Hollywood's blatant obsession with 'whitewashing' movies

Hollywood's Blatant Obsession With 'Whitewashing' Movies
Hollywood's Blatant Obsession With 'Whitewashing' Movies

Director Cameron Crowe posted an apology for casting Emma Stone as a quarter-Chinese character in his film "Aloha," but his heartfelt words don't correct Hollywood's seemingly blatant obsession with whitewashing movies."Whitewashing" refers to Hollywood's history of casting white actors in roles that are clearly written to be played by other races. The practice is as old as Hollywood itself. In cinema's early days, whitewashing was overt. In the first screen adaptation of Harriet Beecher Stowe's "Uncle Tom's Cabin" produced in 1903, all of the major black roles were played by white actors in blackface.

During the mid-twentieth century, films started to become more integrated -- yet the practice of blackface continued through the Civil Rights Movement. Iconic Shakespearean actor Laurence Olivier appeared in the 1965 film adaptation of "Othello" in full blackface.

Black characters weren't the only ones to be played by white actors. Asian characters have been played by white actors for just as long, a practice called "yellowface."

The 1937 film adaptation of "The Good Earth" is considered one of the worst examples of whitewashing in Hollywood history. The movie, which tells the story of Chinese farmers struggling to survive, didn't feature one actual actor of Chinese descent. The main cast was comprised of white actors in prosthetic makeup. That prosthetic method is still being used in films like 2012's "Cloud Atlas," though we should point out that most of the actors in this particular film played multiple characters of varying ethnicities.

There have been countless films following "cowboys and Indians," but one of the oddest castings for a Native American has to be Burt Lancaster in the 1954 film "Apache." The blue eyed, pale skinned New Yorker was painted brown in order to play an Apache warrior.

Today, while we see less skin darkening in films, we still see white actors playing Native Americans. Rooney Mara, known best for the American version of "Girl With The Dragon Tattoo," caused a bit of an uproar when she was cast as Tiger Lily in the upcoming Peter Pan prequel, "Pan."

You might think with a title like "Prince of Persia" Walt Disney Pictures might try to cast a Persian -- but, studios tend to cast white. Middle Eastern characters have been whitewashed since the dawn of film, and if you think studios would learn from the past, you're sadly mistaken.

Not only was the 1956 film "Ten Commandments" cast whitewashed, but so was the 2014 film "Exodus," which told the same story of Moses and the Egyptians.

In some instances, whitewashing is so bad that studios completely ignore race and pretend its not even there. In a number of screen adaptations of Jules Verne's "20,000 Leagues Under The Sea," Captain Nemo is cast as a European rather than Verne's Hindu, Indian prince.

However, there's been a new trend in race-bending. Hollywood has recently released a series of remakes of popular films with an all black cast -- films like "Steel Magnolias" and "Death At A Funeral." Other remakes like 2014's "Annie" and the 2010 film "The Karate Kid" have been met with some backlash. Many fans of the originals voice anger over studios changing the source material, calling it "blackwashing."

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