Hollywood's White Summer: Where's the Diversity?

Hollywood's White Summer: Where's the Diversity?

Starring roles for anyone who isn't white dry up while “Persia,” “Airbender” make controversial casting choices

The forecast is for a white summer — at least at the movies.

With the notable exception of "Karate Kid," headlined by Jaden Smith and Jackie Chan, most of the big-budget films hitting over the next few months star Caucasian actors.

Russell Crowe, Tom Cruise, Julia Roberts and Leonardo DiCaprio will all trot out new offerings. Their minority counterparts like Denzel Washington and Will Smith?

Missing.

Ironically, the lack of diversity seems to have gone unnoticed amid the uproar over the casting of "The Prince of Persia" and "The Last Airbender," which cast white actors in roles where the source material featured characters of a different ethnicity.

"It seems out of step with where we are as a culture," Craig Detweiler, professor of film history at Pepperdine University, told TheWrap. "We have the first African American president, and yet there are a shortage of African American, Asian and Latino stars. For all Hollywood's progressive politics, its casting decisions look remarkably retrograde."

Though tentpole season has rarely brought with it a rainbow coalition of actors, this season is looking particularly monochromatic.

In the past, non-white actors such as Eddie Murphy, Chris Tucker and Jennifer Lopez have appeared above the credits on major releases. This year is noticeably lacking in a "Rush Hour," "Nutty Professor" — or even a dead-in-the water thriller like Washington's "The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3" to make the constellation of summer movie stars more diverse.

Instead, actors of color have been relegated to supporting roles or starring parts in a handful of low-budget films such as "Just Wright" that are targeted at non-white audiences.

True, Hollywood did come through with some strong supporting roles for actors of color this summer.

"Iron Man 2" features Samuel L. Jackson and Don Cheadle as superheroes, "Grown Ups" has Chris Rock as one of five immature protagonists, Murphy is back as the voice of the fun-loving donkey in "Shrek Forever After" and Ken Watanabe plays a mysterious operator in "Inception."

They are complementary pieces in the film, but theirs is not the big name above the title.

"These are expensive movies, and there is a sense that a Caucasian suburban audience won't cross over to see a film with black actors," Chad Hartigan, a box office analyst with Exhibitor Relations, told TheWrap. "But it won't be as hard to get minorities to see ‘Iron Man 2.'"

But the dearth of films with African American, Asian or Latino leads isn't just a case of institutional racism. It's also about a growing lack of bankable actors of color. Smith is irrefutably one of the biggest stars in the world, but other non-white stars have a spottier record at the box office of late, Hartigan said.

Washington's films consistently gross around $90 million domestically — but that's been standard for the past decade, during which time ticket prices have increased. That means his audience is actually shrinking.

Beyond Washington, the record is checkered. Halle Berry struck out in her tentpole bid with "Catwoman," Tucker failed to capitalize on his "Rush Hour" popularity by making other films, his co-star Chan has had a difficult time in non-franchise fare such as "Around the World in 80 Days" and Jamie Foxx's audience-pleasing attempts with "Miami Vice" and "The Kingdom" have hardly been bleachers-clearing hits.

There are a number of talented up-and-coming actors such as Anthony Mackie and Michael Pena, but they have steered toward independent fare. Even if they were interested in more commercial material, analysts say studios are making fewer of the  midbudget films such as "New Jack City" or "Money Talks" that allowed the likes of Wesley Snipes and Tucker to connect with audiences.

Aggravating the problem, at least for this summer, is the casting of white actors in roles intended for minorities. In particular, M. Night Shyamalan's "The Last Airbender" — based on a popular Nickelodeon series about a group of Inuit and Asian martial artists — has drawn a lot of fire.

For the movie version, many of the key parts were re-imagined with white actors such as "Twilight's" Jackson Rathbone and young newbie Noah Ringer.

Paramount argues that "Slumdog Millionaire" star Dev Patel is one of the leads and Asian actors have been cast in secondary roles. Further, the studio says "more than half" of the film's 23 credited speaking roles are filled with "Asian and Pan Asian actors of Korean, Japanese and Indian decent.

"Night's vision of ‘The Last Airbender’ includes a large and ethnically diverse cast that represents cultures from around the world," a Paramount spokesperson told TheWrap. "The filmmaker's interpretation reflects the myriad qualities that have made this series a global phenomenon."

That's not good enough for some. Critic Roger Ebert has called out the studio for its choices and a group, Racebending.com, has formed to boycott the film, attracting an estimated 6,000 supporters.

"M. Night Shyamalan has said that this is the most diverse tentpole film ever. Only having people of color populating the background is not a huge step forward," Michael Le, a spokesperson for Racebending, told TheWrap. "It's hard to judge the intention behind casting, but if they needed to cast a Caucasian to make a film bankable, then that's a sad point of view."

Then there's the casting of Jake Gyllenhaal as Iranian royalty — with an English accent to boot — and surrounding him with a cast of non-Persian actors such as Gemma Arterton and Alfred Molina.

