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For those of you who have been following news for the Avengers 2 has probably heard that Irish actress Saoirse Ronan was originally in the running for Wanda Maximoff (aka Scarlet Witch), which she ultimately turned down. We later heard that Elizabeth Olsen (yes, Mary-Kate and Ashley's younger sister) was up next for the role and it looks like she may be getting it after all, at least according to BleedingCool.

If IMDB is also to be believed, it looks like Aaron Taylor-Johnson (yes, that guy who played Kick-Ass) will be playing Wanda's brother Pietro (aka Quicksilver).

And you know what both of these actors have in common? They are two white actors of Norwegian ancestry and English respectively playing Romani Jewish characters.

Frankly I am disappointed in the casting choices if these turn out to be true, not because the actors can't possibly play the roles well, but because this would be yet another missed opportunity to see a diverse cast in a movie franchise that already doesn't have a shortage of white European-descent characters with white European-descent actors playing them.

And that's not all. The real question is how many POC characters from popular franchises have been systematically whitewashed by Hollywood?

From DC Comics universe, we've had:

1. R'as Al Ghul who is a prominent middle-eastern character in the Batman comics was portrayed by a very white, blue-eyed, brown-haired Irish actor who doesn't at all resemble the character he's supposed to represent. (Dark Knight Trilogy)

2. Talia Al Ghul who is R'as' daughter is also another prominent half-middle eastern/half-chinese character in the Batman mythos. She too was portrayed by a white-skinned, blue-eyed, brown-haired French actress. (Dark Knight Trilogy)

3. Bane is a prominent Latino character in the Batman comics, yet he too was played by a white English actor with a very noticeable English accent. (Dark Knight Trilogy)

4. Selina Kyle/Catwoman has traditionally been a white woman of no specific origin, though from the early 1990s forward, she was specifically established as being half Latina from her mother's side and half Irish from her father's side. Yet she has been consistently portrayed by white women on screen with no hint of Latino background in every Batman movie franchise. The only exceptions to this was Eartha Kitt who took over the role from Julie Newmar in the 1960s Batman television series and was the first woman of colour to portray Catwoman, and Halle Berry who portrayed a version of Catwoman in a film not specifically tied to the Batman mythos. Nevertheless, a woman of colour has yet to portray Catwoman in a major Batman film franchise. (All Batman franchises).

5. Helena Bertinelli/Huntress (prior to being retconned back into her original incarnation as Helena Wayne) was the most prominent Italian-American heroine of Sicilian origin in both the mainstream DC comics continuity and two animated series. While being of European descent classifies her as white, Sicilians are also known for having a distinct Mediterranean look, typically in having olive-coloured skin and dark hair. These are not your 'every white European.' Yet, she was portrayed onscreen by a brown-haired, blue-eyed white Australian actress in a wig who looks more British than Sicilian and her father Franco (renamed 'Frank') Bertinelli was also portrayed by a generic blonde-haired, blue-eyed white actor. If this was the Helena Wayne version of the Huntress I would have been behind the casting choice since she's at least of British ancestry. But because the show specifically went with the mafia origin, and more specifically the Sicilian version of the Huntress makes the casting choices for both Helena and Franco Bertinelli unforgivable. (Arrow)

6. Sin who was Dinah Lance's adopted daughter in the comics universe was also a distinctively Asian character. Yet, she'll be making her debut on the second season of Arrow as a blue-eyed, dark-haired white girl. (Arrow)

From the Star Trek franchise:

1. Khan Noonien Singh is a prominent North Indian character who is also a Sikh, yet he was played by blue-eyed, brown-haired white English actor with a very noticeable English accent.

From Hollywood adaptations of manga/anime franchises:

1. Son Goku from Dragonball. Even though Goku is actually a super-powered alien who originates from another planet, he is also drawn with a noticeably Asian appearance by Dragonball creator Akira Toriyama, he was raised specifically within a culture that resembles Japanese (and to an extent Chinese) culture, and is specifically given a Japanese name, complete with a kanji spelling. Yet he is portrayed in a Hollywood film by a blue-eyed, brown-haired white actor.

2. Mach Go Go Go. Although the anime was reinterpreted as Speed Racer in the United States and all of the characters were all given western names, that doesn't change the fact that the characters are in fact still Japanese. Yet the entire Mifune family, including all of Go Mifune's (Speed Racer's) main supporting cast were portrayed by white actors. Whatever Japanese actors managed to get a role in this movie (including Hiroyuki Sanada who is a prolific actor in Japan) were for the most part relegated to minor roles.

