Whitewashing Movies Taking Over at a Theater near You

Let’s face it – the act of “white washing” Hollywood movies isn’t new. It started since the beginning of movies, but recently, movie-goers as well as several actors and actresses are speaking up. The movie industry is receiving back lash for their actor role selection for movie characters that were clearly meant for different ethnicities. The ticket sales for several of these movies are evidence that Hollywood needs to rethink their selection process. Some of the worst examples of whitewashing in movies include:

  • Aloha w/Emma Stone playing a mixed-race character who is Chinese & Hawaiian descent
  • Dragonball: Evolution w/ Justin Chatwin playing a Japanese anime character, Goku
  • Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time w/Jake Gyllenhaal playing a Persian prince
  • The Last Airbender w/white actors playing Katara, Aang, Zuko & Soka (Asian characters)
  • Ghost in the Shell w/Scarlett Johansson playing a Japanese anime series character

There was a PSA video about whitewashing on the Ghost in the Shell movie.

When Asian actress Constance Wu (from Fresh Off the Boat) spoke up about this controversy, there were claims from Paramount & Dreamworks to put visual effects to make Johansson appear more Asian on screen. This type of whitewashing are problematic because it reduces the Asian race and ethnicity to mere physical appearance when race and culture are much deeper than looks. There is even a petition, Care2 petition, that is called “DreamWorks: Stop Whitewashing Asian Characters!” which currently has over 96,000 signatures. Asian actors & actresses are continuing to fight against the problematic whitewashing, claiming, “it will continue if Hollywood think it’s OK.”

Although this is a continuous problem in Hollywood films, it is great to see that there are people speaking up about this topic. Hopefully their voices are heard, and we’ll see a change in the next diverse Hollywood film.

Ledbetter, C. (2016). Asian-American Actresses Speak Out Against ‘Ghost In The Shell’ Casting. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/asian-american-actresses-speak-out-against-scarlett-johanssons-ghost-in-the-shell-casting_us_5717a698e4b0018f9cbbd121
Ruimy, J. (2015). 11 Worst Examples of Whitewashing in Movies. Retrieved from http://screenrant.com/worst-examples-whitewashing-movies/
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2 Responses to Whitewashing Movies Taking Over at a Theater near You

  1. Paula says:

    There has been a significant history of whitewashing in Hollywood and it has been in the news recently after the release of Scarlett Johansson’s new movie, Ghost in the Shell. Ghost in the Shell is a Japanese anime franchise originally written and illustrated by Masamune Shirow in 1989. The movie studio should have cast an Asian actor if the desire was to be consistent with the Japanese series, but hired Johansson, who is clearly Caucasian. Although Johansson agreed that the she understands that diversity in Hollywood is important and has been a hot topic of late and also agrees that the an Asian actor should have been case, she also stated that she felt she could not pass up the opportunity to play a popular female character.


    Alexander, J. (2017, February 09). Scarlett Johansson finally addresses Ghost in the Shell whitewashing controversy. Retrieved July 29, 2017, from https://www.polygon.com/2017/2/9/14559866/ghost-in-the-shell-scarlett-johansson-whitewashing

  2. Karla Angulo-Tovar says:

    Thanks for your post. It’s really nice to see that people are now speaking out. This has been a re-occuring problem that affects multiple ethnicities except for Anglos. It is upsetting to me to realize that we live in a world that full of different ethnicities, yet in Hollywood, all that can be seen often are the same actors and actresses playing a variety of roles. I would often get so upset when i’d see a latina housekeeper on a show. It upset me that the roles were sterotypical. I’m glad that there is a group that’s speaking out about this and that actors and actresses have now joined in. It would also be nice to have some of the actors decline roles and suggest other actors for the roles, but I realize that’s just not how this business works.