Reza Aslan, chief creative officer of BoomGen, a consulting firm hired by Disney to help with outreach to Muslim communities, notes that the studio did a lot to stay true to Persian history and portrays its Persian characters in a heroic light, in sharp contrast to recent Hollywood blockbusters such as "300." He adds that the production employed Middle Eastern workers both on and off the screen.

"Look, this is a $200 million summer blockbuster; Iranians are not stupid," Aslan told TheWrap. "They know that they're not going to cast an unknown Iranian actor in a Bruckheimer summer spectacle."

"What this will do is throw down the gauntlet and you'll see a blossoming of films about the Middle East with Middle Eastern actors," Aslan added. "If Disney, one of the biggest brands in the world, isn't afraid of the subject, than others won't be afraid to tackle these themes."

So what's an actor of color to do, if he or she can't edge his way onto a major role on the big screen?

More and more of them are finding warmer waters on television.

Witness the multicultural cast of "Lost" or the decision by Forest Whitaker to return to the small screen in a "Criminal Minds" spinoff just a few years after his Oscar win.

"Television is taking a risk on black actors in a way that film isn't," said an African American screenwriter who declined to be named because she feared it could jeopardize her relationships with studios. "In Hollywood it's ‘show me the money,’ and there's a perception that films with minorities don't make money. It's too hard to make a living in features these days."

  • Hethanangel

    I find this type of rhetoric etremely dull, offensive and antiquated. People write what they write, directors cast actors that embody what they envision for the piece, producers and studios back them because they think they can make a buck–or they decline because they don't.

    If artists of color want more exposure, then they should get in the game: Produce more films about their own visions, invest in the production end of the business, audition for more roles….

    Get over the rhetoric and get in the game, because SURPRISE! ‘White folks’ like to see ‘Black’ actors do what they do (When they dio it well) too!!!

    Arrrrrgh >:(

  • JimmyJones

    Exactly Hethangel. Maybe they cast the best actor based on skill and name recognition that was available.

    Maybe Denzel and Will didn't feel like making movies that would be scheduled to hit this summer. They have more money then god and can work when they want. Wouldn't that sound more reasonable then some big white-man-keeping-the-black-man-down conspiracy theory? For a brief second in time before moving on with my life, I truly feel sorry for people who just go around looking for racism everywhere. I am equal parts offended too because it only devalues existing cases of legitimate racism.

    what a waste of an article.

  • Deaconblue

    I really enjoyed watching the Last Airbender. I enjoyed the portrayal of the different Asian Tribes apparently so did many others. Everyone knew and could see that these characters were drawn as Asians. I am not Asian, but I am very disappointed that they are changing to White Actors and basically small scale White Actors. People expected to see Asians here, it is part of the story with the calligraphy and kung fu fighting styles. This is what people are complaining about. Why is it you can exchange a white for an Asian, but you never have an Asian, Black or Latino portraying George Washington. That could never happen, but you can have a White to portray a famous minority character. There's something wrong, just admit it.

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  • Well GFTSR Says . . .

    If you are a person of color (i.e. non-white) and you have applied for a job in Hollywood and were denied employment

    (and you have good reason to believe you were not hired because of ethnicity)

    Within 90 Days of being denied employment, you MUST file COMPLAINTS against the employer who you feel discriminated against you with the following agencies.

    Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
    http://www.eeoc.gov/

    National Association for the Advancement of Colored People
    http://www.naacp.org/home/index.htm

    At least with the EEOC any claim you file will be investigated.

    If HOLLYWOOD is routinely unlawfully discriminating against American Citizens and the Citizens File Claims (as they ought), the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission will be able to recognize a pattern of discrimination occurring and file Class Action Law-suits on behalf of the Federal Government against HOLLYWOOD-based businesses.

    All persons of color can file complaints: Asian, Black, Latino, etc.

    Now celebrating over 46,000 VISITORS worldwide!!!!!
    http://www.rottentomatoes.com/member/gordonfranklinterrysr

    Thank you (in advance) for visiting

  • Scytherius

    I swear I never, ever think about the person's race when I see a movie. I am white, if I go to see a movie and the lead, or most, or all of the characters are black (think a Tyler Perry movie) I just never, ever think, “oh gee, look at all the black people”.

    They could have an entire summer, an entire year, of nothing but African-America, Asian and Eskimo actors and I'll I give a damn about is, “was the movie good?”

    The only time I “notice” is when it is pointed out in some article. It's like this silly bullshit in sports, “and he's only the 4th African American quarterback to reach the Super Bowl”. I don't give a damn if he's blue, I just want my team to win.

    To make my point clear … I DO NOT CARE about the race of the actors. Just tell me a great story.

    Sometimes the press infers, or outright tells us, that we should, or do, think a certain way. Well, when it comes to this issue, it is dead wrong. Never in my life has this issue come up in conversation. It only shows up in news articles, reports, and the occasional bulletin board troll.

    So can we PLEASE stop trying to create racist issues? You wanna talk about racism, I bet you won't have to look too damn far to find it.

  • tallulahbankhead

    If you aren't white, it's kinda hard to go to the movies and be fully engaged. A friend said to me that ‘Movies are supposed to be a suspension of reality.’

    And I thought, yeah but if I suspend reality for 2-3 hours, I don't exist, but my white counterparts still do.

    That's dull.

