Tuesday’s class was so stimulating for me because we got to talk about the problem with whitewashing Middle Eastern and Asian culture and cultural appropriation in general. As someone who stays in touch with movie news, one of the major problems I think the industry has is whitewashing people who are originally supposed to be Asian. Two recent examples of this are the casting of Tilda Swinton as the Ancient One in Doctor Strange and Scarlett Johansson as Major in the movie adaptation of a popular Japanese Manga called Ghost in the Shell. Both characters would be huge representations for Asian people, specifically women, in media today, but instead the movie decided to cast popular white actresses. I have more of a problem with the casting of Johansson in Ghost in the Shell though, because this comic is huge in Asia so it would only be fair for the main character to be an Asian woman, like it is in the comics. The only reason they wanted Johansson is because she is a big name in Hollywood today, but this movie will end up alienating its main audience – Asian’s – because they will see that this character they already love is white.
Asian women are severely under represented in movies today – the last movie I saw with a somewhat main Asian character in it was Suicide Squad, and while the actress who played her was racially correct, she only had three lines of dialogue throughout the whole movie! Her character, Katana, is supposed to be a main member of the Suicide Squad, but has so little screen time that I think most of the audience forgot she was even there. Her introduction was rushed, she shows up out of literally no where and her backstory is told to the other members of the team by who is supposed to be the white male leader of the group in about two lines of dialogue. She does not even get to utter her own name, the white guy does it, even though she is perfectly capable of speaking for herself and can speak in English since one of her three lines are in English. Two other Asian female characters who got this treatment were Jubilee and Psylocke in X:Men Apocalypse. While, Jubilee ultimately uttered more lines than Katana got to, no one even mentions her by name throughout the whole movie. She is just there as part of the young X:Men. Psylocke is treated even worse with only two lines of dialogue. And while, she is included in an action scene unlike Jubilee, her outfit is so skimpy and unpractical for someone to actually fight in.
In fact, I think the only major Asian actress that I can think of in Hollywood today is Lucy Liu, and I do not even know if she has been in any movies recently. So as you can already tell, whitewashing’s only purpose is to get white people to invest their time and money into whatever a movie, airline ticket, purses, clothing, perfume, and other ads are trying to sell, yet they do not keep in mind that they are misrepresenting Asian culture and ultimately won’t care if they do as long as they get plenty of money.