I Guess Whitewashing is Okay Again

There have been many issues around race and comic book movies over the years. Marvel I feel has been the most notable with casting black actors in typically white roles. Alicia in Fantastic Four was black instead of the usual blonde-haired, blue-eyed character she is in the comics. Nick Fury, now played by Samuel L. Jackson is black, and perhaps the most controversial, Idris Elba played the Norse god Heimdall in Thor.

I am not always a fan of casting actors to play characters that are not the same race as the actual character, but in the case of minority actors playing typically white characters I understand. Comic books have always been very white and I understand wanting to include more minorities in these movies. Casting black actors as white characters can, however, be just as racist as not casting them at all. Almost every character who is now a minority character is usually a minor character. Alicia was barely in Fantastic Four. Heimdall, though played well by Elba, and given a bigger role in the movie, is still just a minor character. Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury is probably the best role given to a black actor as Nick Fury is actually a main character and an important one, but even then, Fury usually takes a back seat to every (see all) white characters in The Avengers. In this way, these movies seem to promote tokenism more than genuine portrayals of black characters.

Where are the movies featuring minority superheroes? Why is there still no Static Shock movie? Or Mister Terrific? There are rumors of a Luke Cage movie and talk of a Runaways movie, which would have a very diverse cast, but so far these works have barely gotten off the ground.

But the real racism comes along when characters that are supposed to be black, Latin American, Asian, or Native American are white washed or portrayed by white actors.

It amazes me that everyone flipped out that Idris Elba was portraying Heimdall, but very few people have gotten up in arms over Bane being played by Tom Hardy.

Tom Hardy is British, and yes, Bane’s father is Sir Edmund Dorrance who is also British, but Bane is not just British. Bane is from the fictional Caribbean Island of Santa Prisca in a prison called Priña Dura, which means “hard rock” in Spanish. Bane is even designed to look like a Mexican wrestler. Bane is a biracial character that grew up in Latin America, so why is he being played by a white actor, and why does everyone seem to be okay with this? Could Nolan really not find any Latin American actors to play Bane?

This isn’t the first time Nolan has whitewashed characters nor will it be the last. In Batman Begins, Liam Neeson and Ken Watanabe played Ra’s al Ghul. Ra’s al Ghul, according to the Batman comic Birth of the Demon, was born to a tribe of nomads somewhere in the deserts of Arabia. Liam Neeson is from Ireland and Ken Watanabe is from Japan… yeah, I don’t think either of those is remotely Middle Eastern either.

If the rumors are true, then in The Dark Knight Rises this will be happening again. Marion Cotillard is a French actress who will be playing Miranda Tate in the new Batman movie, but rumor has it that Miranda Tate is actually Talia al Ghul, Ra’s al Ghul’s daughter. If this is true, then once again we’ll have a Middle Eastern character being played by a European actress.

With diversity being such a problem in comic books why are we changing the ethnicities of characters that already are a different ethnicity than from white European?

Of course the movie industry is no better when it comes to diversity. Disney has recently decided that instead of coming up with an original idea for a new movie they are simply going to reboot The Lone Ranger, with Johnny Depp playing the Native American character Tonto.

Now the original Lone Ranger radio and TV show was nowhere near racially sensitive, but today I expect better. I would feel a lot better about The Lone Ranger movie if Tonto was actually played by a Native American.

Now Johnny Depp is apparently at least kind of Native American.

I guess I have some Native American (in me) somewhere down the line. My great grandmother was quite a bit of Native American, she grew up Cherokee or maybe Creek Indian. (via The Stranger)

Johnny Depp’s ethnicity however is mostly French American and culturally he isn’t Native American at all, leaving some people asking if Johnny Depp’s portrayal of Tonto is no better than Al Jolson’s blackface.

Tonto is part of the Potawatomi Native American Nation, but so far the pictures of Tonto do not reflect anything remotely authentic. Instead audiences will be treated to yet another stereotypical portrayal of a Native American character played by a white actor.