    I enjoy the films of Nicole Holofcener even though the casts are mostly Caucasian because her stories feature characters struggling with challenges that speak to my life and experiences.

    Most other movies don't have that incisive insight into humanity that make me forget people's race.

    Also I think a big part of having all white casts in movies is the belief that most white Americans live very homogenized professional and personal lives that don't ever intersect with someone who doesn't look like them. They might transcend class lines but everyone is still white.

    And if that's the case, you can't expect film execs to change this perception anytime soon.

    They just don't have it in them.

  • tallulahbankhead

    @Scytherius…

    That's the point — you have the freedom to never think about the race of characters in movies because being white is still considered the norm.

    There's nothing wrong with that but you must know it.

  • ugh

    First of all, nobody is taking into account current events which still say that people of color (I hate the word “minorities” because it's about to be inaccurate) still earn less than whites and this is a case study that's proven. There was also just a study proving that children of color still prefer white dolls over their own skin tone. This isn't by accident. I don't like to label everything “race” but sometimes it's so embedded in the subconscious that people don't even know their own prejudice. I would love to know how many white people saw Tyler Perry movies (I'm just not a fan but he's got a following). To the person who said people of color should just make their own movies, well, it's being done. But since those movies are considered “bankable”, you're not going to see them anytime soon. Live in reality and not your crazy Benetton ad bubble, dude.

  • angriestplanet

    Really. This is a non-issue. It's just a scheduling coincidence. Soon there'll be a summer with Big Momma's House 5(or whichever) and a BAD BOYS 3. And didn't they just announce MIB 3? There are plenty of black stars. But like their white counterparts, they don't always open a movie. There are few who do and race is pretty much never a factor. In fact the only actor who is considered a sure thing these days is a black man…Will Smith. Trust me, if Will Smith would do five tentpoles in a year, they would all be scheduled in the summer or at Christmas and we wouldn't have to read stupid articles like this crying wolf about racism.

    Real Racism is out there and I'm sure its in Hollywood as well. But the problem is more actually prejudice as opposed to actual racism. People who make decisions have hard times seeing outside the box because of they only know what has come before. If there are more stars of mixed ethnicity (like Harold and Kumar) who end up in big hits, trust me, you'll see their name above the title. I would hope you all don't need me to tell you the only color Hollywood cares about is GREEN.

  • Hehtanangel

    @Tallulahbankhead:

    Au g'valt!!! How is being ‘White,’ the Norm?!

    Being ‘White,’ is the ONLY ethnicity left in the world that it is acceptable to openly imply should be ashamed of the simle fact that they were ever even born–that doesn't seem too normal to me!

    This very article is exeplary of what I'm saying–would you see anyone print an article exclaiming racism if we had a season of film that was largely ‘Black,’ ‘Asian,’ or some other culture?

    Being ‘White,’ is the ONLY ethnicity left in the world that it is OK to publicly call a ‘Cracker,’ or a ‘Honkey,’ or any other derogatory term in the slight of casual conversation–that doesn't seem very ‘Normal,’ to me.

    Being ‘White,’ is the ONLY ethnicity left in the world that it is OK for famous comedians to demean in live and televised shows, concerts, and other venues–that doesn't seem very ‘Normal,’ to me.

    Being ‘White,’ is the ONLY ethnicity left that it is OK for even the government to discriminate against by not offering certain assistance to because ‘White’ folks are not members of any minority group and therefore don't qualify (Even though there are per capita more ‘White,’ homeless people than any other ethnic group) which does not seem very ‘Normal,’ to me.

    Being ‘White,’ is the ONLY ethnicity left that it is OK to say that EVERYONE OF THEM is bad because of something a HANDFUL of people did over 40 years ago which MOST ‘White,’ people had nothing to do with in the first place–that doesn't seem very ‘Normal,’ to me.

    —->But back to the topic of this particular article:
    How on earth is it racist, discriminitory or otherwise holding someone else back for a ‘White,’ person to produce a film in the manner in which he envisions–displaying his own ARTISTIC TALENTS for people who WANT to buy tickets and see it; when the fact remains undisputed that there are NUMEROUS ‘Black,’ writers, directors, producers and investors who have every bit of the SAME (And at times more because of the fact) opportunities to factualize their visions as well?!!!

    Pieces like ‘The Color Purple,’ and other shows that had all ‘Black,’ casts went bloody well VIRAL because even those damned ‘White’ racists loved them so much too.

    If you want more ‘Black’ congressmen–quit blaming the ‘White’ establishment and have more ‘Black’ congressmen run for office; if you want more ‘Black’ chefs, quit blaming the ‘White’ cullinary society and have more cooks go to schools of the cullinary arts (And don't give me any crap about funding and finance because there are pell grants and government guaranteed Stafford and Perkins loans [Which I happen to be using at the moment myself] as well as private bank loans available if you want to improve your education in ANY field of endeavor–even if you aren't one of the ‘Rich White folk.')

    If you don't think the ‘White’ man is hiring enough engineers–then by golly, here's a thought–Why don't YOU open up an engineering firm YOURSELF and hire as many ‘Black’ engineers as you want to hire?!!! (Again, minority business loans are available for those who quit complaining and blaming–those who TRY).

