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Scarlett Johansson, and the old issue of white-washing

Scarlett Johansson, and the old issue of white-washing

Scarlett Johansson, and the old issue of white-washing
August 01
16:49 2019

Box office juggernaut and longtime Avenger Scarlett Johansson recently came under fire for her comments about portraying any person, tree and even animal. Despite previous backlash, and clarifying her statements, Johansson fails to understand that diversity and inclusion is not all about her.

Johansson has been criticized for the roles she accepts before. In 2015, she was cast as the lead in the live action adaption of beloved anime Ghost in the Shell. Many felt an Asian actress should’ve been cast in the roll, being that it’s based on a Japanese mange It was like she was taking a role from a group of people who already have no representation on the big screen.

A little bit over a year ago, she was forced to drop out of a role in the film “Rub & Tug”, in which she would portray a trans man. There are trans actors out there, who could most likely relate to the material, but the middle-aged white cis-woman was cast.

Johansson’s comments recently went further, saying that she should be able to act as anyone or anything on screen.  She attributed her comments by saying that acting goes through trends and the trend now is having political correctness reflected in art.

A major problem with her statement is the inclusion of ‘political correctness’, as if it’s hindering Hollywood in some way, despite research such as the UCLA’s Hollywood Diversity report revealing that audiences do in fact want to see diversity on film.

It seems as though people fail to realize that political correctness, while useless to some people, actually has an effect on the lives of others. Political correctness exists for a reason, and if you have the power to promote that, you should.

Although it’s gotten better with movies like Crazy Rich Asian, Alita: Battle Angel, and Moonlight, having minorities representing themselves on the screen should continue and eventually become the norm.

It should be a given that you cast an Asian woman in the role of an Asian woman, especially if it’s an unrepresented group. Once it becomes normal for that to happen, white-washing controversies won’t be something we have to talk about. It shouldn’t be something that we have to talk about.

An actor pushing their limits and putting themselves in someone else’s shoes shouldn’t come at the expense of someone losing a seat at the table. Instead of having a woman portray a trans person, maybe have a trans person portray a trans person. The trans person can relate to the roll a lot more than a cis woman.

Whoopi Goldberg hit the nail on the head when commenting on the controversy, Johansson does not understand her words, I would even go further and say she does not understand how her words and actions can impact people.

It has really become exhausting to hear something like what Johansson said, it’s also just plain annoying. When looking at how films plagued by this controversy do at the box office, they don’t do well. Ghost in the Shell barely made revenue over its budget, The Great Wall lost the studio $75 million, and Gods of Egypt was a critical failure. Modern audiences are aware of this antiquated form of racism.

Besides fairly obvious reasons, representation is important for those watching in the theaters or at home, a sentiment echoed by Trevor Noah on his late-night show. It’s important to have someone that looks like you and really understands what you’re going through to relate to. Having that person, even if on screen, goes a long way in making a person not feel so alone.

It’s unfortunate that it’s still a problem that has to be addressed considering how far we’ve come with inclusion in film. It’s even more unfortunate that the comments come from Johansson herself. She has been criticized for behavior like this before and she’s a part of the MCU, which produces a series of films which prides themselves on being fun and inclusive.

After years of insistence from both fans and herself, she’s even getting her own solo Black Widow movie. So, while she speaks of political correctness, she would do well to remember that the same political correctness she disagrees with was the same political correctness behind the push for more female representation in solo movies, and rightly so—because inclusive representation is the most correct thing you can do.

Featured Image: Illustration by Austin Banzon

About Author

Octavius Williams

Octavius Williams

Journalism student who loves pop culture, social justice, Anthropology and learning. Very cheesy.

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