Diversity – or lack thereof – was the big issue at this year’s Oscars. People of color feel they have been denied a fair opportunity to work in and be recognized by the entertainment industry. Even when rare roles for minority characters have presented themselves throughout the years, they have often been played by Caucasians, which is rather insulting to the talented pool of multiethnic actors out there. This practice has been happening since the advent of cinema, and you may be surprised to find out it is still going on today. Here are some noteworthy cases of Hollywood whitewashing, some of which were highly criticized, others not so much.
1. Rooney Mara as Tiger Lily
Rooney Mara was cast as Tiger Lily in a live action adaption of Peter Pan called Pan, just released in October 2015. Tiger Lily is traditionally considered a Native American character (albeit from a British writer’s imagination), while Rooney is of Irish decent. While she is a talented actress who has been nominated for two Academy Awards, you think Hollywood casting agents would be sensitive enough to find a suitable ethnic actress for this iconic role. Variety responded by saying that “The world (of ‘Pan’) is multi-racial/international–and a very different character than previously imagined.” Rooney initially defended her casting choice, saying, “They are natives of Neverland, a completely made-up place.” She has since said that she hates that she’s part of the whitewashing debate, admitting, “I can understand why people were upset and frustrated.”
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