    I am sitting in the college library right now. I look around and amazingly I notice that of all those in here, I am one of 2 ‘White’ folks. So am I still in the ‘Norm,’ in this moment? The librarian is ‘Black,’ the students are ‘Black,’ and even the girl working in the cafeteria is ‘Black.’ I'm just curious how that makes me part of the ‘Dominant Culture?’

    —>And lastly–that accusation about “How many ‘Blacks,’ do you hang out with?”

    2 Part Answer: 1)Anyone who wants to wear clothes that fit them properly and 2)Isn't obsessed with blaming me and criticizing me for something that I had absolutely NOTHING to do with and can NOT go back and change one single moment of regardless.

    But please do pardon me if I prefer NOT to hang out with people who are going to tell me how rotten and horrible I am when I have done NOTHING to ANYONE or to listen to the tired rhetoric of what the ‘White man’ did to someone's ancestors.

    Society has done horrible things to my people through-out history as well–but I have German friends, Egyptian friends, Asian friends, Black friends, Panamanian friends, Palestinian friends, Jordinian friends, Lebanese friends and yes, I even hang out with those damned undefined ‘White folks’ too.

    >:( !!!

  • tallulahbankhead

    @Hehtanangel:

    Okay being white isn't the norm. Every strata of American society from media, politics, academia, justice system, etc is controlled predominantly by non-whites.

    All white Americans – whether they are ethnic (for example, Italian, Jewish, Irish) or WASP– live lives that are not homogenized in anyway. They have found common interests with people who may not look like them and thrive.

    Every single film released for the last 50 years has reflected the diversity of humanity in ways that dignify us all.

    Everything is as you say it is because you say it to be true.

    Thanks for playing.

  • Guy

    This article has been written a hundred times… people that live in LA or NYC need to remember that 80% of Americans are white. Add it up and you will see that content is diversified accordingly.

  • Jerome

    Wow Hehtanangel! That's great, too bad you can't substitute your reality with the real world huh?

  • Aaronical9

    Thanks for writing this article – The Wrap is one of the few publications that address this ongoing issue, and at least starts a conversation…even if everyone doesn't agree.

  • Sparky MacGruber

    Obama's fault.

    (Someone had to say it)

  • Avi Chevets

    Hey tallulahbankhead, do you actually believe that BS you just spouted? Feel guilty at being a white liberal much?

  • acharris

    I would just like to say, thank you for posting this article.

    And I would like to tell everyone reading this with more than two brain cells to rub together: you see all the hatefail down there? The ones going ‘oh boo hoo just bringing up the subject of race oppresses me! You're just jealous because you colored people don't work hard enough! Stop taking the fun out of movies by making me think about things that make me uncomfortable!’ Yeah, them.

    I am grateful to any and every higher power that may exist that they do not speak for, nor represent, the majority of white people. Certainly they do not speak for me.

    To hell with “colorblind”. Show me the color. Show me all of it. Not just the ones that look like me.

  • http://www.racebending.com Marissa Lee

    I was thrilled to see this issue called out on the front page of TheWrap. 8 out of 10 movies in Hollywood star a white actor and 7 out of 10 star a male actor. Hollywood isn't an equal opportunity employer and I wish more people would acknowledge that. I understand the “artistic vision” but it's disappointing that the artistic vision is so biased that it has manifested in institutional discrimination.

  • Rubi-kun

    RE Hethangel: “If artists of color want more exposure, then they should get in the game: Produce more films about their own visions, invest in the production end of the business, audition for more roles….”

    But with The Last Airbender, at least, the casting sheets specified they preferred Caucasian actors for the roles. They let everyone audition, but the casting agency made it clear they were mainly looking for white people for the roles. So it really is a Catch 22 to some extent.

    RE Angriestplanet: “If there are more stars of mixed ethnicity (like Harold and Kumar) who end up in big hits, trust me, you'll see their name above the title. I would hope you all don't need me to tell you the only color Hollywood cares about is GREEN.”

    I'm not so sure. Remember the movie Bend It Like Beckham? That was an indie film that made money. Hollywood took notice. But who got the big starring roles in Hollywood movies afterward? Parminder Nagra, the Indian lead actress, or Keira Knightley, the white supporting actress? The white girl, of course!

    RE Guy: “This article has been written a hundred times… people that live in LA or NYC need to remember that 80% of Americans are white. Add it up and you will see that content is diversified accordingly.”

    So, by that logic, somewhere 1 in 5 American films should have non-white leading actors. Can you even name 5 films coming out this year with non-white leading actors?

  • Rubi-kun

    *somewhere around 1 in 5

  • www,majoractor.com

    Hollywood need more Minority actors?

    http://www.majoractor.com

    thanks I'm waiting…

  • http://skemono.blogspot.com/ Skemono

    Brilliant article.

  • Guest

    When is that big hollywood fundraiser for the victims of the oil spill (that Obama ignored until a few hours ago)? Wha? Oh, nevermind… They don't want to draw attention to Obama's incompetance…

  • Guy

    @jedifreac

    “8 out of 10 movies in Hollywood star a white actor and 7 out of 10 star a male actor”

    8 out of 10, that's 80%. Well, 80% of the US population is white so that's pretty fair right? As for the sexism, that's a whole other subject.

