I got two pieces of news today that would seem unrelated but they’re not.
- My youngest son was not cast in the big show for spring quarter.
- “Ghost in the Shell” appears to be a box office flop.
One word. Whitewashing.
Whitewashing is a casting practice in which White actors are cast in roles intended for a person of color.
My son has played all kinds of roles that were in my mind (like with my always present white supremacy lens, AKA the understanding of white as “normal”) intended to be white: Sky Masterson, Curly McLain, Romeo, Mortimer the Zombie?, Robbie Hart, Horton?, Linus, Fredric, Judas, The Big Bad Wolf–both the Shrek version and the Into the Woods version, Prince Charming and Jack the Englishman. OK, I’m not absolutely sure about zombies, bad wolves or elephants…. He’s also played one role as a mixed Asian-White young man from California (BINGO!) but beyond that, all of his roles have been cast the by colorblind casting and likely assumed to be white.
He was pretty sure he was not going to get cast in this coming play. I brushed it off, he always gets at least offered a role. When he got a call-back I figured that they would cast him and figure it out. But no, and it is a really good thing.
The pay is Clybourne Park, a play about gentrification and what happens between a Black community and a White community. It would harm the story to cast a Hapa person in either a role written for a Black person or a role written for a White person, because their race is integral to the characters. I get it. He’s right. They’re right. I just always want my kid to be the lead, and no I am not biased, I am his mother. He is the most talented young person on the planet. Whatever. But this one I get.
“Ghost in the Shell“, from what I understand as a bystander and non-consumer of Manga is a movie based on a book in which a main character has her features changed to appear more white, in Germany, or something. In the film the character instead of being played by a light skinned Asian person was played by Scarlett Johannsson.
This wasn’t a case of yellow face, like Mickey Rooney, Katherine Hepburn or a whole bunch of other Hollywood shameful moments. (This is actually a pretty good run down of shameful moments for Hollywood regarding Asian Americans by Vox) It was a way for Hollywood to say that Asian actors can’t possibly be what the paying public wants to see.
They were wrong. Flop.
I hope that the entertainment industry has learned their lesson. We want to see people who look like us. We want to see real characters and real humans come in more than just White.
Good timing, too, since my son will be out of college and looking for dynamic roles in which he can embody his whole heritage in like three minutes.