Want to know what’s so important about #OscarsSoWhite? Check out this skit by the peeps at Last Week Tonight with John Oliver. “Whitewashing” gives us a cheeky overview of the systematic problem in Hollywood that once again contributed to a lack of actors and actresses of color in the Academy Award nominations.
Whitewashing is a term that can refer to an individual who (intentionally or unintentionally) casts off their cultural practices/background in order to fit into the cultural norms – however, it is used in this video to refer to the act of casting Caucasian actors and actresses as characters that are ethnically non-white. Among the famous examples mentioned in this video, there are a ton of Asian characters including Katharine Hepburn as Jade Tan in “Dragon Seed” (2004), Mickey Rooney as Mr. Yunioshi in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” (1961) and Emma Stone as Allison Ng in Aloha (2015). They even mention Tom Cruise’s role as Capt. Nathan Algren in “The Last Samurai” (2003) as quite ridiculous, and I have to agree (even though Tom Cruise is great).
The video doesn’t blame the Academy for #OscarsSoWhite, but traces the act of whitewashing roles in Hollywood back to historic roots. It provides an interesting commentary on how the problem is still pervasive today, even in how people react to casting non-white actors and actresses as traditionally white characters (Michael B. Jordan as Johnny Storm in “Fantastic Four” and John Boyega as Finn in “Star Wars: The Force Awakens”).
While whitewashing isn’t as harmful as some of the most stereotypical portrayals from the 40s-60s, it is still an act of oppression. It drowns out the representation of people of color in mainstream media and, ultimately, leads to a lack of representation at The Oscars.
Check out the video below (contains some NSFW language)
Cover Image via Last Week Tonight/HBO