Hollywood examples of overt racism represent both

Hollywood is, California: often known for the fame that comes from most of its greatest films. From blockbusters to romantic comedies, Hollywood has it all, from its critically acclaimed actors and actresses to the most prominent and influential directors and producers. There have been hundreds upon thousands of movies made from Hollywood both successes and failures. But one thing Hollywood sees no shortage of are white actors and actresses. Throughout the 21st century, audiences have seen many films come and go, but there is a surprising lack of other ethnic groups in a majority of these same films being released. And with movements like, Black Lives Matter, this is a highly controversial issue within the film industry. With the amount of actors and actresses of color available it is quite surprising that there are little roles being given to them;t. There are even times when the roles do become available, yet casting directors give the role to a white actor or actress anyway. Whether audience members are aware of this issue or not it is the media’s responsibility to inform them on this problem in order to see any significant change.Many critics claim that these poor casting choices have an eerie similarity to the black minstrel shows from before the American Revolution. Both past and present, white performers took control of the stage or screen and had a major influence on those watching. The white casting of actors and actresses instead of actors and actresses of color is otherwise known as whitewashing. Whitewashing can be difficult to identify at times, but it can be seen as the overall superiority of the white race. Although entertainment has moved on from the minstrel shows of the 19th century, Hollywood’s lack of diversity in today’s film, brought about by whitewashing, demonstrates America’s modern-day racism and just how common it has become.There is no question, that America’s history displays multiple examples of overt racism, for example, the black minstrel shows of the 19th century. These examples of overt racism represent both individual and institutional racism and how common it was in American society to discriminate against another ethnic group, for instance, African Americans. Much of the racism towards them became so frequent that it integrated itself into some of the most popular forms of entertainment at the time. Minstrelsy, or black minstrel shows, are otherwise known as when white men dress up and act like the “everyday” African American (Weiner). It officially started during the 1820s, yet was also known to have been popular during the 1750s or before the American Revolution (Weiner). During its time, it quickly became one of America’s most popular forms of entertainment because of its influence in the Midwest (Weiner). Due to the spread of its influence it also triggered the spreading of racism and racial stereotypes throughout the country.The minstrel shows in general were highly offensive to African Americans by over exaggerating what they looked like and how they acted. Performers in these shows, in order to look the part, covered themselves in burnt cork to darken their skins and red lipstick to enlarge their mouths (Weiner). In a photograph taken by Frances Benjamin Johnston around the same time period, there is a man in blackface and he has an uncanny similarity to a clown (Johnston). Furthermore, the performers would go on to sing and dance, while participating in-jokes, slapstick routines, and skits (Weiner). These minstrel shows were used as comic relief at the expense of African Americans. In other words, the performers were trying to adhere to what they thought was an accurate representation of African Americans. If African Americans did try to speak out against these harsh portrayals they could have been severely punished since they did not have any power in society at that point.White men controlled entertainment and once the minstrel shows began to gain popularity the spread of the African American stereotypes became even more toxic and harmful.As a result, the minstrel shows of the 1820s showed inaccurate representations of African Americans in the infamous black face acts, thus creating many racial stereotypes. For African Americans, many of the stereotypes formed from characters such as Jim Crow, Sambo, Mammy, the Brute, Zip Coon, and Pickaninnies (Weiner). Jim Crow, was a character known for being lazy, but a happy slave (Weiner). He often dressed in dirty or ripped clothing and he loved to sing and dance (Weiner). The Sambo and Mammy were portrayed as the “good” kind of African Americans (Weiner). The Brute was considered evil and/or violent due to his tendencies to carry around knives, start fights and his intentions on raping white women (Weiner). The Pickaninnies were African American children that were considered unruly and ignorant, but also prone to stealing (Weiner). Each stereotype damaged the African American image in that it promoted the idea that African Americans were inferior. Some stereotypes, for example, the Brute and the Pickaninnies were more harmful to African Americans because they automatically became a target of suspicion. African Americans were always the subject of hate and violence whether it was from an individual person or group of people. Unfortunately many of these people held public office and were able to use their racist beliefs to create laws that made discrimination legal in America. For the duration of