So, I watched The Great Wall Trailer and while the films concept and cinematography looks great… I just can’t get excited about a film that has cast a white male in the lead role of a film set in Ancient China!
Why? What possessed the producers to do this?….money. Apparently, protagonists of colour aren’t bankable, which is a really dumb thing to say in my opinion because lets just take a look at recent history…Jon Favereau’s The Jungle Book starred Neel Sethi as PROTAGONIST Mowgli, Neel Sethi is not white yet the film was fantastically successful at the box office, no doubt executives will claim that this is an exception because it was the spectacle of the CGI animals and the familiar story of The Jungle Book that bought viewers to the cinema.
Okay, next example Pacific Rim, Mako Mori played by Rinko Kikuchi a Japanese Actress (who has won multiple awards, including an Oscar nomination) was the most interesting character in that film, which is a rarity for a female character let alone one of a different ethnicity and seeing her name on the cast list actually made me interested in watching the film. Fast forward a few months and I hear that Scarlett Johansson has been cast as Major Motoko Kusanagi in the English language adaptation of the popular Manga Ghost in a Shell, surely Kikuchi would have been a much better casting choice? Apparently not. Excuses followed that this was a western adaptation blah blah blah… well my answer is if it’s a western adaptation change her name from Motoko Kusanagi to something less Japanese and more caucasian! Or better still get some good cultural representation and cast a Asian actress in the role.
Also, while the casting of Tilda Swinton as The Ancient One is an inspired choice, it’s also yet another example of whitewashing as in the comics the Ancient One is an elderly Asian male. What Hollywood could have done, if they so desperately wanted to make the character’s gender to be more ambiguous – they could have picked an Asian female actress and androgenised her. But I guess the racial bending casting of Chiwetel Ejiofor as Baron Mordo was all that Marvel could handle on this film.
Unlike in Film, it would appear that TV is becoming a much more friendly place for diversity, shows such as Marco Polo are breaking barriers and proving race doesn’t hinder but enhances stories. 99% of Marco Polo’s cast are of Asian descent, with the only white man being Marco Polo, played by Italian Actor Lorenzo Richelmy (again its more authentic that Marco Polo is played by an Italian because he has a real Italian accent) this casting is perfect because Polo is the outsider and on screen this shows. One of the main reasons why I love this show because it feels real, it feels like you are being taken through a foreign land with Polo as your guide, if other caucasians were casted in place of the existing Asian actors the Mongolian empire would be far less realistic and the story would weaken.
Hollywood take note, racial diversity is a reality and as films are representations of reality they should be racially diverse…Simple right? So as a rebellion against Hollywood Whitewashing I have my fingers crossed for Idris Elba to become the next Bond to prove that it’s not the colour of James Bond’s skin that defines him but what he as a character stands for which is adventure, danger, intrigue and charm.
Rant over…for the time being anyway.
Let me know in the comment section what your stance on the Hollywood Whitewashing debate is.