The “Whitewashing” of Hollywood

Noam Elfassi, Staff Writer

La La Land; the title probably sounds familiar seeming as the new movie has swept Hollywood as one of the best movies of the year winning five Oscars and six Golden Globes. However, some critics disagree with the rave reviews, faulting the plot, composed of a practically all white cast.

“I think it’s all wrong because you can’t make a movie about jazz with an all white cast when jazz was literally invented by blacks,” junior Vivian Mammen said.

Whitewashing is when white actors and actresses are purposefully cast over minority actors and actresses, to play roles meant to be played by minorities. The problem remains that this keeps happening time and time again, and people seem not to notice, or turn a blind eye, largely because we are so used to it we see no issues.

“Whitewashing gives people inaccurate and ignorant ideas of their surroundings…It gives minorities the idea that they are not accepted or they are not normal and white Americans an inaccurate perception of what the country looks like and how tolerant they should be of others,” senior Manuela Lopez said. “If they are seeing only people who look like them on TV and are living in a community that is pretty sheltered they are not going to be able to learn about other cultures or accept other cultures.”

Roughly three-quarters of film actors are white, according to 2014 statistics recorded on PBS NewsHour, with 12.5 percent Black, 5.3 percent Asian, 4.9 percent Hispanic and 4.2 percent other.

To say these statistics do not accurately represent the American population would be an understatement. According to Farmington Hills Michigan demographic statistics, in 2014 the U.S population was recorded as 66.30% White, 19.50% Black, 11.10 percent Asian, 2.40 percent two or more races, .50 percent other and .20 percent American Indian. Minority numbers in America are only increasing, and Hollywood is not shifting to match.

“Representation is so huge for minorities in this country because when you have representation you feel comfortable in your own existence,” Lopez said. “If a Hispanic kid is only watching shows featuring white families they’re gonna feel like they’re not normal but if they’re watching a show like Jane the Virgin where they can relate I feel like it gives them a lot more security in themselves and their identity as Americans.”

Whitewashing is a common theme in today’s news. People seem to be more aware of it as an issue in the last few years, with multiple articles surfacing about the controversial topic, as seen in multiple shows and movies such as The Last Airbender (2010). The show’s characters, clearly modeled as Asian people in Asian culture, were cast as a nearly all-white cast for the movie version, although the villains remained dark skinned. People hear about countless cases where whitewashing is evident, but the real question when it comes to whitewashing is what can be done about it?

“I think that students can use their voices. If whitewashing is something that they’re passionate about ending, then use that voice,” drama and English teacher Dana Sato said. “Refuse to see movies or watch TV shows that are blatant examples of whitewashing. Write to producers or directors and let them know that as a consumer, this is an issue for you. Keep speaking up. If you stay silent, then things will never change.”