the 1890s into the 20th century were the set of laws that would later be known as the Jim Crow laws, for its close relationship with the minstrel shows of the 1820s (“Jim Crow”). It took several decades before African Americans were given the same rights within the United States. Still, racism and racial stereotyping remain in many parts of today’s society.Although today’s entertainment is not as overtly racist as the black minstrel shows, there is still a lack of minority groups being represented in major Hollywood films. This is most noticeable in the prestigious Oscars. Every year viewers and movie critics alike anticipate which of their favorite movies will take home an award and receive high praise for the work they had accomplished. Though, most of the nominees or winners of this event are primarily white. At the 2015 Oscars, there was a significant drop in films who won at least one Oscar that featured a minority lead(s). Beginning at 16.7% in 2014 it dropped to only 9.1% in 2015 (Hunt et al. 7). As a matter of fact, minorities were underrepresented by almost 3 to 1 among film leads that same year (Hunt et al. 7). Then, during the 2016 Oscars, people were outraged due to it being the second year in a row when all nominations were white (Covert). Many even went to Twitter to demonstrate their anger posting under #OscarsSoWhite (Covert). Overall in 2016, out of 414 films and scripted TV shows only 28% of characters were minorities (Covert). Furthermore, in a graph from The Economist, the statistics display under-representation in film, with categories such as, Oscars nominated and Oscars won. (“How Racially”). According to that graph, groups like Latino, Asian and others are virtually non-existent compared to the number of actors/actresses registered with the Screen Actors Guild (“How Racially”). Considering the diversity of the United States alone it is strange to see such little representation of groups that make up a large portion of the population. This underrepresentation can also be seen through the top earnings of actors in the industry. In a list made by Forbes magazine, only 4 actors out of 14 of the highest paid actors were non-white. Actors such as, Shah Rukh Khan, Jackie Chan, Vin Diesel and Dwayne Johnson compromise the list alongside white actors Tom Cruise, Robert Downey Jr., Adam Sandler and Mark Wahlberg being the highest paid actor within that listing (Park). Khan is from India and is one of the highest paid Bollywood stars (Park). Jackie Chan is one of China’s biggest movie stars (Park). Both Khan and Chan are similar in that they are the only two actors compromising this list that live outside the country, but are successful in their own right. Vin Diesel is a very successful action star most famous for his “Fast and Furious” franchise. He claims that his father is a person of color (Park). Dwayne Johnson’s mother is Samoan while his father is Black Nova Scotian (Park). Both actors are very well known and are some of the most prominent actors in the industry. From these findings, one can make the conclusion that there aren’t as many successful actors of color in the film industry as there are white.The main reason for why minorities have had such little presence in Hollywood’s films is because of a process called “whitewashing”. “Whitewashing” comes from the term “to whitewash”, which, in the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the verb “to whitewash” has two meanings: “to whiten with a wash” or “to gloss over or cover up (such as vices or crimes)” (“Whitewash”). There is both a physical and metaphorical meaning behind both definitions in relation to whitewashing in film and racism in general. The first being that most Hollywood movies have been primarily white for a very long period of time. Meanwhile, the second definition implies that other races should not be portrayed in film. The actual term “whitewashing” as coined by many people within the entertainment industry is a word social psychologist Katherine Aumer describes as, “The prevalence of preferential casting of White individuals for minority roles in the United States (US) film industry…” (Aumer et al.). Meaning, films that are cast with a white actor or actress instead of a non-white actor or actress. Actually, whitewashing itself is not new and has in fact been seen throughout the centuries and has become a commonplace among contemporary American film.Cameron Crowe’s Aloha is considered one of the most controversially whitewashed films of 2015 for its casting of Emma Stone as Allison Ng who is ¼ Hawaiian. The character Allison Ng is a US pilot from the top of her class who has a deep pride in her Hawaiian heritage, which leads her to fight for the rights of the natives (Crowe). The only problem is that Emma Stone is not Hawaiian. When the movie was released many moviegoers were highly against the casting of Emma Stone as Allison Ng, so they took to social media blaming director Cameron Crowe. This triggered Sony to release a statement defending Crowe and the movie. Sony states “While some have been quick to judge a movie they haven’t seen and a script they haven’t read, the film ‘Aloha’ respectfully showcases the spirit and culture of the Hawaiian people…” (A.).  