By Rayiah R
When it comes to films, Hollywood seems to change characters based on the audience’s views. Some of their changes you may not have noticed and others completely stand out. Here are a list of characters Hollywood cast as a different race than the written character:
The Hunger Games (2012)
In the book, The Hunger Games written by Suzanne Collins, the protagonist Katniss Everdeen was described by Collins as having “straight black hair, olive skin and grey eyes.” Many readers interpreted her as an African American, Hispanic, Native American, Indian, and even Greek… Everything other than Caucasian. In the movie, Katniss Everdeen played by Jennifer Lawrence, is a naturally blonde haired, blue eyed actress who has an ethnic background of English, German, Irish, Scottish, remote French. Interestingly enough, there was not a major outrage by readers. Many fans overlooked the fact in the book or interpreted her appearance differently.
The Fantastic Four (2015)
The most recent Fantastic Four reboot was released in 2015, remaking the original 2005 film. In past movies, the character known as The Human Torch was played by Chris Evans, mostly known for his role as Captain America. More recently, The Human Torch was casted as African American, Michael B Jordan. Many viewers were angered because the original comic book franchise described The Human Torch to have blonde hair and blue eyes. Jordan responded to the complaints in a French interview by saying, “People don’t like change too much. But annoyed? Eh, you just kinda accept it, it is what it is. You can’t make everybody happy. You just gotta accept that and know.”
The 2015 film Aloha, based off of a true story about a military contractor on a mission to rekindle old flames with his now married ex-girlfriend, casted Emma Stone as the main character. Stone, a white actress, portrayed a Hawaiian character from Asian descent known as Ng. Director Cameron Crowe’s decision sparked a public outcry from critics who thought he was whitewashing the Hawaiian islands.
The Lone Ranger (2013)
In this film, Johnny Depp plays Native American sidekick named Tonto. Depp, who is not of Native American descent, was mostly used in the film because of his popularity. With a major casting of tons of notable faces, Johnny Depp’s appearance was sure to catch viewers’ attention;but after the release of the movie, viewers all over the world would rant about Johnny Depp and his “red and painted face.” Many viewers found it offensive that Johnny Depp even took the role in the first place and because of that (among numerous other reasons), critics gave this movie a bad review.
A Mighty Heart (2007)
Angelina Jolie is one of the most popular, highly paid actresses of our current time, but when she took the role of a woman of Cuban and African ancestry viewers of A Mighty Heart were angered. In the 2007 film based off of a true story about a woman named Mariane Pearl, Angelina Jolie got a spray tan and put on a wig hoping to successfully play the woman’s part. While Jolie is an amazing actress, her representation was seen as disrespectful to Mariane Pearl herself.
West Side Story (1961)
When a main focus of a film has to do with ethnicity, you would assume the casting would back up their statement, but not with the 1961 film West Side Story. Directors Jerome Robbins and Robert Wise dropped the ball by casting Natalie Wood to play Puerto Rican female lead, Maria. Though Wood does possess dark features, she is not of Puerto Rican descent at all.
Breakfast At Tiffany’s (1961)
In the 1961 movie Breakfast At Tiffany’s, Mickey Rooney was cast as Mr. Yunioshi, a Japanese man who lives right next door to Tiffany’s house. Rooney, a white actor, donned yellow face and two buck teeth to play the part of Mr. Yunioshi. While this character was only in the film for comic relief, this portrayal and character was downright cringe worthy, and one that numerous critics balk at to this day.
It’s hard to believe director Stuart Burge cast English actor Laurence Olivier as Othello, a man of color. To play Othello in this film, Olivier donned blackface, which many believed “is highly insensitive to the importance of black identity,” said TopTenz Entertainment. Although receiving numerous Academy Awards, Othello did not please many big name critics like The New York Times.
Prince Of Persia (2010)
In the film Prince of Persia, white actor Jake Gyllenhaal, mostly known for his appearance in Southpaw and The Day After Tomorrow, was cast as the titular character. Persia is in the Middle East, and although Gyllenhaal does have darker features, they are not comparable to that of someone of actual Middle Eastern heritage. Many found his casting highly insensitive to the importance of black identity. Blogger Jehanzeb Dar commented on the movie by saying, “It’s not only insulting to Persians, it’s also insulting to white people. It’s saying white people can’t enjoy movies unless the protagonist is white.” Along with angry movie critics, the movie only got 1/3rd of box office profit, compared to their $185 million budget put into the film.
Spider-Man Homecoming (2017)
In the upcoming film Spider-Man Homecoming, Disney star Zendaya Coleman will be playing Peter Parker’s love interest Michelle, very similar to Mary Jane. Many comic book fans are outraged by the fact the Zendaya –who is African American– is playing a Caucasian, red-headed lead. Twitter user @chloee_metton went on to say, “I don’t think changing the ethnicity, gender, or personality of an iconic character is a good idea. Create new characters.” Stan Lee, the creator of Spider-Man commented in the midst of all of this chaos by saying the important words of, “If she is as good an actress as I hear she is, I think it’ll be absolutely wonderful . . . The color of their skin doesn’t matter, their religion doesn’t matter. All that matters is that this the right person for the role.”
Miscasting of race and gender is very common in Hollywood, and just one offended viewer can affect how the film is viewed overall. Some changes can be looked over and seen as a minor problem, and others are seen as very offensive and racist; it’s all a matter of opinion. What movie do you think Hollywood changed the most?