With the academy awards coming up, Last Week Tonight asks: Hollywood whitewashing…how is this still a thing?

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24 thoughts on “Whitewashing: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (HBO)

  1. There are a lot of DIFFERENT cases here, and they are not all equal. Certainly there's racism, especially in the older cases, but there's also people who are upset about inaccuracies in a historical context, or in a cultural context. But a lot of that boils down to messing with the identity of a well-established character.

    The Little Mermaid was originally a story about a mermaid–a very western European (white) concept–written by a Danish white guy, who wrote stories for little white Danish children in the early 1800's (granted, the Disney version is A LOT different). Ariel has been white since before any of your ancestors you personally have met were alive, and I think it's pretty likely that just about no one prior to, say the last 50 years or so ever imagined a mermaid as anything other than a half fish, half white girl. It's historically inaccurate in a cultural sense. Making her black, NOW, to a lot of people, is offensive not because of racism (though SURELY, there was some of that), but because it changes a fundamental characteristic of the character in a logically inconsistent way for no reason other than blatant pandering.

    In the same vein, but a different case, there's the case where a character exists in print, and is then changed for a film adaptation. It's historically inaccurate in the source material sense. But come on… there were people who were upset because the actors playing Harry Potter characters had the wrong eye color. This isn't racism, it's obsessive fandom gone wrong.

    Much of the issue people have is that when a character who is established in their mind, replacing the original with an actor whose race is different is pretty jarring–counter to the established identity of the character. For example, one of my all-time favorite sci fi characters is Geordi La Forge, played by LeVar Burton. If you rebooted STTNG and replaced black Geordi with a white Geordi, I would find that equally weird as replacing James Bond with a black Bond. It's not even about race, per se–it's about the character's established identity drastically changing. And as for Bond, Ian Fleming apparently never did explicitly describe James Bond as white, but he did DRAW Bond, a figure which rather unsurprisingly looked rather a lot like… Ian Fleming. A white guy. But more to the point, in cinema, James Bond has been a white guy for the last 60 years. So to make him black, or Asian, or whatever other thing, is to screw with people's well-established identity of James Bond. And it would also be seen as very obvious pandering.

    But in Hollywood, the job of the movie makers is to attract ticket buyers. And books are ADAPTED into films–the importance to the audience how accurate the portrayal of the character is depends a lot on how well known the character is. Netflix's The Witcher played fast and loose with the ethnicity of many of the roles, but these characters are not well known to most audience members, so few people noticed. But some did, and some complained that the story is based on a modern Polish myth, and the characters should very obviously be white. And the argument makes sense technically–it would be asinine to think these people are just racist. They're the same people who complained about Hermione Granger's eye color (or whatever).

    It would probably be easy for Hollywood to avoid pretty much all of these cases, and I think THIS is the goal you should be after: Instead of remaking old stories and replacing well-established characters with a differing image of that character, make NEW characters that are diverse AND INTERESTING, and let them just BE in the story. The former will inevitably be seen as political pandering, And by the way, clubbing audiences over the head with ANY sort of political messaging does not make a good film. Even films whose main themes are about that need to tell a story in a compelling way, rather than just shoving the message down the viewer's eye sockets… that will just turn audiences away. Audiences want to be entertained–and sometimes genuinely they want to be enlightened–but not browbeaten with your political agenda.

  2. In all fairness Tom Cruise wasn't playing the last samurai. Ken Watanabe was. Cruise was playing a character based off of a French officer during the period in time the movie was set in. So that wasn't a case of white washing.

  3. Well if the church can depict an Arab Jew as a redhead white boy and it sells like crazy even in countries with no white majority then I guess Hollywood is not that crazy.


  5. Anyone criticising The Last Samurai has never actually seen it. The title isn't about Cruise's character. He also isn't part of the "white saviour" trope. He doesn't do anything in the movie except bear witness of the end of the samurai.

  6. Tilda Swinton as The Ancient One, from Dr Strange. The Ancient One is a male Tibetan monk.
    But we wouldn't want to piss of China by having a "Tibetan" in the movie, so let's make it a Celtic monk.
    I love Tilda, but this was political pandering.

  7. Ok, James Bond has a point. James bond is a fictional character and thus could be any color, but ya know, Bond is usually sneaking into places in ya know, Europe. And I'm not saying a black guy couldnt be a spy in Sweden, but he wouldn't exactly blend in real well. Or in Romania, or Russia, or GERMANY, or Italy unless he wants to disguise himself in some very unfavorable occupations that would ultimately shine light on the very clear institutional racism in Italy that is so deep that even tourists dont think about it because in Italy, particularly major tourist cities, the streets are filled with poor african immigrants who were brought to italy by the mafia and made to pay off their debts by selling worthless crap to tourists and this leads to Africans being seen as little more than street shit by local Italians. All this and it would give the bond an interesting cover as no one would think of him as a threat to the security of their operations, but they also wouldn't let him near their meetings. Holy shit I think I just wrote a basic thesis for a black james bond.

  8. Whitewashing doesn’t exist. What does exist is the entertainment industry realizing since most of this country is white putting white people in film rules will make them more money. If James bond can be black even though he was specifically an upper-class white guy when the books were written, then I want to see “shaft” starring Brad Pitt.

  9. How the fuck is Star Wars a traditionally white thing lol it’s literally entirely fiction half the characters aren’t even human

  10. The end actually is the most important aspect imho. I would be fine with white people playing not white roles, if people didn't lose their minds over the possibility of a black Bond.

  11. As I understand it the misgivings about there being a black stormtrooper were of the same nature as the ones this video lists: Stormtroopers are all supposed to be the clone of the exact same guy. Which is why suddenly having racial diversity in a gene pool of 1 is weird, especially to long-time fans.

    Except for that slip-up i completely agree.

  12. To be fair, "The Last Samurai" was likely in reference the plural of the word, not the individual. So, that's a bit misleading.

  13. Khan Noonien Singh, a North Indian man played by Ricardo Montalbán and Benedict Cumberbatch, a Mexican actor and an English actor.

  14. ridley scott was right. he just tell his side of the story. he wont get money for a movie by casting no-names…

  15. So….. now we have a Supreme Soviet that tells directors which actors to use, which stories to choose, how many actors of which race has to be in percents… basically the Supreme Soviet is telling the artists what to do. All the bad guys have to be white nowadays. And that's what you call freedom?

  16. 2:37 You should've read the novel before opening your yap. It specifically mentions that Trueba was Basque and marries into a white family. You know Basque, the people from the Pyrenees, between Spain and France, as in Europe, as in white. In your ignorance and eagerness to be "woke" you became guilty of stereotyping. Which is actually more offensive than what you're trying to call out.

  17. How can this be with all the liberalism and social justice coming out of Hollywood and California. Sounds like a bunch of hypocrisy to me.

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