    Get out of your bubble – movies are marketed to the entire country… which is mostly white whether you like it or not.

  • flame away

    This article seems facile and under-researched, so it's no surprise that it's generated the same tired comments on both sides of the debate. Oh well, here are some more:

    Much has been made if AIRBENDER and PRINCE OF PERSIA, but where does the racist line get drawn? Aang appears to be Chinese in the cartoon, so he can only be played by a Chinese actor, then? Not Thai, Korean, etc… His friends can only be played by Inuit actors? That'll be a short casting line. And Dev Patel is playing a character who is Japanese in the show. Is that okay simply because Patel is non-white?

    Similarly, must PRINCE OF PERSIA have an Iranian star? To suggest that the only non-racist qualification is not to be white is absurd. And as the executive notes, they're not going to build a $200 million film around an unknown.

    Do you really think Jake Gyllenhaal was at the top of that casting sheet? The most bankable star in the world right now (regardless of racial qualifications) is Will Smith. They'd have been over the moon to have him play their “Persian” prince. Would the uproar be the same?

    The likes of Wesley Snipes, Chris Tucker, and Martin Lawrence can't open a movie anymore. Jackie Chan and Jet Li have only ever had marginal appeal stateside and Chan is, frankly, over the hill. But do you know who else can't open a movie? 90% of white actors. Keep some sense of proportion in mind with all of this.

    The point about scheduling in the comments is a valid one. If you want to pick and choose your moments, you can prove any trend. But Denzel Washington JUST starred in an action vehicle this year, THE BOOK OF ELI. And Smith has MIB 3 in the works and is putting a lot of focus on producing. Jaden stars in THE KARATE KID. Zoe Saldana was the romantic lead in the biggest movie in history. Because she was blue onscreen, it doesn't count? She's still a successful black actress who's on a track to marquee billing (and already part of the ensemble of the new STAR TREK franchise).

    The lesson is that if a star of any color can deliver the box office, they get to make movies. It's that simple. The white man isn't trying to keep people down; he just wants to get paid.

    Also, to the commentator who invoked “logic” to assert that an 80% white population means that 1 in 5 films should therefore have a minority star is engaged in a fallacy. Because 5 out of 5 films will want to appeal to the largest possible demographic. You don't spend $100-$200 on a movie and aim it at 20% of the market. Not if you want to stay in business.

    You can make small movies for that market and some do. Tyler Perry has made a fortune doing just that. Is he a racist because of the disproportionate number of black roles in his films? Of course not. DEATH AT A FUNERAL was just remade with a black cast. Where are the complaints that that's offensive because those characters are “meant to be” white and British? There aren't any because it would be absurd.

    This medium is a commodity. And your aim is to sell to your market. It ain't rocket science. And it's not a vast racist conspiracy.

  • Jay

    Thank you, Mr. Lang, for writing this article.

    When Paramount says that half of the major speaking roles in The Last Airbender are of actors of color, they're secondary characters and characters from the Fire Nation, the antagonist nation in the series. And surprise! The four major characters from that nation who have speaking roles are dark skinned actors. Let's not forget the fact that Zuko, the prince of the Fire Nation originally had Jesse McCartney slated to play him, a white actor.

    The movie will be Avatar: The Last Airbender in name only since it totally disregards the hard work that the creators (white themselves so yes, white people are capable of making respectful stories based off of non Euro-American cultures) and the hundreds of people who researched the various Asian and Inuit cultures, except to exoticize these cultures by having white actors play many of the heroic characters. Seeing the television spots and trailers, it will not have the humor that made the series appeal to several generations. It will all be ~*~DARKER AND EDGIER~*~ and ~*~SRS BZNS~*~ just because Shyamalan and Paramount don't get the point of the series and are making it into some generic fantasy, which will hopefully bomb so they can't mess with the other two seasons.

    I hope someone will remake the movies and does it right, with the proper understanding and respect that should be given to the source material.

  • http://www.racebending.com Marissa Lee

    Wanted to correct some misconceptions made by a poster below.

    66% of the United States population–not 80%–is non-Hispanic white. According to Nielson, moviegoers are disproportionately young relative to the U.S. population, and the younger US population actually has a higher percentage of non whites.

    The MPAA's most recent theatrical marketing study found that 2 out of 5 movie tickets are sold to non-Caucasians.

    tl;dr People of color buy 40% of movie tickets, and they deserve to be represented, too. And I would like to hope that the 66% of the US population that is white isn't so prejudiced or hard to market to, that Hollywood can't figure out how to market actors of color to them.

    http://moviecitynews.com/voices/images/2010/MPAA_TMS2009.pdf

  • joe

    This article ignores what the real issue is, possibly due to political correctness. Audiences outside of the US ONLY want to see movies with white actors (Will Smith is the only exception).

    I find this sad but don't point the finger at Hollywood for trying to make a buck. Even countries with few white people in places like Mexico and Asia DO NOT go to films starring minorities. So that means a $150 million film that would have money around the world starring white people, would have to rely mostly on US box-office if it starred African-Americans, dooming its chances at profit. Go ahead and look up the worldwide grosses of films starring African-Americans.

