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Please help me understand the concept of whitewashing


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As far as movies and TV shows go, that is. This is a pretty foreign concept to me, but people seem to be making a big deal out of it with this new Death Note live action trailer. Doesn't like pretty much every other country do the exact same thing? Why is it not a problem when they do it? I'm not trying to troll or start anything, by the way. I seriously want to know why this is such a big deal.

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The general idea to the people this matters to is: "people are taking away representation and opportunities by making every character white". Frankly, the acting business is already difficult for minorities (in Hollywood, at least) without producers actively taking away roles from them. Representation is more... nebulous, I guess. It follows that people want to see more characters that they can relate to on a racial level - to see pictures of themselves on the big screen, as it were - and, not necessarily validate their existence, but to kinda say that they're pretty normal, and not alone, and it can give something to aspire to (depending - please don't aspire to be Light, guys). 

I think Netflix's current take on Death Note looks like it has a loooot more issues than just this (I think it looks like a biiiiit of a trainwreck right now), but I do know that the constant tendency to cast white people in minority roles in big productions with a lot of attention is frustrating to those that are a part of minorities. Death Note also takes it a step further, where the trailer barely alludes to its origins - "Based on the International Phenomenon" - so it may be understandable why people are getting more upset.

(This is also my chance to state that I'm parroting the opinions I've read on whitewashing before, and as a white person I don't entirely understand the depths of it very well, either. I wouldn't be able to keep up in a heated debate on this issue, sorry!)

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Whitewashing as far as I know is when white actors and actresses are cast for roles that are meant for people of colour. Like that guy in short circuit that acted as an indian professor but was actually a white actor in dark makeup [there's tons of examples but i just thought of that movie now]. Blackface is also another example.

Its a big deal in films because it shows how casting in Hollywood is, that picking white actors ahead of people of colour even when playing that particular ethnicity. It was and is a big deal but things have changed a lot now, or so it appears. People perceived it as racist and tactless.

If you really want to understand the impact of whitewashing in greater detail than i suggest you just google it. There's journal articles and other informative pieces about it. I don't think every other country does the same thing. Lets use Chinese cinema as an example, when roles call for white actors, they use white actors. How they handle the characters is a different discussion entirely, but they almost  always use the ethnicity that's required. They don't hire a Chinese actor that use white makeup on their face. If they did that, than of course, that would be a big deal too.

Now lets use the US as an example, the US is a melting pot. There's many people of different races that work as actors. Talents everywhere, yet they still [at times], pick white actors to play those roles instead of hiring the people that are available. I can use other countries as examples but i don't want to ramble on.

I'm don't know whats happening with death note since i'm not interested [already read the manga], so i can't say anything about that. Whether its a big deal or not depends on the people that consume those products. The fans of the originals have a loud voice regarding what they want, i can understand that they're passionate in wanting to see the story as how they've always pictured it. I think end of the days, those movies are for the general public you know? not for the fans alone. People need to make money and all.

 

PS: I don't mean to offend anyone with my examples.

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It's mostly because of how entertainment business works nowadays, not really because the producers are racist. Suits only care about money and all the biggest names in Hollywood belong to white actors, fair or not. We can cry as much as we want, but it won't mean a damn, nor change a thing; world is a horribly unfair place. As much as I'd love more movies starring Morgan Freeman or Will Smith, chances are we'd see another white actor insead of them. Still, it's not as bad as it used to be, or was it really? If you'd count every single more famous actor, you'd see how little variety there is. Within the list of top 100 actors in history, there's only a handful of non-white people; maybe if more would want to become actors in the first place, we'd see them starring in films more often?

Edited by Narcosis
Fixed a silly typo
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2 hours ago, Narcosis said:

 As much as I'd love more movies starring Gordon Freeman or Will Smith,

you mean morgan freeman? xD

 

 

wait, was that you white washing? did you actually mean the white silent protagonist of a video game when referring to an A list celebrity like morgan freeman?! GET YOUR FACTS STRAIGHT BUSTER! :ryuusui:

 

He is a highly skilled and well recognized actor that deserves every bit of it for his work over the years.

 

 

lots of love morgan freeman. i havent forgotten you. <3

 

samuel_l_jackson1.jpg

Edited by mitchhamilton
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While "whitewashing" is the common event and the most-known term for it (and deservedly so, since it's really a frightfully clever and nicely alliterative term), someone even coined the derivative term "asianwashing" to refer to the Attack on Titan live-action movie, and it got a lot of mockery for it (and for, by most accounts, being crappy, but that's a separate issue). So, as the OP says, this isn't some uniquely American problem: everybody does it. But, contrary to what the OP says, sometimes they get called out on it.

