Whitewashing in Hollywood seems like it’s at an all-time high.
While I consider this a space where black and PoC nerd culture should be celebrated every week, it has also become my loudest way to defend it. The last few weeks have been very frustrating for me, and I’m sure many other nerds of color. A flood of whitewashed movies are rolling out back to back and it’s easy to feel like we’re in it up to our necks.
The mainstream film industry has been negligent of PoC and Black representation on screen since before any of us were born. This will not be a written history of these tragedies in cinema, but clear, concise reasons why the practice, which never made sense in the first place, especially has no space or purpose in Hollywood today.
The perceived reasons that any film studio/executive/casting director would cast a white person in a role portraying a black or PoC character in 2016 don’t hold up from any angle. And although anyone with common sense, who possesses any kind of moral integrity wouldn’t need these facts to do the right thing, or even report it, for some reason it remains necessary. Films continue to whitewash casts and outlets continue to report on them with no mention of it, like Gods of Egypt didn’t even happen.
1. Films with multicultural casts make more money.
The 2016 Hollywood Diversity report, conducted by the Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American studies at UCLA is proof.
The top 3 talent agencies still consist of an employee breakdown that is 90.8 percent white and 68.1 percent male. However, in recent years the highest median global box office returns have come from films that are cast with an even number of white and PoC actors. Movies where black and PoC actors represent 10% or less of the cast only earn $200k more at the box office, on average, than movies where over half of the cast is made up of minorities. The same goes for multicultural casts on television. The shows that perform the best have an even balance.
Underrepresentation for black and PoC in television and film is literally bad for business. There’s no longer a global box office excuse when you want to defend casting a white person in a role that was clearly not meant for them; your hidden bias is negatively affecting your bottom line.
2. Big name leads are not the reason we go to see movies anymore.
There was a time in the business when stars were what primarily drew viewers to the theater. In the last few years, or so, many think pieces have been written about how the concept of the film star is being lost as there are less and less actors and actresses that really affect the box office. And it’s true in this age of book and television series adaptations, movie franchise sequels and reboots, and comic book hero films, it’s the stories and iconic, larger than life characters that are the main reasons why we go to the movies.
Certain old white guys see this as a travesty, because they remember being in the office getting coffee for another white guy when the leading man, white guy of their dreams walked past them for a meeting. They were starstruck in the only way they could be by a true movie star. To them, these lords among men are what make movies work, not actually if the film is good or not. (I wrote something about that once.)
But, in actuality, this is a great thing. There are now no excuses to not cast these just as, or more, talented PoC actors that deserve the roles for fear that you’re going to lose out financially. Star Wars cast John Boyega, and despite the outpour of racist backlash on the Internet the film only broke all of the financial earning records that exist in the history of the domestic film industry, grossing $2.053 billion – no big deal. The franchise put our butts in the seats, and then Boyega and crew’s performance kept us coming back and referring friends.
In fact, casting less known talent and surrounding them with names that we recognize might even be a catalyst to finding the film stars of tomorrow, that possibly will affect the way we go see movies again (Boyega’s a good start). Hopefully, someone will tell this to Max Landis and the good folks behind that anime movie adaptation trying dodgy stuff with visual effects instead of casting an Asian lead actress.
3. We’re not afraid to let your terrible whitewashed film flop anymore.
The jig is up, guys. Gods of Egypt is just the beginning. The fans are tired and we will not accept this anymore. Shoot your shot if you feel like it, but irresponsible casting and whitewashing in your films is going to earn you a flame roast all over the timeline and a flop in the box office. Maybe you were able to get away with it once, but it’s just not going to fly anymore.
Hollywood, please pay attention to the overwhelming disgust at the lengths you will go to squeeze your white favs into black and PoC sized characters. If you won’t decide to just be decent human beings and respect and represent everyone, do it for reasons above.
Thanks for reading Strictly 4 My Blerds.
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