    Very sad situation that this article should have been honest about.

  • Tom Taylor

    Talent have progressive politics, studios are conservative.

  • Rachelle

    I realized reading this article that some while ago I started skipping movies with a black actor in a starring role.

    Prejudice? Probably. I don't care. I watch movies for entertainment, not moral examples, and I apparently am far more comfortable with actors who are white, Asian, or American Indian.

    Maybe I have just gotten tired of having blacks tell the rest of us how racist we are. They can keep it up, but I have stopped listening and stopped watching.

    Maybe people who need to make money with movies have realized that others are thinking the same way.

  • Edward

    Asian Americans are poorly represented in Hollywood but most people in America a re white and the sad thing is most would rather see their own then someone that looks foreign to them even if they were as much of an American as them.

  • Elizabeth L.

    Thank you for writing this article pointing out not just the whitewashing of two films that SHOULD have starred all POC casts, but that there is no film except one this summer that will star *any* POC. That's just messed up, Hollywood. It's 2010, not 1910 – get in the game already!

  • Kenneth

    Thank you for covering this issue.

  • whiskey

    Mexicans in the US watch … Mexican movies. IN SPANISH. So talking about the non-White audience in the US means … Blacks. Blacks are 12.5% of the population. That's not a franchise.

    Lets face it, the new Karate Kid is not going to do well. White people want to see White villains and heroes. They don't care about settings about other people. Black people and Mexicans are the same. You don't see people complaining because Tyler Perry has an all-Black cast, or Mexican movies have nothing but Mexicans in them.

    Karate Kid … the original was about a bullied nerdy White guy bonding with an older Japanese guy as a substitute father. Now we get Will Smith's surly, non-talented spawn who looks like a Bully in China. Yawn. Ask me why any of the White majority would care?

    Yes its true, European and Latin American and Asian audiences don't like Blacks in lead roles. Better lecture all those Japanese, Chinese, and Koreans as racists! They won't care — of course we are racists, they'd tell you. Its self evident our race is the best, they'd continue.

    In the Age of Obama, with hard-pressed economic times, Whites at the back of the bus, last hired, first fired, through Affirmative Action preferences, Government as the hirer of only resort (try getting hired when White by the Government), and constant rhetoric about how Whites will soon be a minority in their own country by triumphalist La Raza, race-war baiting folks like “Machete” Robert Rodriguez (peddling La Raza racial superiority and race-war) along with Black Nationalists like Wright and Obama …

    No wonder a hard-pressed, 66% White majority has no appetite for Black or Hispanic (or Asian) leads.

    Hollywood can make their race-baiting “Machetes” and Tyler Perry “Blacks only” stuff all they want, it only makes Whites want to see stuff about Whites only.

  • Shelley

    Thank you so much for writing about this issue! It means a lot to me and the other people against Racebending. =)

  • Lao Tzu

    Edward

    …Asian Americans are poorly represented in Hollywood but most people in America a re white and the sad thing is most would rather see their own then someone that looks foreign to them even if they were as much of an American as them….

    Yes, Edward, you idiot, so unlike all those Hong Kong films filled with Caucasian main-characters?

    You, Sir, are a brainless douchebag.

  • tallulahbankhead

    @Avi Chevets….

    Please deal with my content of my words, not your take on my race or ideology. Besides, I think it's beneath you to give anything less on the Internet.

  • Lynn

    I understand the racebenders’ frustration with the lack of diversity in TLA and PoP, but they need to realize that studios are out to make money and will cast actors and actresses that are box office draws or who will appeal to the majority of the movie-going public. Millions of dollars spent on filming and production of what they hope to be a summer blockbuster (in the cases of both films) will not be risked by casting iffy talent or unknowns just to pander to some group's social agenda. Perhaps the racebenders ought to pool their money and start their own production company where they can have complete control over what project is filmed and who is cast in said projects.

    That said, I'm looking very forward to both Last Airbender and Prince of Persia because I go to the theater to be entertained for a couple of hours, not to get a lession in social inequalities.

  • Nostrand

    There's a great article called the Prince of Caucasia at this site that talks about this issue in depth.

    http://3rdsmartestman.com/2010/05/17/prince_of_caucasia/

  • Diamond

    On the article, excellent work. I really enjoyed reading it and found this information very enlightening.

    To Whiskey:

    Screw you, I'm not so simple minded that I can't enjoy movies with a non-white lead. Don't speak for all white people, you moron.

    If I can relate to Bambi's grief and loss over his mother's death, I sure as heck can relate to a non-white protagonist's own struggles. And yes, I'd sooner watch Karate Kid then any of the crap coming out this year, especially The Last Airbender.

    I'm white, I'm 22, I'm a woman, and I can still relate to a child's struggles in finding acceptance and self-confidence in a new place, because I've been in those shoes. I've been bullied and the outcast, feeling like a square peg in a round hole. It's not about the protagonist's race, it's about understanding their struggles and cheering them on.

    The reason I protest The Last Airbender, however, is because Paramount thinks so lowly of my own intelligence that they think I can't relate to Aang, or Katara, or Sokka unless they're white.

