I only saw a glimpse of the preview for the upcoming movie The Great Wall, but what I saw I thought was hallucinating a bit. I thought I saw a white dude in what appears to be battle armor in the middle of what looks like a war. Turns out, the guy I saw was Matt Damon, and last time I checked, he was definitely white. And I knew that the title of the film indicated that the setting was in China as that’s where the Great Wall is. When it was revealed that the movie will feature a white male actor playing the lead hero, one thought came across my mental ticker. ‘Here we go again.”
Asian-Americans including famed actress Constance Wu were not amused. The star of the hit ABC comedy Fresh Off the Boat says that she’s sick of Hollywood “whitewashing heroism”. She wrote a lengthy yet poignant letter expressing her frustrations with Hollywood’s continuous obsession with white people saving the world, especially the lives of people of color:
As you can see, Wu pulled no punches. She wasn’t about to hear any bullshit excuses or whitesplaining babble people of color have heard a thousand times. She even went after the tired-old “It’s about money excuse“.
Sadly, we’ve seen this troupe before in past films such as Dangerous Minds, The Help, The Blind Side, Avatar and The Air Up There, to name a few. And we will see more of the same in future films like the casting of Scarlett Johansson as lead protagonist Motoko Kusanagi in Ghost In the Shell – a movie based on the 1995 anime of the same name.
Call me pessimistic, but if the bigwigs of Hollywood haven’t wised up to see that their audiences of color are tired of seeing white people always saving their people from doom or that they’re sick and tired of seeing white actors cast in protagonist roles more suitable, written and intended for people of color, then it’s likely they’ll never get with the program. The push for white supremacy remains strong in the entertainment industry with white saviors as part of the racist propaganda machine. Of course, no one is saying that white people can’t be heroes, but dammit, they ARE NOT the only heroes, in real life or on the big screen.
For the moment, let’s just thank the Heavens and breathe a sigh of relief that they didn’t cast someone like say…Benedict Cumberbatch as the leading role for the 2018 Black Panther movie. (Nothing against Cumberbatch or his acting prowess. It just would not be too far-fetched, given Hollywood’s record, that the thought of having a white actor play a black African superhero would cross their minds.)