Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Getting RAWW! (Waw)

Today, I'm going to be black.

Having grown up on an island where 95% of people are black, I have always been just me. I wasn't defined as a black female (women are also in the majority), but by other factors. So it's not often that I come on strong in race, minority, discrimination discussions.

Did you notice the brand new sticker on the right of my page? RAWW- Readers against Whitewashing. What's whitewashing? It's where a person of a different ethnicity is portrayed as white. It happened a few times with novel covers, where the cover portrayed a white person, even though the character had been described as dark or black. The two covers at the top of this post were both for the book Liar. The one of the right was only removed after protests by the author and the public.

Now the phenomenon is becoming more prevalent in the movies. Remember Goku in Dragonball Evolution? Or long before that, Tom Cruise, the Last (white) Samurai!

I watched Tropic Thunder over the weekend, and they jokingly had Robert Dinero play a black man. It was funny. It was supposed to be. It was a spoof. But what I didn't think about is that spoofs are always based on something. While it's not often that a black character is played by a white person outside of comedy (I can only think of Worf from Star Trek) this happens to East Asians, Southeast Asians and Native Americans all the time.

The latest culprit: Avatar. Coming to the big screen as The Last Airbender, Chinese/Taiwanese/Tibetan/Bhuddist Aang and Inuit/Eskimo/Native American Katara and Sokka have been whitewashed. (Sokka is played by Twilight's Jasper- Jackson Rathborne.) In a random twist, Japanese Zuko is played by Dev Patel (from Slumdog Millionaire) of East Indian descent. "Hmmm, let's at least throw a minority in there, it should make everybody happy!" Or not!

What's really going on here? Non-whites are good enough for the pages of books, but not for the covers?? They're good enough for animated series, but not live action features??

Is that really what the Entertainment industry is saying? Black people should stick to rap and R and B, East Asians should stick to animation and restaurants, and East Indians should go to Bollywood or drive cabs?? (Forgive me Native Americans, I haven't forgotten you. I just can't think of a nice stereotypical thing the media moguls might want you to do.)

Whether or not that's what they mean to say, that's the message that's coming across. And what can we do about it? It's not so easy to just boycott. Is it the actor's or author's fault when the bigwigs pull these stunts? But they will suffer alongside them from a boycott.

I'm really at a loss as how to proceed, but I can only hope the recent outcries will make the industry pro's sit up and take notice. And next time the geishas, shamans, medicine men won't be the wrong colour.

1 comment:

Neil Alvin said...

I wasn't aware of the term white washing before this article but I did notice the sticker on the right side before I read this article, that's what I call effective marketing lolol, good read.