By Victoria Navarro
When it comes to film production, Hollywood is easily recognized as the top competitor. Hollywood is the heart of motion pictures, considering that it is home to the world’s largest film companies such as 20th Century Fox, Warner Bros, and Universal Pictures.
Though it is at the top of the field, it is still notorious for its lack of diversity. Despite the large variety of topics that movies cover, the vast majority of actors are white.
According to a study of the University of Southern California, an average of 75.2 percent of roles go to white actors and actresses. Hollywood is white, making it difficult for others to gain recognition for their talent. In other words, a large population of people are not given the same opportunities to be in a film as much as a white person.
Throughout the history of filmmaking, Hollywood films have promoted racial erasure. Oftentimes, casting directors look past color, ultimately whitewashing different cultures. For example, in the 1951 adaptation of Shakespeare’s “Othello,” Orson Welles played the role of the title character using blackface. The particular method of having a white actor or actress portray an African-American character with blackface was widely popular in the early to mid 1900s.
However, blackface is rarely used in modern films and it is normally used as a satire. The 2008 film, “Tropic Thunder,” comments on this situation, however. In the film, Robert Downey Jr. plays the role of a Caucasian man who is committed to method acting as an African-American sergeant. Despite the fact that blackface is not an extreme issue compared to the past, Hollywood continues to promote different forms of racism for all races, not just African Americans.
This whitewashing has happened in numerous recent films such as “Batman Begins” where Liam Neeson plays an Arab character, “The Lone Ranger,” where Johnny Depp plays a Native American, or “Argo” where Ben Affleck plays a Latino man.
In a more recent case, Paramount Studios announced its 2017 adaptation of “Ghost in the Shell,” a Japanese animated film that will star Scarlett Johansson in the lead role. Although Johansson is a well-known and talented actress, she cannot accurately portray a Japanese character when she is not a part of their culture.
The decision to have Johansson portray an Asian character was not a measure of her talent, but rather a product of racism in Hollywood. By not casting an actress of Japanese heritage, the film erases a part of the character’s identity.
Our race is extremely important when it comes to shaping who we are and the way we are treated as we grow older. Therefore, ignoring that factor is disrespectful to the people within the culture because that portrayal alters the point of view and shows the original perspective as less worthy than the dominant experience of white culture.
It is crucial for characters to be represented accurately in films, rather than having a white actor or actress play any role they desire. In other words, more opportunities must be given to people of different races so that the culture they represent is not whitewashed by Hollywood.