Sony describes how the movie did not do anything inherently wrong and that everything from casting to the shooting was done out of respect for the Hawaiian people. This statement goes to show how Sony is in denial over the poor casting choice made for Allison Ng’s character and not recognizing the mistake does not solve the problem. Cameron Crowe, on the other hand, offers his apologies soon after the social media uproar began. He talks about how his casting choice was “misguided” and that his only intention was to cast a character that was ¼ Hawaiian, but did not look like it (Griggs). He goes on to say “I am grateful for the dialogue. And from the many voices, loud and small, I have learned something very inspiring” (Griggs). He mentions that he did employ Asian-Americans, Pacific-Islanders, and Native-Hawaiians to make sure script was authentic, but he realizes now that it wasn’t enough (Griggs). He will make more of an effort in the future to cast people of color into his films (Griggs). Crowe’s response was more sincere in that he recognizes the mistake that was made and how even though he did not intend for this to happen he understands how it was misinterpreted. Another highly problematic film is 2016’s The Great Wall starring Matt Damon as William Garin, which is targeted due to the film’s use of a “white savior”. A mercenary by trade with superior archery skills Garin and his companion Tovar come across the Great Wall of China and have to decide whether to help the Nameless Order fight off an alien species or take what they came for (Zhang). Before this movie even had the chance to appear in theatres, it received harsh feedback and strong accusations of whitewashing. Matt Damon was frankly frustrated with the reaction claiming there was not any whitewashing at all (Wakeman). Damon’s reaction overall is him downplaying his own movie saying there are far worse movies accused of the same crime. Damon is in utter disbelief and it shows in the interview. Another offense seen through the movie is Matt Damon’s character evolving into the “white savior”. During the movie, Matt Damon helps the Nameless Order by planning their offensive and defensive plans and is often looked at as a god or someone with high moral standards that could do no wrong (Zhang). The “white savior” archetype is typically shown as when a white character or person who saves a person or people of color from whatever challenges they are facing (Edell). This “white savior” suggests a number of things for the viewer. First, that people of color are not able to solve their own problems and white people are the only capable ones to do it. Secondly, it suggests that white people have a much higher morality than people of color. When Garin chooses to stay and fight against the alien species and ends up being China’s hero as a reward for his decision and actions. This implies that white people are the only ones who make good decisions, which is incorrect, in reality anyone can make good decisions.Last on the list is Death Note, an American made movie from 2017 that is based on the original Japanese anime. Although, in comparison the movie is much different from the original story line. Fans were infuriated by the casting of Death Note because almost all the actors and actresses are white (Respers France). Actors and actresses like Nat Wolff, Margaret Qualley, Shea Whigham, Willem Dafoe and Jason Liles all replaced their original Japanese counterparts. Yet the strangest part is that in the casting call they were looking for people with “Asian, South Asian, Ethnically Ambiguous/Mixed Race” ethnicity, but went with a mainly white cast anyway (“Death Note”). According to IMDb, Nat Wolff, the lead character in Death Note has an ancestry that contradicts the original casting call. IMDb confirms that his family ancestry was either from the US or parts of Europe (Nat Wolff). In general, Death Note became Americanized, which did the original series much injustice. First off the setting had been changed from the Kanto region of Japan to Seattle, Washington (Wingard). Then all of the names of the original characters were actually changed to more “American” names. For instance, Light Yagami was changed to Light Turner, Misa Amane to Mia Sutton and Soichiro Yagami to James Turner (Wingard). By changing the location and names it implies that they were trying to cut off from its Japanese origins, while still keeping the same name. This is not only disrespectful to the creators, but adds onto the ever growing underrepresentation of Asian actors and actresses in the overall media.Whitewashing has become a pattern within the film industry and one would think that through history directors and producers would learn from their mistakes, yet the same mistakes are still being made. In Hollywood, in order for a film to be made, there needs to be funding and that funding comes from producers. So, overtime producers have gained more and more power allowing Hollywood to change into a world of business as opposed to art (America Beyond). Thus, many producers hold the same opinion that white casted movies make more money than diverse casts. As said by Marion Edwards, Fox International TV President, he holds that same opinion, “These shows diverse shows are a reflection of our society, but they are not a reflection of all societies. … by creating too much diversity in the leads in their show means… problems having their shows translating to the international market” (Aumer et al.). Edwards and other producers like him have a strong belief that diverse casted films do not do well enough overseas, which, is why there are not many films being funded with diverse casts. Although, this way of thinking was proven false. From a recent study conducted by Hunt and Ramon