As the title suggests, this is going to be a rant, plain and simple. I have strong opinions and I want to be heard out on it. The jist of it all boils down to this: Whitewashing is the most stupid thing ever. This is just a means for people to have something to complain about when they run out of ideas for other things to complain about. The end.
Most of what I have read is about Hispanic and black people being discriminated against (yes, I have heard of others also but those two seem to be the ones I come across most often) by casting white people in the roles of people who just shouldn't be white. In the UK they have a perfect term for this but to keep this post civil I will not spell it out for you (pardon the pun) but the term is : Bo***ks!
How can they say that white people are being cast in roles that whitewash the film when a white family with two white children in Lost in space suddenly find themselves with a black daughter after all the many, many years since it's first release? How can they be whitewashing movies when the Human Torch suddenly goes from Caucasian to black after decades of existence? Another example is DeathNote but I will go into that a little bit deeper further down.
Side note. The actor playing L tweeted "Blackwashing that s**t". Thanks for proving the point... sure, absolutely, all the roles are going to white people... definitely... Hollywood is soooo totally racist against all non white people. No doubt about it. Riiiiight.
Even though I am from South Africa my love for all things Japanese has gone well and beyond the border of obsession and yet, when they cast Scarlet Johanssen as Major in Ghost of the shell I didn't go "Why did they cast an American in a Hollywood movie?", I went "Hell yeah! We are getting a live action Ghost in the shell movie!"... yet I read people are calling it whitewashed. Seriously?
Another movie that I have a great admiration for (and which brought my sister and I closer together many years ago so I hold a deeper love for this than just the movie itself) is Battle Angle Alita. I saw the trailer and have not been able to contain my excitement about seeing this live action version since. Now I read people are upset because there are no Japanese people in the entire movie. Apparently when you turn a Japanese comic into a Hollywood movie you HAVE to cast Japanese actors or else you are whitewashing the film. What the heck? The movie isn't even out yet and the people who love throwing the term whitewashing around like they know what they are speaking about is already busy trying to ruin the movie.
I have read a few posts by people who say you can't whitewash a fictional character from a comic book but I don't fully agree with that. If the character is clearly Japanese / American / whatever then that is what they are... but when the character has brown skin while the one next to them has gray skin and the one next to that has another shade of brown next to the one that closest resembles Caucasian, yet they are all considered to be of the same nationality, how do you translate that into real world counterparts?
This is where common sense takes over and you think about the movie and the roles and the story and you don't concern yourself too much with what nationality the comic book character has unless it plays a key role in the story. Now let's look at DeathNote as a perfect example.
In the source material the two main characters, Light and L, are both Japanese characters. When they made the live action movie for Japan they cast Japanese actors for both roles and the movie was awesome! Then came Netflix and made an adaptation for Western audiences. They took a few liberties with the movie and completely spoiled it for me to the point where I never want to watch it again after that first time... but take note of the fact that in this version Light is a white male while his adversary is now a black male. Wait, whaaaaat!? Hollywood cast 2 Japanese characters as a white and a black man when they created a Hollywood movie!? How could they!? Surely that must be racist on some level? They should be Japanese right?! As Dr Evil said: Riiiiiiight...
This is why I like to use this as an example of people's ignorance in using the term whitewashing. If Hollywood wants to create a Western adaptation of a Japanese source then they can cast whoever they want for whatever role they want since it's an adaptation meant for a Western audience. If they had cast 2 white guys then I am 100% certain people would be up in arms about the poor black man being oppressed again, like always and forever. Boo hoo. Fortunately, just like the Human Torch and the one sister in Lost In Space suddenly having to change race after decades in order to stop the never ending oppression of the poor black man, here L was cast as a black guy.