  • Amber

    Thank you so much for covering this issue. I'm glad that news and media are finally willing to speak out about it.

  • Lynn Fredricks

    Anglos in America should be insulted that the creatively braindead folks in Hollywood treat them this way – lowest common denominator.

    Only the biggest directors get to make their own casting choices. Most decisions are made by a collective of number crunchers with demographics data who pick out the easiest marks for an audience. The mentality is similar to the peddlers of cigarettes and fast food marketers.

    One way to respond to this is simply stop going to see movies. Wait until you find out how authentic they are, and rent them at Redbox or pick up DVDs. That data also is accessible, and eventually it will change.

  • Hethanangel

    @Tellulahbankhead

    How is it my fault that your daughter or sister or other child prefers to play with ‘White’ dolls rather than dolls representing people of her own sub-culture? As a child, I preferred to play with cars rather than dolls at all–was that anyone's ‘Fault?’ or was that simply what I preferred to play with?

    As a teen, I viewed Bill Cosby and Felicia Rishad {SP?} as surrogate TV parents of sorts and they are neither white nor Jewish. Does that make me a homo-racist or a Jewish anti-semite?

    Yet, I have heard certain ‘Black’ leaders accuse Cosby of not being ‘Black’ enough {Still scratching my head, wondering how a show that was abundant with ‘Black’ artisry in the set-design, that Cliff and his father both PROUDLY graduated from HBCUs, which the female matriarchs often spoke of their parents and grandparents’ struggles as slaves and civil rights activists, were somehow not ‘Black’ enough}.

    I have heard the theories and read the studies that claim “White people are BORN prejudist because when a ‘White’ baby sees a ‘Black’ person, they tend to stare at them.”

    —>This study ignores the fact that ‘Black’ babies do the same thing when they see ‘White’ people.

    So, is the ‘Black’ child born racist too? Or is this simply because babies are programmed to try and register new information and that their parents, grand-parents and all of their primary care givers are generally of the same ethnicity–so when a baby of ANY sub-group sees someone of a different sub-group–that child is prone to stare because they are attempting to process the information. {If you notice, mixed children tend to NOT stare at EITHER sub-group as much as the other two}.

    Why is a ‘White’ girl racist if she is not interested in dating a certain ‘Black’ guy–yet it is perfectly fine for ‘Black’ guys to openly say to the ‘Black’ wife of a ‘White’ husband, “Come back Sister!!!” {Comments I hear all the time}.

    I never said “Everyone” about ANYTHING.

    The statistics that the other posters are presenting are all slanted due to demographics ie. 80% in one area {Say Chicago} doesn't represent the less than 15% that may be represented in a different area {Say Painesville} etc.

    This is 2010–certainly EVERYONE should have the G-D given right to be proud of who they are–yet if a ‘White’ person shows the slightest amount of racial pride–Ooops, here we go again with the racist accusations.

    All I'm saying is that if you don't like the way things are, if you don't think you are being represented enough–the time has come that YOU have the resources to change it YOURSELF {I NEVER said that it has ALWAYS been that way}–but it IS that way now.

    Spike Lee took $35,000 {?} and made a multi-million dollar back-lot film–Bruce Campbell and Sam Raimee {SP?} did the same thing and the result was Hercules, Xena, Cleopatra 2525, and Prince of Thieves {Not to mention the various B budget films that went viral}. Today ANY of those guys can walk into a studio and throw down the business plan and make it happen.

    If a ‘White’ director wants to take the script of ‘Big Mamma,’ and re-make it into an all ‘White’ cast–then by golly, if he buys the rights to the script, he should have the right to do that–and if people want to go see the show–they should have the right to do that too {Remember ‘The Wiz’ which was an all black re-make of ‘Wizzard of OZ’ ?

    Yet you even want the ‘White’ man to envision YOUR dreams for you {Or so it sounds}.

    I never said that I was ABSOLUTELY RIGHT about anything–but by twisting my words and my meanings it sounds to me that the ‘WHITE’ CHICK DOESN'T EVEN HAVE THE RIGHT TO HAVE HER OWN OPINIONS!

    Yes, I agree that there are those out there who are racist and don't even know it–all I'm saying is that it may not always be who people want you to think it is….

  • http://hotair.com/ StewartIII
  • Hethanangel

    Here's a lil’ som som for those who think I'm just spouting off at the mouth.

    I got this info at: http://www.nea.gov/grants/recent/10grants/artv10.php

    THESE ARE ALL GRANTS–NOT LOANS

    Check it out for yourself. And this is only a SMALL SAMPLE of what is available for those who would rather TRY than to cry foul at some imaginary sin committed by some undefined imaginary villain. Some of the grants range into the hundreds of thousands of dollars:

    {BTW – I purposefully only chose grants received by ‘Black’ artists due to the contents of this topic.}

    Women Make Movies, Inc.
    New York, NY
    $25,000
    To support production and post-production costs for a feature-length documentary on Alice Walker. You Can't Keep a Good Woman Down: The Life and Times of Alice Walker will chronicle the author's life to date.

