In this episode, we discuss the phenomenon of whitewashing in pop culture, in particular highlighting the many instances of whitecasting and yellowface in Hollywood movies. This is not a historical problem, as we can see with recent examples such as Karlie Kloss as a geisha in the latest issue of Vogue (the so-called “Diversity” issue), Scarlett Johansson as Japanese cyborg Motoko Kusanagi in the upcoming Ghost in the Shell movie, and the problematic popularity of La La Land. We unpack what we mean when we talk about terms & topics such as whitewashing, whitecasting, the white savior complex, and yellowface. Finally, we share about how, even though pop culture is often viewed as mindless entertainment by some, it is still a very important and highly influential space, especially for young kids and teenagers. It is during those formative years that we find ourselves — and what does it say about the lives and narratives of non-white individuals when all they see in Hollywood and pop culture are the lives and narratives of white people? Whether we like it or not, what we see often determines how we see ourselves and others, and it is the responsibility of those in pop culture to tell better stories, make better characters, and show the future generation how diverse the world really is — and that their stories matter.
For those interested in learning more about the topic, we’ve provided links to resources as well as other recommended readings.
Yellowface is a bad look in Hollywood — courtesy of Vox
Hollywood Whitewashing: How is this still a thing? — courtesy of Last Week Tonight
2016: Is the Oscars Racist? — breaking down the 2016 #OscarsSoWhite controversy
Karlie Kloss as a Geisha — Vogue’s epic fail in understanding diversity
Scarlett Johansson as Motoko Kusanagi — a recent example of yellowface
Tilda Swinton as the Ancient One — her defense of her decision is “textbook white feminism,” which can also be whitewashing
“We have to stop perpetuating the racist myth that [only a] white man can save the world” — woke Asian-American actor Constance Wu calling out the white savior complex in Hollywood
2017: is the Oscars diverse? — a commendable response from the Academy following the #OscarsSoWhite Controversy