By Alexandrianna De La Cerda
Lack of minority representation in the media has always been an issue. Many recent and previous rumors of upcoming films have sparked controversy when it comes to “whitewashing” in the film industry. The term whitewashing in the film industry refers to casting an actor who is not a person of color (POC), predominantly white, in a role meant to depict a minority.
The new coming-of-age Netflix series, “On my Block,” created by Lauren Iungerich, Eddie Gonzalez, and Jeremy Haft, depicts the lives of four friends growing up in South Central Los Angeles. The cast mainly consists of Latinos and African-Americans.
While many have praised the storyline and representation of minorities, others found there to be a huge flaw in the casting. In particular Ronni Hawk plays the character Olivia, an undocumented immigrant whose parents were back deported to Mexico. In a scene she spoke substandard spanish in which viewers found distasteful and inauthentic.
Though Hawk’s ethnicity has not been revealed, most assume that she is “white.”
As a Latina myself, it was humiliating to see a Latina character portrayed so falsely. The casting of a non Spanish speaking actress, moreover a white actress, to play Olivia takes opportunities away from other young Latina women who auditioned for the role and are familiar with the culture and language.
Though this is not the first example of whitewashing. This issue was also brought into the spotlight during the casting of Disney’s upcoming live action film “Mulan.” Rumors sparked that actress Scarlett Johansson was cast as the lead of “Mulan.” Disney fans along with many minorities took to social media and spoke out on the whitewashing of roles in the film industry. While the rumor was never substantiated, and later Disney announced the casting of Chinese actress Liu Yifei to play Mulan, it spurred discussion of Disney’s casting choices.
Casting a white actress to plan an Asian actress certainly wouldn’t be new. Notable examples include Cameron Crowe casting Emma Stone as a “part-Asian” woman in “Aloha,” Scarlett Johansson being cast to play the lead of a live action Japanese anime, and casting Tilda Swinton as “The Ancient One” in Marvel’s “Doctor Strange.”
Not only is this classified as misrepresentation, but it also goes to show that the industry does shun proper diversity even when it is needed.
A study carried out by the University of Southern California, titled as “Inclusion or Invisibility? Comprehensive Annenberg Report on Diversity in Entertainment,” found that only 28.3% of characters in the film industry were from non-white racial/ethnic groups. This illustrates not only a lack of diversity of character roles for minorities, but also the whitewashing of existing roles.
The question now is why do casting crews and directors continue to make the same mistakes, and how is this fixed? Hire minorities to play minority roles. Simple as that.