Whitewashing vs Racebending

Whitewashing vs Racebending

How Hollywood's practices of Race Changing are not the same
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There is a current trend in the film industry to adapt stories from book series, manga/anime, comics and video games into huge blockbuster films. These films cannot be a complete depiction of the source material with 100 percent accuracy, so it is no surprise the some necessary changes are made. Plot lines are shortened, settings are changed, some characters are omitted, it happens. One change, however, that Hollywood consistently makes much to the dismay of fans is changing the race of POC characters to white. The term "whitewashing" has been applied to different forms of media when a character is described as being a person of color in the source material but a white actor is cast to portray that character. We see this trend in some of the movies scheduled for release this year.

As a part of phase three of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the highly anticipated "Doctor Strange" is set to be released this November. Without spoiling too much of the plot from the comics the protagonist, Stephen Strange comes in contact with a being known as the Ancient One who teaches him how to use magic. In the comics the Ancient One is depicted as being an older Tibetan man however in this adaptation Tilda Swinton was cast to play the role. While this decision makes up for the lack of female representation in the MCU but at the expense of erasing an east asian character. Doctor Strange’s story already follows the “white man goes to Asia to find enlightenment” narrative but it now also joins a long list of movies with whitewashed casts.


To add to this list, Scarlett Johansson was cast to play Major Motoko Kusanagi in the American adaptation of the popular manga series "Ghost in the Shell." Set in a cybernetic future in the fictional Japanese city, Niihama also known as New Port City, Ghost in the Shell is an entirely Japanese narrative however the decision was made to cast a white lead.

Hollywood repeatedly cast white actors in film whose entire basis demands on a person of color being in the lead position because of whiteness being the established norm of western media and society. Last year when "Exodus, Gods and Kings," another whitewashed film, was released the director Ridley Scott address the critics by saying that “I can’t mount a film of this budget, where I have to rely on tax rebates in Spain, and say that my lead actor is Mohammad so-and-so from such-and-such. I’m just not going to get it financed. So the question doesn’t even come up.” The problem with this logic is that whitewashed films almost always fail in the box office. "Pan," "Exodus", "Gods of Egypt," and "Aloha" have all failed to box office despite enormous budget they were given. Whitewashing certainly isn’t the only reason these film have failed but given the pattern of a film being criticized for whitewashing and failing isn’t enough to stop the practice altogether.

Last year, "Harry Potter and the Cursed Child" was announced to be the 8th installment of the beloved "Harry Potter" series. In the new screenplay Noma Dumezweni, a black woman was cast to play Hermione. Many people have called this practice “reverse whitewashing.” The term race-bending is used to describe this practice of casting a person of color in a role previously portrayed by a white person. This immediately sent fans into an uproar reaching for every excuse the can to prove why Dumezweni shouldn’t be Hermione. Interestingly enough, the claim that Hermione will be played by a black person comes with an strange irony. Author JK Rowling dismissed all these comments by saying,

Rowling’s comment reflects what José Esteban Muños, said in his article “Feeling Brown” when he asserts that Latinx people in America are seen as performing in excessive ways. He says, “it is not so much that the Latina/o affect performance is so excessive, but that the effective performance of normative whiteness is minimalist to the point of emotional impoverishment. Whiteness claims affective normativity and neutrality, but for that fantasy to remain in place one must only view it from the vantage point of US cultural and political hegemony. Once we look at whiteness from a racialized perspective, like that of Latinos, it begins to appear to be flat and impoverished. At this moment in history it seems especially important to position whiteness as lack..” According to Muños, whiteness is empty as opposed to being Latinx was is to be full. While thinking about this message, I believe it can be applied to the idea of racebending. If whiteness is empty, it can be filled up. Many popular comic book characters, like the Hermione, are not white for a particular reason they are white by default. Their whiteness means nothing to the story they are a part of or their individual origins as a character. They are assumed to be white unless described otherwise. Traditionally white characters can be “filled” or portrayed by POC without changing the nature of the character. Dumezweni being cast to play Hermione does not take anything away from the character because the fact the he has been, up to the that point, white in every incarnation has no meaning. What’s important about that character her cleverness and intelligence. Changing her race to black from white doesn’t inherently change the character. The same cannot be side with whitewashing. Scarlett Johansson playing Major Motoko Kusanagi changes the entire Japanese centered story of "Ghost in the Shell." The decision to have a character of color is usually calculated by content creators or demanded by the story they wish to tell. Take the Black Panther for example. The character Black Panther, T’Challa, is descended from an ancient indigenous ethnic group in a fictional African country. His power, ability, and status have all been past down from his ancestors. If a white actor is cast to play this character, it would drain the significance of Black Panthers origin and change the his personal story to the point where you wouldn’t even have the same character.

