Blackwashing is not and can never be a thing. Why? Because if it were, it would be due to reverse racism, and we all know that doesn't exist either. Think about Idris Elba as James Bond, for example.
Since Daniel Craig declared he was done with playing James Bond, a lot of rumors about other actors taking the legendary character started to spark. Perhaps the most sounded back there was Tom Hiddleston who assured that no one had approached him on the matter but had could be a part he’d like to interpret. Well, as we know, Craig, later on, said he had spoken in an outburst and that he would return to one more film but who will take the torch? For years the rumor of Idris Elba being a great candidate has been around sparking all sorts of opinions. On the one hand, there are tons who believe he has all it takes to renovate the famous 007, while others with really lame postures rhetorically claim that why should a black person interpret a clearly white character. Throughout the Internet, a lot of these people have been talking about something they call blackwashing (which has been applied to the case of Elba as Bond) and trying to make it a thing. Spoiler alert it’s not and this is why.
If the story of your life were made into a movie, would you care if you were played by someone from a different race? Some movie fans do, and they hate it when a director chooses to cast an actor who doesn’t resemble the original image of their favorite characters, like it happened with the Ghost In The Shell (2017) movie, starring Scarlett Johansson. This decision caused a wave of criticism because the original Japanese anime follows the adventures of an Asian cyborg heroine. Doesn’t Hollywood have Asian actors who can play these roles? I’m sure they do, so why cast white actors to play characters of color? This is known as “whitewashing,” and it’s a form of racism. However, all of a sudden people are calling out directors for casting black actors in roles that weren't originally black, like when it was announced that Zendaya would be playing Mary Janne in the Spiderman saga, they started calling it "blackwashing." But is there a valuable argument to that? Let’s take a look.
The difference between “whitewashing” and “blackwashing,” besides the race factor, is that the former exists and the latter is a made-up excuse to justify Hollywood's “whitewashing” practices. It’s kind of a “look, they're doing it too” argument. In other words, while there is a ton of evidence that Hollywood's casting process is plagued by prejudice and racism, “blackwashing” is simply not a thing because casting a black character adds diversity to a film and there's no such thing as reverse racism. In contrast, “whitewashing” has been around for a very long time, like when John Warne played a man from Mongolia in The Conqueror (1956), and it's still happening to this day. The reason why we’re only talking about it now is because back then we weren’t as “woke” as we are now about white privilege and media stereotypes, and because social media has given moviegoers a platform to call out racism.
Here are some films accused of “blackwashing” their characters, which we know isn't true.
Hunger Games (2012)
Fantastic Four (2015)
Star Wars: Episode VIII: The Last Jedi (2017)
Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)
Troy: Fall of a City (
Blackwashing started popping up after the first few times black actors were cast to play white characters or characters whose race wasn't specified in the original text. It all comes from the idea that it's okay to keep white characters white, especially because now there's a movement to increase diversity in the film industry, so there's no need to "blackwash" anyone. But it’s not the same thing. If anything, we can’t even compare it to the many years of whitewashing and censorship that limited roles for actors of color in the history of the film industry. But why don't you see for yourself? Here are some movies where POC characters were played by white actors (the full list is actually longer than this one, probably twice as a big).
Anna and the King of Siam (1946)
Black Narcissus (1947)
The House of the Spirits (1993)
Batman Begins (2005)
30 Days of Night (2007)
Dragon Ball Evolution (2009)
The Last Airbender (2010)
Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time (2010)
The Big Wedding (2013)
Exodus: Gods and Knights (2014)
Doctor Strange (2016)
Death Note (2017)
Accusations of blackwashing usually happen when a book, comic, or video game is adapted into a film (or there's a remake) and its fanbase feels offended by the director's casting decisions. But it can even happen with plays, like when Harry Potter and the Cursed Child announced they would cast a black actress as Hermione; some fans weren't happy, but J.K. Rowling herself spoke out to defend the casting decision. It's important to cast actors of color that represent the place and race of the characters because movies are the screen in which the world sees itself. Plus, it's important to see heroic and brave images of characters of color, so everyone has a role model to follow and a hero of their own race. For a very long time, Latinos and black people were only cast as thugs and criminals, and this created negative cultural stereotypes around the world. So, there's nothing wrong about giving a white role to a person of color, since it promotes diversity and and contributes to better representation in film. People doubted about casting a woman as the new doctor in Doctor Who, and it's actually shouting a lot of mouths just as I know Idris Elba as James Bond will if the rumors are true.
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