It’s Time to Cast POC in POC Roles


Taylor Griffith, Photo Editor

“Whitewashing,” or casting white actors in roles depicting people of color has been a problem prevalent in Hollywood since the 1930’s. However, being as it is 2016, many would believe this racist practice to be a thing of the past, but that is simply not the case. The most recent example was the casting of Matt Damon as the lead in Zhang Yimou’s The Great Wall. The movie, set to release February of 2017, takes place in 960 China, and tells a fictional tale about the reason behind the construction of the Great Wall of China. Where anyone would get the idea that a white man belonged in that plot line is beyond many enraged moviegoers. The trend continues with talk of Jennifer Lawrence being cast as Mulan and Zac Efron as Li Shang in the live action adaptation of Disney’s Mulan. Yet another major role being stolen from many talented Chinese actors. Although casting is not official, the fact that two white actors are even being considered for roles depicting Chinese characters is outrageous.

As for movies in the past 15 years that feature white actors in roles meant for people of color, the list is disappointingly extensive. Cameron Crowe’s 2015 film, Aloha, had an astonishingly eurocentric cast despite being set in Hawaii, where only a quarter of the island’s inhabitants are white. The 2008 live action adaptation of the popular anime series Dragon Ball Z, Dragonball Evolution, starred Canadian actor, Justin Chatwin, who has absolutely no Japanese descent, as Goku. Jake Gyllenhaal, of Swedish descent, was cast as Dastan, a Persian prince, in the 2010 film, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time. The most enraging example, and one horrifyingly swept under the rug was Jim Sturgess’s depiction of Hae-Joo Chang in Cloud Atlas. Make-up artists on the 2012 film actually used prosthetics to make the white actor appear to be of Korean descent, in a tactless and racist form of yellowface. Let’s not forget the countless Biblical films that have come out in the last 15 years: Exodus: Gods and Kings (2014), Noah (2014), The Passion of the Christ (2004), and many more. The Biblical stories brought to the big screen are all set in Egypt and were about Egyptian people, yet, almost every single Biblical film stars an all white cast. This racist epidemic rampant throughout Hollywood has not gone unnoticed, and shouldn’t.

When asked if whitewashing is still prevalent in the film industry, Jenna Glew (12) stated, “Is water wet? If you answer no to that question you’re probably racist.” This sentiment was heavily and passionately reciprocated by Andy Kwon (12), “Of course there is, honestly, first white people take my culture and my country and now my entertainment? When will it end? Save my childhood from the the white dinguses in Mulan, please.” Mayuri Sundar (12) also shared her justified displeasure with the racist practice, “In literally every movie that takes place in Egypt who plays the Egyptians? White people, in what universe have Egyptians ever been white people. They cast a white person for a Native American in Pan and they’re probably going to cast a white person as Mulan. Why do they not cast POC for POC, there are so many POC actors who would love a chance to act! Cast them!”

While the overwhelming amount of whitewashed casts is frustrating, there is little surprise as to why this is such a problem in Hollywood. According to NPR, the percentage of directors and writers in the industry were overwhelmingly white and male. The numbers for directors were 94% male, 82% white, for writers, 87% male, 88% white. If we want to see more people of color in major roles, we need more people of color in the actual film-making process.