11 thoughts on “I Guess Whitewashing is Okay Again

  1. Thank you for this post. I feel like for the most part I’m the only person that’s noticed that Nolan keeps whitewashing characters of the Batman mythos, like very few people in the fandom seem to see and even fewer care and it’s been really getting to me. Especially since it wasn’t just a one off thing with R’as al Ghul, it wasn’t just an accident. Nolan keeps purposefully changed Brown characters’ backgrounds so that it makes sense for the white actors in his little cabal to play them. I love Tom Hardy and Christ Nolan but please believe, I am seriously disappointed. Like might not see TDKR except on bootleg kind of disappointed and as a serious lifelong Batfan who thinks these movies are probably the best live-action Batman flicks ever, that’s serious.

    • It is really disappointing that dark skinned actors are constantly passed over for the roles and that the backgrounds of these non-white characters are changed to make them more white. I don’t understand it and I really don’t think it should be a problem, but sadly it is.

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  3. I absolutely agree that minorities are snubbed in movies, especially appalling in things like Prince of Persia where they should be near eastern by god! But with Bane, I am less mad. For you see I am puerto rican and VERY light skinned-like to the point of being looked upon as white. I know a ton of hispanics who are ‘white’ as we would call it in the west. Hell my mother is a blonde! But hispanics are always portrayed as mulatto or VERY dark, if not with more african features. Hispanics HAVE to have dark skin and dark eyes to americans, but that isn’t the case for every hispanic even of mexican descent. For me, Bane is fine being played by a british actor, but I do agree in other movies there REALLY needs to be more roles for darker skinned people. Absolutely, Ra’s and Talia should not be white, but I disagree about Bane. Should Bane have been done by a hispanic actor? That would be nice, hell let’s support our hispanic actors! But I think when it comes to hispanics we can be all colors of the spectrum and thus it saying a latin person is ‘whitewashed’ is not always accurate.

    • I have a friend who is Puerto Rican and also very light skinned. He often said that if it wasn’t for his accent that everyone would think he is white, but that is not just the point. I think Tom Hardy looks like comic book Bane, but his characters background is changed to minimize and erase any hint of his ethnicity (like his weird ambiguous accent). Furthermore, I think it’s important to give roles to actors that are actually the ethnicity they are portraying, those actors do experience prejudice because of their race and it’s important to support them. So I agree, Bane didn’t have to be dark skinned, but he still could have been portrayed differently.

  4. Seriously?
    This is what you do with your time?
    You seriously have nothing better to do than to complain about minor issues like Bane being white?

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  6. both Idris Elba and Chris Hemsworth
    are not scandinavian
    non of the garment resembles scandinavian culture
    and helmets with horns is defiantly not authentic.

    Thor and Heimdall is part of the scandinavian culture, but so far the picture of Thor do not reflect anything remotely authentic. Instead audiences will be treated to yet another stereotypical portrayal of viking god with horned helmets played by non Scandinavian people.
    Could Joss Whedon really not find any Scandinavian actor to play Thor and Heimdall?
    And you know what, maybe he can, but he should not care, because it is his right to portray them however he likes.

    as an actor if one want to play Ghandi play Ghandi
    If one want to play Julius Cesar play Julius Cesar
    If one wants to play Nelson Mandela play Nelson Mandela
    if one wants to play Ghengis Khan play Ghengis Khan
    even if it means one need to wear special makeup to resemble
    their biological appearance
    do it
    you don’t need someones approval
    and If you have a problem with that
    than its still your problem
    don’t ever let someone try to take away the
    right the play who ever I like
    and don’t ever let someone tell you how
    it should be portrayed

    Ben Kingsley also played Ghandi,
    need one drop rule maybe? Because he is not full Indian.
    he also played arab roles

    and because your suffer from conformation bias
    you forget blade (comic book black person) as a major role
    but you also forgot:

    cat woman played by Halle Berry (in comic book a white person) as a lead role
    electro played by Jaime Fox (in comic book a white person) as major role
    Kingpin played by Michael Clarke Duncan ( in comic book a white person) as a major role
    very authentic… not
    and the list go on…

    black actors can play Albert Einstein
    white actors can play Nelson Mandela
    If you have a problem, it still your problem
    majorities can play minorities
    and minorities can play majorities
    how ever they like
    welcome the 21th century
    deal with it

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