If we lived in a world where we could cognitively relate to the commonality of humanity rather than relying on our visual senses to stimulate our empathy, we wouldn’t feel the need to have this upcoming diatribe. Unfortunately, we don’t live in that world.
From contemporary remakes of films like Annie, The Karate Kid, Spider-Man – and the upcoming remakes of The Little Mermaid and James Bond, major characters have been race-bent – or rather changed from white character to people of color – and this has seemed to provoke a few out of their nostalgia.
The common antitheses to race and or gender-bending from white characters to people of color range from; why don’t minorities come up with their own original content? Or more commonly; we want the characters to coincide with our original interpretation – and thus preserving the nostalgia of the source material.
While major white characters being reinterpreted into people of color seems to be more of a permanent mainstay rather than a pandering trend, this is certainly nothing new. Some of the most iconic characters and major protagonists were reimagined from people of color to white heroines – and there certainly wasn’t much uproar.
But let’s not summarily dismiss those who take genuine umbrage with the original films they love being reimagined. Maybe the frustration would be warranted if there were consistent level of angst when minority characters are being race-bent into white characters – which typically doesn’t happen.
In fact, Hollywood never ceased producing movies that didn’t give two-cents about what minority audiences thought, or anyone else for that matter, as long as the box office produced a profit.
And for those who need to be reminded, here are a few films that whitewashed people of color. So if you want to complain about race bending, first and foremost, start with these films.
The political thriller film based on a true story, actor Ben Affleck plays Tony Mendez, a CIA technical operations officer who is of half Mexican descent. Tony Mendez himself said he did not think of himself as Hispanic.
Batman Begins 2005
In the film, actor Liam Neeson plays Ra’s al Ghul who in the Comic books was portrayed as Middle Eastern or East Asian.
A Beautiful Mind 2001
In the biographical film about John Nash, actor Jennifer Connelly plays Alicia Nash, who was born in El Salvador.
Dr. Strage 2016
In the superhero film, actress Tilda Swinton plays the Ancient One, who in the comics is a man from Kamar-Taj, a fictional kingdom in the Himalayas.
Edge of Tomorrow 2014
In the science fiction film, actor Tom Cruise plays William Cage, a version of the novel’s Japanese protagonist Keiji Kiriya.
Star Trek: Into Darkness 2011
In the science fiction film, actor Benedict Cumberbatch plays the villain Khan Noonien Singh, who is of Indian descent. In his previous cinematic and television appearances (Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and “Space Seed“), the character is portrayed by Mexican actor of Ricardo Montalbán.
World Trade Center 2006
In the disaster drama film based on the September 11 attacks, actor William Mapother plays Marine Sergeant Jason Thomas, who in real life is African American.
In the science fiction film, actresses Natalie Portman and Jennifer Jason Leigh, both of whom are Ashkenazi Jewish, play characters who in the novel are, respectively, of Asian and half Native American descent. The characters’ physical descriptions were only mentioned in passing in the second novel, following Annihilation.
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