3. Akira. While no American remake has been done as of 2013, a Hollywood adaptation has been in the talks since as far back as 2002. Even though in the original animated movie all of the characters are specifically Japanese and the story takes place in a future version of Tokyo (a very prominent Japanese city I might add) called 'Neo-Tokyo,' all of the actors that have been mentioned as considered for the lead roles have all been white males or females of European descent. Literally not a single Asian male or female has been considered for any of the roles, even though all of the characters are specifically Japanese, and even the Hollywood adaptation retains the original Japanese names. Does Hollywood not see what's wrong with this picture?

4. Death Note. This is another popular manga/anime franchise that's been in the talks for a Hollywood adaptation for years (especially after the success of the Japanese live action movies), and like Akira, has not materialised into production. Once again, most of the main characters in this manga series are all Japanese with the only American characters to appear in this series being the US president and an FBI agent that was killed by series protagonist Light Yagami. The rest of the western characters that appear in this series are Nate River/Near and Mihael Keehl/Mello who are both English and L Lawliet is mixed (at least according to series creator Tsugumi Ohba). Yet, the actor rumoured for the lead role wasn't an Asian actor, but Zac Efron who is once again a blue-eyed, brown-haired white dude. If a movie actually comes into production in the future, it's not a far off assumption that white actors will be considered for ALL of the roles in the American adaptation.

And this list is only the tip of the iceberg. I'm sure there are tonnes more examples that exist in other popular franchises, including Marvel's cinematic universe. However, with this list alone, and with the recent potential casting of yet two more white actors in the roles of Jewish Romani siblings, we see an overwhelming lack of diversity when it comes to casting, and especially a disturbing trend in Hollywood to cast white actors of western European origin into the roles of some of the most prominent POC characters in popular franchises.

It really does beg the question:

Does every living person in the world look like a blue-eyed, light-haired, white-skinned human being to Hollywood folk? Or is that the only group of people that qualifies as recognisably human to Hollywood's eyes?

If the Big Two are doing a rubbish job at 'representing society' by having a disproportionate number of white straight male heroes to the number of heroes who are women, POC, and LGBTQ, I have to say Hollywood is pretty much outdoing the Big Two on that front by having very little to NO representation of the groups many of these characters from popular franchises represent.

So come on Hollywood. You being the biggest chance that comics have for acquiring new readers by providing exposure to a much wider audience, the very least you could do is put more thought into your casting decisions and actually try and diversify your cast so that maybe, just MAYBE, comic books fronted by POC, women, and LGBTQ characters can actually have a chance to succeed if more people are aware of their existence.


( 15 comments — Leave a comment )
Aug. 24th, 2013 01:42 pm (UTC)
you forgot the Avatar movie. and its sequel.
Aug. 24th, 2013 08:35 pm (UTC)
Avatar: The Last Air Bender or James Cameron's Avatar? I'm assuming you mean the former since Cameron's movie is not based on an existing franchise (though that too had problems with casual racism). I do have to admit to not being at all familiar with the premise for Air Bender as I have watched neither the cartoon series nor the movies to properly comment on it.

You are, however, welcome to add to this list. I did state in the post itself that the above examples were not the only examples of whitewashing in Hollywood and that there is likely to be tonnes more that I missed.
Aug. 24th, 2013 09:03 pm (UTC)
i was referring to the Avatar the last air bender. In the cartoon its set in a Euro-Asia type world. All the characters are Eurasian but when M.Nite made the long awaited movie--they were all Caucasian actors. Very disappointed although that wasnt the only gripe with the movie by far.
Aug. 24th, 2013 09:04 pm (UTC)
p.s. give the cartoon a shot. Its well worth it. Great story telling and I love the characters. Great world building too.
Aug. 24th, 2013 08:22 pm (UTC)
It says something about me that I seriously was wondering where you got the idea that Ricardo Montalban was English and blue-eyed.

No, in a list like this, it's horrendous, and what they did to the entire Nolan Bat-trilogy is pretty clearly racist.
Aug. 24th, 2013 08:28 pm (UTC)
Yeah I probably should have specified in the post that I was referring to the new movie franchise as I was specifically discussing Benedict Cumberbatch's casting into the role of Khan. He's a brilliant actor and did the role justice, but he also does not look like someone who originates from India. Ricardo Montalbán, while still qualifies as white, at least didn't look characteristically Anglo.
Aug. 30th, 2013 12:11 am (UTC)
Ricardo Montalban does not qualify as "white", at least not in the sense of privilege to get roles in Hollywood. In fact, I'm sure he was always clear on the matter, that he was not white.
Aug. 25th, 2013 11:09 pm (UTC)
One problem is the way some of these characters are traditionally drawn. Right or wrong, the Maximoffs don't look much like what pop culture imagines either Jews or Romani would "normally" look like. Even though their ethnicity was retconned in after the fact, I don't recall it influencing how they were visually depicted in any significant way.

