In the recent couple of days, the film Bushwick has gotten publicity for its role in furthering whitewashing Hollywood films, specifically, for continuing the tradition of having the protagonist embody a “white savior” persona in films that are meant to focus on minorities. In Bushwick, Brittany Snow plays Lucy, a civil engineering student who tries to stop an army of soldiers that are trying to seize Bushwick as a part of the Texas secessionist movement.
Bushwick, like many New York neighborhoods, was originally a neighborhood that was composed of mostly minorities, but has currently faced heightened racial tension and displacement due to increasing gentrification. What makes the film even more problematic is not only that its lead actress is white, but also the fact that none of the supporting cast members were of black or Latinx, a major portion of Bushwick’s population. This continues the tradition of whitewashing that Hollywood and the city of Bushwick have felt throughout the years.
White people are not the ones organizing in the actual city of Bushwick but they deserve to be shown leading the effort in its film adaptation. This is inexcusable, even if the film is fiction. As we’ve been learning about producing PSA’s in class, we’ve learned to think in shots and essentially realize that the images we choose send a majority of the information to the audience. Therefore, continuing to center films around a white savior not only continues the stereotype that people of color need to be saved, but with less Hollywood diversity, it becomes the only images and thereby, information we receive. This misinformation in part through films like Bushwick and many more before it normalize whitewashing and white saviorism, thus increasing both problems as well as the lack of Hollywood diversity.
In the past two weeks, the showrunners of Game of Thrones announced that their next show would imagine a world in which the South won the Civil War and slavery still existed. In the Confederate, the South successfully secedes from the Union with the newly formed country on the brink of a Third Civil war. The announcement of the series was met with severe backlash from the general public. The show continues to feed into the ever growing list of slave movies; the only films/tv shows that Hollywood seemingly wants to make about black people and their stories. Moreover, the announcement seems hypocritical considering the amount of criticism that Game of Thrones has received for its own treatment of people of color characters on the show.
The huge public backlash towards the Confederate has even resulted in a social media protest against the creation of the show. During today’s (07/30) episode of Game of Thrones, people on twitter will be tweeting at HBO with the hashtag, #NoConfederate to protest the show. I feel that these recent turn of events demonstrate one of the key ideas expressed in the Digital Activism podcast. The podcast mentions how social media has really helped for people to voice their own personal experiences when contributing to social justice movements or even protests; in a sense, social media has helped to better convey that idea that the personal is political. Ever since the show’s announcement, people have been taking to twitter and facebook to express personal stories and beliefs about how the show is incredibly triggering to and commodifies the brutalization of black people.
Therefore, we see digital activism in people’s expediency to mobilize and protest through social media.
In the past two weeks, the search for the new leads of the live-action remake of Aladdin have been the subject of a wide array of articles suggesting POC leads of primarily South Asian/Middle Eastern decent and discussions about representation in films. As of yesterday, Disney announced that its new leads will be Mena Massoud, an Egyptian-Canadian actor, as Aladdin; Naomi Scott, an English actress of Indian descent, as Jasmine and Will Smith as the Genie.
I think the sheer number of articles, tweets and social media posts made about the casting demonstrates a key argument from Leo Mirani’s article in the Guardian on the impact of twitter in spreading news and helping political revolutions. With the emergence of social media, in particular Twitter and Facebook, and entertainment reporting sites, such as Buzzfeed and The Hollywood Reporter, the majority of Americans have been privy to casting information from sources close in Hollywood.
When films egregiously cast or are in the process of casting actors that would white wash roles, we (the consumers) can learn about it through twitter and the voice our opinions and specifically @ those involved to let them directly know. For example, when Emma Stone was cast as Allison Ng, a person of Hawaiian and Asian descent, in Aloha (2015) or more recently, when Tilda Swinton was cast as the Ancient One, originally a Tibetan Man in the Marvel Comics, in Doctor Strange (2016). So when several reports suggested that director Guy Ritchie was having difficulty casting for Aladdin, there were several articles and tweets that suggested various actor and actresses that would be perfect for the role. Moreover, as consumers, we have the power to stop white-washed films from profiting. The previously mentioned Aloha as well as Ghost In the Shadow (2016), both tanked heavily at the box office.
Therefore, just as Mirani argues in his article, the ability of social media to inform those who aren’t directly involved can have huge impacts on the course of an ongoing protest or casting in Hollywood.
My chosen topic for this class is minority representation in Hollywood. I decided to pursue this topic because of the proliferation of films, especially in the past couple of years, that have mainly cast cis, heterosexual white actors in roles meant for minorities, especially people of color. I find this particularly disturbing considering the emergence of shows that primarily feature people of color as the main characters.
I have been following several online websites’ twitters such as @Buzzfeed and @HuffPost since I have found that these websites usually tweet a lot about entertainment news and call out media that whitewashes minority roles. Moreover, I also follow @OscarsSoWhite which has been a continuing hashtag which turned into a twitter account to call out the lack of people of color nominated and awarded Oscars for their performances and behind-the-scenes work in Hollywood films. Moreover, I also follow media outlets that primarily report on all things Hollywood such as @VanityFair and @THR (The Hollywood Reporter).
From my searches on twitter, I see that people have mainly been talking about the recent Death Note trailer that released this week. Death Note was an anime series that was recently picked up by Netflix to produce as a film. However, the trailer that was shown featured Nat Wolff, a white American actor, in the lead role. When I searched #whitewashing and #HollywoodSoWhite, most of the users called out Netflix for its blatant whitewashing of a beloved anime series. Many people also compared the Death Note film to Ghost in the Shell, another anime series that was turned into a film with Scarlett Johansson as the lead.
From my time online this week, I have seen the impact of what Manovich described as “web 2.0” in this week’s reading. In the 60’s and 50’s there was definitely blatant whitewashing (films such as Breakfast At Tiffany’s, etc.) and disregard for providing people of color with roles in the film (along with the Civil Rights Movement, etc.) but I feel that with the emergence of social media, our ability as consumers to communicate our disgust has been able to shape the films that are being created. Yes, there are still films that are whitewashing the roles of minorities, but those films have recently been tanking at the box office and I believe that through twitter and the ability to directly call out these companies, we have been able to really use the internet for social communication and change, as described in the readings.
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