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Whitewashing refers to the practice of casting White actors in historically non-White character roles in television and film.
According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, the term "whitewash" was originally coined in the late 1500s to describe the process of washing a surface with a white liquid. The entry lists the earliest figurative use of the term in 1762 as "to cover up, conceal" or "give a false appearance of cleanness." The first examples of whitewashing in film are often cited as the blackface and yellowface caricatures of Black and Asian minorities portrayed by White actors in Hollywood films throughout the 1930s.
On March 29th, 2006, Urban Dictionary user Ten10am submitted an entry for "white wash," defining the term as description of a non-white person who is perceived as "neglecting their culture and assimilating to a white, western culture." On January 2nd, 2009, the CommentaryTheMusical YouTube channel uploaded a song titled "Nobody's Asian in the Movies" (shown below).
On October 6th, 2015, the BBC published an article titled "When White Actors Play Other Races," which explored possible causes of the continued prevalence of whitewashing in Hollywood. On February 23rd, 2016, the television show Last Week Tonight with John Oliver aired a segment on whitewashing in Hollywood films (shown below, left). On April 24th, YouTuber That Japanese Man Yuta uploaded a video in which he asks Japanese people what they think of White actors portraying Japanese fictional characters (shown below, right). On April 28th, the photoshop meme #StarringJohnCho was launched in protest of whitewashing and promoting the casting of Asian and Asian-American actors in film.
The Last Airbender Casting
In December 2008, Entertainment Weekly released the list of the cast members for the 2010 film adaptation of Nickelodeon's animated TV series Avatar: The Last Airbender, which drew much ire from the fans of the show for casting white actors in the leading roles that were of East Asian and Inuit descent in canon. The backlash led to the coinage of the satirical term "racebending,", playing off on the Avatar characters' ability to manipulate, "or "bend," the classical elements of water, earth, fire, and air.
Dragonball Evolution Casting
In April 2009, Dragonball Evolution, the live-action film adaptation of Akira Toriyama's Japanese manga and anime series Dragon Ball, premiered in North America. In the months leading up to its box office release, many fans of the series criticized the casting of Caucasian actor Justin Chatwin for the leading protagonist role of Goku, who is assumed to be of Japanese descent in canon, as random and untrue to the spirit of the original work.
Ghost in the Shell Casting
In January 2015, the casting of Scarlett Johansson as the lead role in the 2017 live-action film adaptation of the Japanese manga Ghost in the Shell was met with accusations of whitewashing. On April 14th, the first photograph of Johansson portrayal of the film’s protagonist was released online (shown below).
That day, actress Ming-Na Wen tweeted she was "against this whitewashing of Asian role," gaining over 13,800 likes and 12,700 retweets in the following month (shown below). On April 15th, the blog ScreenCrush reported that various sources involved in the film claimed that the studio had "commissioned visual effects tests" in post-production to make Johansson appear more Asian.
Steven Universe Whitewashing
On August 27th, 2015, a thread was submitted to 4chan which called for viewers to "make Tumblr explode" by digitally altering fan art of Steven Universe characters to "make everybody white" (shown below).
On September 3rd, Imgur user FLCrox posted a collection of whitewashed Steven Universe characters along with angry Tumblr reactions (shown below). On May 11th, 2016, Redditor ManPlan78 submitted the image gallery to /r/TumblrInAction, which gained over 6,900 votes *88% upvoted) and 1,700 comments in the next 24 hours.
Great Wall Casting
On July 29th, 2016, Twitter user Constance Wu published a post criticizing the casting of Matt Damon in the Chinese-produced film The Great Wall, arguing that it perpetuated stereotypes that heroes are played by white men (shown below). On August 30th, Indiewire published an article noting that Damon's casting was not controversial in China, where the film was being produced.
On February 10th, 2017, Redditor Nanowith submitted a post questioning "who do people care so much about Matt Damon being in The Great Wall?" to /r/OutOfTheLoop, where it received more than 5,400 votes (86% upvoted) and 1,500 comments within 24 hours. In the comments section, many speculated that the backlash to Damon's casting was an example of virtue signalling.
 Reddit – 4chan trolls Steven Universe Tumblr fans
 Urban Dictionary – white wash
 BBC – When white actors play other races
 Online Etymology Dictionary – whitewash
 ScreenCrush – Ghost in the Shell Producers Reportedly Tested Visual Effects That Would Make White Actors Appear Asian
 Indiewire – The Great Wall – Why Matt Damon Whitewashing is no big deal in China
 Reddit – "Why do people care so much about Matt Damon being in The Great Wall? ":https://www.reddit.com/r/OutOfTheLoop/comments/5t703i/why_do_people_care_so_much_about_matt_damon_being/
May 12, 2016 at 01:36PM EDT
Feb 11, 2017 at 12:21PM EST
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