Also, I doubt that the money people in Hollywood or casting directors sit down with volumes and volumes of Marvel comics before deciding how much of the story underpinning (and sometimes not reflected by) the visuals they want to take or leave. They think of what (allegedly) brings in the most money, and that's traditionally attractive, young, sknny Anglo-looking White performers.

Personally, I'd be highly amused tomorrow to wake up in a world where teenaged versions of Cathy Ladman and Richard Lewis were the models for Wanda and Pietro in the comics. But that ain't gonna' happen anytime soon. DX

Edited at 2013-08-25 11:16 pm (UTC)
Aug. 26th, 2013 10:30 pm (UTC)
What about Nico Minoru?
Sep. 3rd, 2013 09:25 pm (UTC)
Quick Question plz
Can we have an anything goes Tuesday (that was the correct day, yes?)

I need to vent about something...
Sep. 3rd, 2013 11:31 pm (UTC)
Re: Quick Question plz
I just posted one:


Vent away, mate!
Sep. 7th, 2013 06:33 pm (UTC)
While giving actors of roma descent a chance would be fab, it's not neccessarily whitewashing: A lot of Roma are pretty white. (a lot of differences tends to be due to other cultural stuff, posture, clothes, etc. They even ran a couple of experiments with this for an prejudice/discrimination thing some time ago, and most people couldn't tell the difference unless they were dressing the part)

Sep. 8th, 2013 04:35 pm (UTC)
I'm guessing Hollywood figures white heroes are just more accepted universally and will bring in a wider audience, while black mentor/partner characters will satisfy the diversity quotient (or at least that's what the MCU looks like). At this point, I'd prefer an Asian Janet Van Dyne like in the Ultimates.

I've also wondered what the deal is with making villains white, which has happened far too often recently. Are they afraid of making a bad guy a POC or something that it sends the wrong message? Come on, man! Makes me worried about characters like Apocalypse or Killer Croc if they ever make it to live action.
Vanessa Cassandri
Oct. 20th, 2013 10:21 am (UTC)
Ehr... actually in Italy in most cases it's very difficult to tell apart the people of North Italia and South Italia (so Sicilia too) by the look only... Italy is very mixed and various as regards that...
Feb. 26th, 2015 12:08 am (UTC)
Jewish actors
For future reference:
Actors of fully Jewish background: -Logan Lerman, Natalie Portman, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Mila Kunis, Bar Refaeli, James Wolk, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Julian Morris, Adam Brody, Esti Ginzburg, Kat Dennings, Gabriel Macht, Erin Heatherton, Odeya Rush, Anton Yelchin, Paul Rudd, Scott Mechlowicz, Lisa Kudrow, Lizzy Caplan, Emmanuelle Chriqui, Gal Gadot, Debra Messing, Robert Kazinsky, Melanie Laurent, Shiri Appleby, Justin Bartha, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Margarita Levieva, Elizabeth Berkley, Halston Sage, Seth Gabel, Skylar Astin, Mia Kirshner, Alden Ehrenreich, Eric Balfour, Jason Isaacs, Jon Bernthal.

Andrew Garfield is Jewish, too (though I don’t know if both of his parents are).

Actors with Jewish mothers and non-Jewish fathers -Jake Gyllenhaal, Dave Franco, James Franco, Scarlett Johansson, Daniel Day-Lewis, Daniel Radcliffe, Alison Brie, Eva Green, Joaquin Phoenix, River Phoenix, Emmy Rossum, Rashida Jones, Jennifer Connelly, Sofia Black D’Elia, Nora Arnezeder, Goldie Hawn, Ginnifer Goodwin, Amanda Peet, Eric Dane, Jeremy Jordan, Joel Kinnaman, Ben Barnes, Patricia Arquette, Kyra Sedgwick, Dave Annable.

Actors with Jewish fathers and non-Jewish mothers, who themselves were either raised as Jews and/or identify as Jews: -Ezra Miller, Gwyneth Paltrow, Alexa Davalos, Nat Wolff, Nicola Peltz, James Maslow, Josh Bowman, Winona Ryder, Michael Douglas, Ben Foster, Jamie Lee Curtis, Nikki Reed, Zac Efron, Jonathan Keltz, Paul Newman.

Oh, and Ansel Elgort’s father is Jewish, though I don’t know how Ansel was raised.

Actors with one Jewish-born parent and one parent who converted to Judaism -Dianna Agron, Sara Paxton (whose father converted, not her mother), Alicia Silverstone, Jamie-Lynn Sigler.
( 15 comments — Leave a comment )