in 2015, it found that “more diverse casted films actually perform financially better than predominantly White cast films and that there are many all White films that financially fail” (Aumer et al.). More data shows “…films with casts that are 10 percent minority have increased their share of the top films since the last report, from 34 percent in 2014 to 38.5 percent in 2015” (Hunt et al. 10). In general, “Films with relatively diverse casts enjoyed the highest median global box office receipts and the highest median return on investment” (Aumer et al.). Box office success was through the roof for relatively diverse films in every genre from 2011 to 2015 (Aumer et al.). So contrary to popular belief, there is more than enough evidence to show that movies containing a diverse cast make more money than solely white casted films, yet whitewashing is still ongoing.From recent discoveries, there is evidence to suggest that the audience could be held responsible for the whitewashing of major films through the subconscious. In a study led by a team of researchers, the study was meant to test whether whitewashing is a bias of media executives or motivated by the audiences racial preferences (Aumer et al.). The first test was to investigate the Social Identity Theory which is when a person’s sense of who they are depends on what group they belong to; this can include race (Tajfel and Turner). It often involves a sort of social comparison in which one compares their own group with another in a more favorable manner in order to increase their self-esteem (Tajfel and Turner). This could be an explanation for prejudice and discrimination across the board. If this theory were to be true it would mean that based on the “group” a person belongs to that is where their preferences lie. This can include race and many other categories. In that same study, scientists next tested the idea of exposure and if it could be the reason behind the audience’s racial preferences on screen. The Mere-Exposure Effect is a “…psychological phenomenon whereby people feel a preference for people or things simply because they are familiar” (Fournier). This connotation suggests that if one were to be surrounded by a certain group their entire life or for periods of time this would contribute to the racial preferences of that specific person. The environment can also have an affect on that person and depending on where they come from it can lead to either a path of discrimination or impartiality. Both theories are strong and relate to the subconscious, so even if a person does not inherently try to have racial preferences, they are still there. No matter where whitewashing comes from the idea and process of whitewashing itself is an example of modern-day racism at its finest. Modern-day racism, or otherwise known as covert racism, is a more subtle or less blatant form of racism that results in unequal treatment of other races without any overtly hateful act or explicit law or policy (Holtzman 160). In some ways, covert racism is even more harmful than overt racism due to the fact that it influences everyone’s thoughts or actions. It is often indirect, or expressed in innuendos and attributed to racist beliefs and the subconscious influence on the person’s behavior (Hanson). The worst part of covert racism is when people claim to not be racist or inherit any racial beliefs towards anyone, but their behavior suggests otherwise because most prejudices are lodged deep within the subconscious (Hanson). Often times those same people either verbalize the need for equality or deny racism in the first place (Griggs). The process of denial only allows racism to continue without it being addressed until it is too late.Without even realizing it at first glance the media today has a much more profound effect on those who watch than intended. What is seen in feature films provides most white people with most of their “knowledge” about people of color due to the little interaction with them (Loewen 82). It also helps others form views of society and themselves by identifying with certain groups (Loewen 82). On the other hand, American media more times than not provides unwanted stereotypes of people whether it is based on race, gender, or any other social category. Whitewashing contributes to that by making it a normal process and by making the whitewashing of people’s history and cultures okay (Molina et al. 00:13:15). Whitewashing has had such a harmful effect on American society that it has become too common. By allowing whitewashing to be more common, this endless cycle trains the minds of younger generations to see those same stereotypes.America’s covertly racist tendencies in casting of roles for film is a reflection on today’s society and its close relations to the egregious minstrel shows and black faced performers. After examining my evidence I have come to the conclusion that America is covertly racist or America has always been racist it just comes in a different form, which can be demonstrated through films accused of whitewashing. Whether Americans like it or not everyone has racial preferences deep within the subconscious and it will remain that way for a long time unless something is done about it. The only true way to move past America’s overtly racist history and current tendencies is to acknowledge it. Acknowledge when whitewashing is happening and how it may affect others. Another key component is to stay informed. Only then will we someday learn from past mistakes.