chinese actress and model. Those who are familiar with her past work have met her with mixed reviews, but this is a promising start to the casting process after months of worry from fans.
Though this is a small win for inclusivity, it’s important to keep it up. People need to look at the media presented to them and not see the white straight man, or the white straight woman. The thing is — and I know its nuts — but other people exist. White people don’t represent everyone, and I hope that Disney is going to show other studios that it’s alright to cast people of color in roles meant for people of color.