To apply the logic that Muños uses in his article we can examine the difference between whitewashing and racebending of comic book characters and see that these two practices are in no way the same. Whitewashing takes characters of color and removes vital components of their identity and ultimately changes the story that character belongs too. While on the other hand, racebending adds to white characters, whose stories or personality traits aren’t changed in adaptation films. Racebending is to fill up, while whitewashing is to take away.

Cover Image Credit: Den of Geek

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What Your Hogwarts House Says About You

Get yourself sorted and find out where you belong in the world of witchcraft and wizardry.
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Sorting at Hogwarts is a big deal. Being sorted into a house is essentially being placed into a family while you are away from home learning about witchcraft and wizardry. Your house is made up of the people you will live with, go to classes with, play Quidditch with and everything in between. You basically spend 24/7 with them. Your Hogwarts house is your home away from home.

When you get sorted into a house, it is based on your personality traits. The people in your house are typically like-minded people who display the same characteristics as you.

When you’re a first year at Hogwarts, the minute you set foot in the castle you are swept into the Great Hall to have the ancient Sorting Hat placed on your head. This Sorting Hat decides which “family” you’ll be spending your seven years with.

For some, it is very obvious which house they will be in, due to certain personality traits they possess. For others, they may exemplify traits that fit a multitude of houses and are uncertain where they may end up.

To find out where you belong, you can take the official "Harry Potter" Sorting Hat quiz at Pottermore.com. For all you muggles out there, these are the characteristics that the houses possess and what your house says about you:

Gryffindor: The house of the brave, loyal, courageous, adventurous, daring and chivalrous. Those who stand up for others are typically Gryffindors. Brave-hearted is the most well-known Gryffindor characteristic, and Gryffindors are also known for having a lot of nerve.

Gryffindors are people who hold a multitude of qualities alongside the ones listed, making them a very well-rounded house. People who are Gryffindors are often people who could fit nicely into another house but choose to tell the sorting hat they want Gryffindor (there's that bravery). "Do what is right" is the motto Gryffindors go by.

Being a Gryffindor means that you're probably the adventurous and courageous friend, and you are usually known for doing what is right.

Ravenclaw: The house is known for their wisdom, intelligence, creativity, cleverness and knowledge. Those who value brains over brawn can be found here. Ravenclaws often tend to be quite quirky as well. "Do what is wise" is the motto they strive to follow.

Though Ravenclaws can be know-it-alls sometimes, they most likely do know what the wisest decision is.

If you are known for being the quirky friend, the smartest in the group or just great at making wise decisions, you're definitely a Ravenclaw.

Hufflepuff: This house values hard work, dedication, fair play, patience, and loyalty. Hufflepuff’s are known for being just and true. "Do what is nice" is their motto.

Hufflepuff is known as the “nice house” and believes strongly in sparing peoples feelings and being kind. This is not to say that Hufflepuffs aren't smart or courageous. Hufflepuffs just enjoy making others happy and tend to be more patient towards people.

If you ever find that you are too nice for your own good and cannot bear to hurt someone’s feelings, congratulations, you are a Hufflepuff.

Slytherin: This is the house of the cunning, prideful, resourceful, ambitious, intelligent, and determined. Slytherin's love to be in charge and crave leadership. "Do what is necessary" is the motto of this house.

Slytherin is a fairly well-rounded house, similar to the other houses. They are loyal to those that are loyal to them just as Gryffindors are and are intelligent as Ravenclaws.

Slytherin house as a whole is not evil, despite how many dark wizards come out of this house. That is merely based on the choices of those wizards (so if your friend is a Slytherin, don’t judge, it doesn’t mean they are mean people). Slytherins do, however, have a tendency to be arrogant or prideful. This is most likely due to the fact that everyone in Slytherin is exceedingly proud to be there.

What Hogwarts house you’re in says a lot about the person you are, the traits you possess and how you may act in some situations. But in the end, your house is really just your home that is always there for you. Always.


Cover Image Credit: Warner Bros Pictures

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10 Unique Couples' Halloween Costumes You HAVEN'T Seen Done A Bajillion Times Before

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