The repercussions of Whitewashing in Hollywood


tWhitewashing is the process of taking a character or people from a minority culture, race or ethnicity and making them look and act white. The act of whitewashing has been criticised for its erasure of minorities and their culture. 

Whitewashing has been a pervasive problem throughout society. In the US, where there are racial tensions, whitewashing is an issue that many people are struggling to solve. In brief it is defined by the process of changing the race or ethnicity of a person in a work of fiction, so that it conforms to the majority’s perception.

It has been present in movies, novels and video games for decades, but only recently has it become more rampant in day-to-day life. As time goes on and people become more aware of this harmful practice, it is imperative to address this issue.

Examples of whitewashing in Hollywood:

Whitewashing is a common practice in Hollywood and has been happening since the beginning of cinema. It’s still going on now in modern day Hollywood. This can be seen in films such as Aladdin, The Lion King and Beauty and The Beast, which are all about characters that are of Middle Eastern descent but were played by white people. In some cases, the actors don’t even have any Middle Eastern features and their culture is totally suppressed from the story.

Other examples of it, has also been said to be found on the big screen with films such as Avatar, which replaced all its actors with white actors from America.

Another display of it is when Scarlett Johansson, was cast as a Japanese character in Ghost in the Shell, which caused controversy due to how white she is.

Hollywood is starting to be more inclusive:

The film industry needs to take responsibility for this issue, so it can continue to progress as an art form that’s inclusive for all.

Hollywood has been a haven for white actors and actresses. But there have been efforts to change the industry. Today, movies with diverse casts are being made which is making the industry more inclusive.

This whitewashing effect is an important issue in Hollywood, especially when it comes to films about marginalized groups like Asians or African Americans.

Origins of the realisation of whitewashing in Hollywood and the backlash against it:

Whitewashing is not only about casting white people but can also include having the story take place in a white-dominated society, as if it were in a world with no people of colour.

The word “whitewashing” first came into use in the 1990s during the production of The Last Airbender, which was originally written by Asian American writer Michael Dante DiMartino and directed by M Night Shyamalan. The casting decision caused controversy among fans and eventually led to protests from some Asian American groups.

Today, this phenomenon can take many forms but It is typically and mainly perceived as white actors taking up roles that should be played by people of colour.

Why whitewashing is common is Hollywood:

Many people have taken to social media to express their outrage over what they see as a whitewashing of the industry.

Despite this, it is still possible that Hollywood will take few more decades before this practice can fully be abandoned.And that’s because in Hollywood, white is the “default” colour and it is seen as acceptable to cast white protagonists in films that do not deal specifically with race.

Unfortunately, this can also be said to be the result of the patriarchy and a legacy of white supremacy in American history.

The cause of whitewashing in Hollywood:

People have argued that this practice has been done on purpose by Hollywood as part of their racist practices. They argue that Hollywood uses this practice to make movies and TV shows feel more appealing to white audiences, which in turn leads to greater profits for the industry.

The consequences of whitewashing:

The consequences of whitewashing vary depending on who is being white-washed, but they can include feelings of shame, invisibility, and alienation from their own culture or heritage. In other words, it can cause feelings associated with “not being good enough” for those being represented by white people rather than a person of their race and culture.

If whitewashing is done for cultural suppression, it leads to a lack of diversity in entertainment and media content which can contribute to racial stereotypes. If done in a historical revisionism manner, it can lead to biased representations of history. If done for aesthetic enhancement purposes, it’s still not recommended because non-white people are often depicted by white people which perpetuates harmful stereotypes about non-white groups.

It also leads to the erasure of culture. The consequences of this are that there is no understanding or appreciation for the culture being erased and individuals feel disconnected from their own identity. This contributes to not only feelings of alienation but also possibly self-hatred among people who have been affected by whitewashing.

Whitewashing in present day:

With the recent success of movies like Black Panther and Crazy Rich Asians, there is a renewed interest in conversations about these films. Film-makers are now slowly starting to realise that there may be profit in representing minorities properly too and giving different cultures and the people from them screen time too.

Producers and decision-makers in Hollywood now realise that erasing the cultural, racial, ethnic or religious backgrounds of a person in order to make them more palatable to an audience, could backfire on them. They understand that it will jeopardise the authenticity and diversity that these identities bring. Diversity could look appealing too and draw in a curious audience. However, it is important not to fetishise different people or small minorities either, nor sexualise them but take them as seriously as others.

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