Whitewashing is the practice where a director, producer, or fan takes a character who is originally of color and replaces them with a white actor or a white FC claim. Whitewashing makes a character look more “white” or European in order to appeal to the white masses.
People of a minority descent (i.e: everyone but white people) have always been underrepresented in the media and whitewashing provides a disservice to them. It strips away the little comfort they had and leaves them with no real representation. It is difficult to get adequate representation in the first place, and whitewashing strips it away. Not only is the public underrepresented but whitewashing also hinders actors of other skin colors from landing major roles. White people are already cast in the majority of roles in Hollywood so why can’t people of color be cast for the roles that were written for them?
White people are not underrepresented in the media therefore they cannot be “washed out.” Giving roles to people of color does not deprive white people of the opportunity; they have had and will have many more opportunties than minorities. I find it difficult to believe that directors and casting officials cannot find people of color that are as talented as the white actors they find though it is often used as an excuse in the industry.
This also happens among black actresses- Nina Simone and Zoe Saldana being an example. Instead of picking a darker skinned actress that resembled Simone (such as Adepero Oduye) to portray her in a biopic, the directors and casting crew chose Saldana. By choosing the lighter skinned actress, they had to alter her appearance – darkening her skin tone and giving her a wider nose and fuller lips. It begs the question: weren’t there other actresses that could have fulfilled Nina Simone’s look without having to alter her appearance?
People in our society are conditioned to see characters in a book or movie as white unless explicitly stated. This is problematic. Our media casts only white actors and actresses to represent all of us yet other races exist on the planet, and they should be represented accordingly. The lack of people of color cast as heroes, good guys, and main characters is a reflection of the skewed view of minorities in this country. It is even clear in our refusal to cast people of color in roles of fictitious creatures – why are even imaginary characters cast as white people? In the land of Middle Earth, why were none of the Hobbits brown?
Whitewashing did not begin in the media, history has been whitewashed for centuries. Beethoven was part Moor, which means that his skin was considerably darker than they paint him. Jesus of the Christian faith was also a person of color. Coming from that area, there is no way that he could appear as many churches view him: white, blue eyes, long flowing hair. Another person that is whitewashed consistently is Queen of the Nile, Cleopatra. A scientist discovered her sister’s body and tested it for sampling, finding that she had African ancestry. More recently in Exodus: Gods and Kings, the cast is all white, except for the people of color that are playing the enemy. This seems strange because neither the Egyptian Gods or their people were white. When hieroglyphics are examined, the people are portrayed as darker-skinned, white actors should not have been cast in these roles.
It is time to reexamine the way our media is structured and how it portrays groups of people unfairly, if at all. Exodus is another blatant attempt to rewrite history in favor of the racial majority. We need to take a stand and reject films that ignore historical fact to pander to racism and the exclusion of people of color in this county.