I loved the source material and the Japanese live action but the Netflix version sucked royally in every respect... but I find it both hilarious and sad at the same time that they felt it was required to cast a black man for the role of L and then they chose a guy who didn't deliver 10% the performance of the Japanese counterpart of the film. The guy didn't capture the feel of L even a little. Those who don't know the source content will just see him as a character in a movie but those who know the source material will see him as "that guy that messed up that role in that movie". Then again, the entire movie sucked anyway so let's not start pointing fingers at who did what wrong... I simply don't have enough fingers for that. 😅😜
Now let's flip the tables here for a second. When making a Western adaptation of an Eastern source product then obviously some things have to change. You can't have guys in Texas attend a Japanese style school in Texas nor can you expect all the people in New York to be Japanese. Surely you must cast appropriately and if that happens to be a white or a black guy, so be it... but for people to say that the comic book adaptation of Battle Angel Alita as a hollywood movie is whitewashed because there is no Japanese people in it is just absurd. If the movie has to have Japanese people in it because the comic was created in Japan then surely 100% of the actors in the movie must be Japanese in order for the movie to be true to the manga, isn't it? If that is what it is going to take for people to stop complaining about whitewashing a Japanese comic when the movie is made for a Western audience then someone has to complain about every single black person AND every single white person cast in any role in any of the Godzilla movies made in Hollywood. How DARE they not have a 100% Japanese cast? They both whitewashed AND blackwashed the entire movie!
Seriously? Is THAT what people expect? An all Japanese cast in Hollywood movies? That would never work even if they DID do that. Hollywood has a trend for taking Japanese movies and making Western versions of the films but, unfortunately, a lot of what makes the Japanese films so incredible can only be grasped when you understand the culture of the people the source was made for. Since the culture in Japan and the culture in Western countries are so different the movie needs to be adapted to it's audience and in so doing a lot of the splendour of the movie is lost. The original Japanese versions of the films are just so much better than the Hollywood remakes but I can only say that because I understand a little bit more about Japanese culture than your average run of the mill Westerner. Some examples of movies that were better in the Japanese flavour include (to name very few): The Ring, DeathNote, The Grudge, The Eye, Oldboy...
Let's talk about Oldboy for a second since Hollywood spoiled that movie to no end. One of the most famous scenes in that movie showed an uncut, non stop, one take scene in which the character killed everyone down a long hallway. Man, how that scene sucked in the Hollywood remake! (But that is just a personal gripe, moving on...) The very plot of the movie was changed and while I can't spoil the movie by revealing what the movie was ACTUALLY about, the simple fact of the matter is that from the first moment the guy is kidnapped until the moment he finally gets his answer to the question "Why was I kidnapped?" you are left wondering "What is this? What is going on? Why ? That is a good question. I want to know. Come on, tell me".
In the Japanese version I went "Oh! I see. Sheesh. Yeah, I can see the guy's point. Locking him up all those years.... yeah, I can see where he is coming from. Poor dude. Both of them". In the Hollywood version I went "Say what now? What the heck is this mess with the Chello? The reason for what he did was WHAT? They changed THAT to THIS? And THIS is what they make you watch the movie for? OMG. what a joke!". Again, for people who just want a movie to watch over the weekend and then forget about it on Monday, sure this is a nice, forgettable waste of time and it was made with a Western audience in mind... but the Japanese version just felt more deep and the ending was far more moving to me. It just felt like a satisfying reason for why the movie took place and had an ending where I felt sorry for both the protagonist and the antagonist. Such a major difference and yet this just wouldn't have translated well into a Western adaptation.... so they spoiled it by making it what their target audience expected and would relate to.
As someone who likes Japanese cinema I find Hollywood movies very boring and basically just watch for the CG since there is hardly anything else worth watching but even so I understand the reasoning behind WHY changes to the source has to be made to cater to the target audience. It is common sense to do so and it stands to reason that it has to be done. I am fully behind them doing so... But what really annoys the daylights out of me is when they take known white characters and replace them with black alternatives and then still moan left and right about how Hollywood is racist and oppressing the poor black man by casting the white man in his place. What really annoys me is when people complain about comic book characters used as inspiration for a Western audience and then people complain about how Hollywood is racist by, again, casting the white man into roles that were not created for them...
How can it be fair that white people can be racist in anything they do while people of any other skin colour is incapable of being racist no matter what they do? I find it infuriating that nobody sees the clear stupidity in shouting racism when a white man plays a role of someone of another ethnicity and yet when they take someone who is well known to be a white person and they suddenly decide he/she now has to be black, that seems to be okay and there is no racism in that at all... Racism works both ways...
Thus, to me, whitewashing is an absolute pile of rubbish that exist solely for the purpose of giving people who have run out of things to complain about something new to complain about again.