‘White Hollywood’ : Racial Representations in Hollywood

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By Sumona Bose

While for many generations the racial representation and dynamics of Hollywood have
remained relatively unchanged due to the dominance of white actors being selected to play
people of colour, the issue of ‘Hollywood Whitewashing’ has once again appeared to create
controversy. Hollywood whitewashing is equating characters of colour through whiteness.
British actor Ed Skrein left the movie Hellboy when he realised that his character was of
mixed Asian heritage. This made the industry take notice that the process of Hollywood
whitewashing, the use of white actors to play roles meant for people of colour does exist.
Although, Skrein’s protestation may be lauded, it cannot overshadow the fact that for many
years, performers of colour have been standing against this practice. It has only reached a
point of acknowledgement and sensation when a white actor refused to look the other way
about it.
From Mickey Rooney’s ineptly misleading and demeaning performance as a Japanese man
in Breakfast at Tiffany’s to Mike Meyers’ devastating portrayal of an Indian Spiritual Guru in
The Love Guru, Hollywood keeps on missing the significance of telling non-white
perspectives through white actors, mismatching the purpose of the narrative completely.
However in some cases, Hollywood’s notorious case of miscasting has not only been
attached to white actors, but to actors of colour as well. The severely criticised biopic on
Nina Simone raged in headlines when lead actress Zoe Saldana, a woman of colour herself,
had ‘blackened’ her face to resemble Nina Simone’s appearance.
Hollywood has grossly misinterpreted the role of ‘diversity’ in this day and age. Trivialising
the authentic portrayal of characters of colour through ‘white’ channels just fuels the fury of
many who are tired of Hollywood Whitewashing.

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