Whitewashing (the frustrating conversation)

“There are some issues with casting Tilda Swinson as The Ancient One.”

“Hey, hey, man, calm down!”

“Who is upset? I’m just pointing out that there’s a troublesome history of whitewashing ethnic characters in film.”

“Why are you judging this movie before you’ve even seen it?”

“I’m not. Let’s get past that. Let’s talk about a problem in Hollywood as I see it.”

“Hey, man, maybe Tilda Swinson is the best person for the role!”

“So fine. I’ll pretend like there is literally no other Asian actor who could do just as good a job. You still can’t deny that Hollywood loves to recast Asian characters with white actors.”

“Well, if they cast an Asian, that’d have it’s problems too!”

“Of course, it would. There are pitfalls with any character, especially one like this. But does that mean they shouldn’t even try?”

“It’s complicated!”

“No shit. And I’m with you. There’s probably no easy answer that will make everyone happy. But rather than defend one particular movie, can we talk about the larger issues here? It’d probably not even be a thing if it didn’t happen so often.”

“Hey, the movie has a black guy!”

“Sigh. Sure. Baron Mordo. You know he’s a bad guy eventually, right? So they took the good mentor character and made her a white lady and they took the eventual bad guy and made him black. Not that I’m upset by that. Just an observation.”

“It just seems like you’re never happy.”

“Congratulations. You’ve figured it out. Portrayals of race in cinema is a really complicated mess. Sorry if I can’t just tell you a quota of how many non-white people I need in movies before I’ll be happy. All I can say is it is a hell of a lot more than it is now.”


“But Tilda Swinson is a good actress!”

Yep, that’s how this conversation goes.

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