That said, I think there's something to be said for avoiding "whitewashing" (or asianwashing, or anything). I don't want to get lynched by gamergaters for allegedly saying that there's some moral obligation to representative sample of the population in a piece of entertainment media, so I'm going to try to address this on purely artistic merits: when a director, for example, takes a manga that's written almost entirely about a bunch of European people who go so far as to point out how weird it is that one of their companions is from Japan and makes a movie where every last one of those characters is played by a Japanese person, don't you feel like they've kind of lost some of the flavor of the original?

Distinct cultural backgrounds are a very real thing. A lot of us around here probably enjoy a lot of Japanese stuff simply because it's Japanese, and therefore different from our usual experience. Whitewashing cleans out all of that differentiation and leaves you with a blander cast. It just makes things less interesting.

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4 hours ago, Fred the Barber said:

While "whitewashing" is the common event and the most-known term for it (and deservedly so, since it's really a frightfully clever and nicely alliterative term), someone even coined the derivative term "asianwashing" to refer to the Attack on Titan live-action movie, and it got a lot of mockery for it (and for, by most accounts, being crappy, but that's a separate issue). So, as the OP says, this isn't some uniquely American problem: everybody does it. But, contrary to what the OP says, sometimes they get called out on it.

That said, I think there's something to be said for avoiding "whitewashing" (or asianwashing, or anything). I don't want to get lynched by gamergaters for allegedly saying that there's some moral obligation to representative sample of the population in a piece of entertainment media, so I'm going to try to address this on purely artistic merits: when a director, for example, takes a manga that's written almost entirely about a bunch of European people who go so far as to point out how weird it is that one of their companions is from Japan and makes a movie where every last one of those characters is played by a Japanese person, don't you feel like they've kind of lost some of the flavor of the original?

Distinct cultural backgrounds are a very real thing. A lot of us around here probably enjoy a lot of Japanese stuff simply because it's Japanese, and therefore different from our usual experience. Whitewashing cleans out all of that differentiation and leaves you with a blander cast. It just makes things less interesting.

xD i forgot that the characters in attack on titan are supposed to be german. i was so confused why people would be pissed about all the characters being asian.

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The issue is one of representation.

When was the last time you watched a Hollywood movie with a protagonist that was not European or a white American? Just look at action flicks, superhero movies, average trailers or romance, etc.: The protagonists are overall overwhelmingly white guys. And that's a problem- If not an ethical one, at least on an artistic level: If the characters of a movie are of a known race (such as in the adaptations of Ghost In The Shell, or Mulan), casting white actors (instead of Japanese or Chinese ones respectively) is disrespectful to the source material at best. It also benefits everyone who likes movies to have a diverse array of protagonists and characters in the industry. That's the artistic argument, and it's basically the less controversial aspect of the issue.

It's also a general issue that minorities/LGBT people etc. are not represented sufficiently in Hollywood, and when they do, they're often stereotyped greatly- there's a lot of stuff out there about how many Middle Eastern actors could only get cast in supporting roles and usually villains/terrorists at that. So there's some racial profiling and whatnot going on in Hollywood as well (remember last year's "#OscarsSoWhite" controversy?), and people who aren't white and people who aren't male and people who aren't straight are all looking for more representation. Whitewashing is an explicit denial of that representation, it sends a message: "Even though I should be hiring actors of another race to faithfully represent it, I'll go out of my way to cast white actors in those roles." This is the controversial aspect of the issue: Some people feel that all movies need to be as diverse as possible to offset the stereotyping and copy-and-paste casts that brought us to this point, some argue that these worries are completely pointless thanks to creative liberty, and some think that the whole controversy is a waste of time and that we should all just shut up and watch movies.

No one else has the budget and outreach that Hollywood has in the movie industry, so Hollywood is held to higher standards than just "adapting other works into American culture"- Hollywood at this point has become a global organization and so it is beyond being something solely American at this point. As it is beyond being simply American, it doesn't have the "We found no suitable actors of that race!" excuse. This is why complaining about studios in other places hiring actors of the local race is frowned upon: No other studio out there has Hollywood's outreach and budget so it's more understandable that they'd be casting actors easier to find.

 

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Just like everything happens in Japan in Japanese media, things happen likewise in other areas, when it's that country that produces the movie.

Think of why aliens always invade Japan first (when it's not even the most important country on Earth), and how it's carried over to USA when the work is American.

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I don't know much about it really, but i guess white people dislike seeing asian people on screen, which would be quite strange for me since i've normally seen every movie with whites. Tho if u would adapt an anime character into a 3D person,(which is unforgivable) how would you decide which color to make em? Make 2D white into 3D white or yellow? Tho sometimes foreigns in anime, manga an others are represented with a more darker color of skin, tho not all the time. Tbh it doesnt really disturb me, since i dont wantch them.(We all know all adaptions are shitty) Lets take a look at Attack on titan tho, it was all asians on the screen, and i think that made some people refrain from it. Normally tho u sell these films to whites and not asians, so thats another factor we have to count in.

Edit:It highly disturbs me tho that a black person is going to play the whitest person in the anime.(L)

Edited by #YOLOGNAISWAGETTI
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