    {Bio taken from Wikipedia}

    Alice Malsenior Walker (born February 9, 1944) is an American author and poet. She has written at length on issues of race and gender, and is most famous for the critically acclaimed novel The Color Purple for which she won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. She was born and raised in the state of Georgia.

    Newark Public Radio, Inc. (aka WBGO Jazz 88)
    Newark, NJ
    $60,000
    To support the production of JazzSet with Dee Dee Bridgewater, a weekly radio series of jazz concerts. The series is produced by WBGO/Newark, distributed by NPR, and reaches approximately 170,000 listeners each week throughout the United States.

    {Here's a Youtube clip of what she does}
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ggCgTMeFh1U

    National Black Programming Consortium
    New York, NY
    $50,000
    To support completion costs for a documentary film by Thomas Allen Harris. Through A Lens Darkly: Black Photographers and the Emergence of a People will explore how photography provides a context for and a cultural representation of African American history.

    National Black Programming Consortium
    New York, NY
    $50,000
    To support the acquisition, packaging, and distribution of a curated film series about the arts and culture in the African diaspora. In its third year on public television, AfroPop: The Ultimate Cultural Exchange, will reach national audiences through American Public Television.

    And the list goes on….

  • keli

    Whats with all the racist idiots and their dumb comments? I guess its easier to spout ignorant comments on the Internet because no one can see you, huh?
    If you are not black, then you wouldn't know that America has two cultures : a mainstream and a Black American one.
    How did this come about? I dunno…read a history book or a book on privilege.
    I pick up a cosmo magazine and I'm bombarded with all these hair and makeup tips for white woman. So I ALSO pick up a black woman magazine because I don't need blond highlights or tanning advice. Same with movies, I want some black humor, I ALSO watch a black movie. But if YOU ARE NOT BLACK YOU DON'T UNDERSTAND. The mainstream culture tends to exclude people of color all the time. SO we have to make our own movies and magazines…But stupid, ignorant people think they know everything and have to make comments like ” why do black people make their own movies? thats racist!…”. SO STFU! and just listen to our rants. It makes some of us feel better.

  • Hethanangel

    @Keli

    I think ‘Black’ people SHOULD make their own movies, have their own magazines and do anything else they want to do–that's the whole point!

    My beef is the DOUBLE STANDARD plain and simple:

    If a ‘White’ chick writing an article or even a screen-play doesn't address ‘Black’ issues, it could very well be something as simple as it is outside of her area of experience–not some diabolical racist plot to exclude everyone else.

    2 examples just the other day:

    1) I happen to have to walk down an alleyway to get to where I need to go. Usually there is no issue to it–but on this particular day there were 2 ‘Black’ dudes (Teenagers) who saw me cut through the alley.

    “Hey, we ain't gonna rape you or anything–you don't have to run and hide from us!” One of them screamed out at me.

    I turned and walked back to them and asked them what they said (To make sure I heard it correctly) and they confirmed that I had.

    I asked them what exactly they meant by that.

    “Well, ‘White’ chick sees a couple of ‘Black’ dudes and darts into an alley, what would you think if you was a ‘Black’ dude?”

    “First of all–that @#$t is tired,” I replied. “Second of all, if I were trying to avoid you, would it make much sense to run into an ALLEY?!”

    We shook hands and parted ways–but the point is frustrating that I would even have to DEFEND MYSELF against such an allegation in the first place!

    2) Not two days later, I was approaching the bust stop where I usually catch the bus and as fate would have it, I passed gas and let's just say it wasn't a nice one.

    On the bus bench sat a man with a very beautiful baby on his lap. Out of kindness to him, I made sure not to get too close (If you know what I mean). He looked at me and made a comment about me not sitting down (I honestly forget the exact words–but the gist was accusatory that I didn't want to sit down because he was ‘Black.')

    “You REALLY don't want me to sit there right now,” I replied.

    He looked at me as if to say, “Yeh, right….”

    So, I furthered explained, “I just farted and it smells really bad. Still want me to sit down?”

    He laughed and said “No.”

    Point being again, I shouldn't have to explain myself to anyone for anything like either of theses two situations–and they are NOT isolated incidents–they happen ALL the time–and quite frankly–I AM SICK TO DEATH OF IT!

    So yes, pleae do make YOUR OWN movies if you feel that you are not being represented enough–please do come out with a DOZEN more Ebony magazines if they address your issues more than Cosmo–but in the meantime–quit accusing me of shit that is furtherest from my mind!

    Now I'm done with my own frustrated rants and moving on to a more interesting subject….

  • OhPULEEZE!!!!

    Please! White culture has historically(and in the movies), been fascinated by, and then co-opted black culture. Instead of the originals, US culture seems to love to copy an unoriginal and pass it off as “authentic”. Elvis is a classic case in point….it started in music and moved in to films. Black audiences purchase 60% of the tickets, and that's why Tyler Perry is a RICH man. Hollywood will continue to miss out on the cash as long as they ignore a major portion of the ticket buying audience. They can ignore us in “Sex and the City” and the like, but they'll hear our collective wallets closing and going elsewhere…..we've got the $$ and we'll spend it where we are heard…ARE YOU LISTENING HOLLYWOOD? While you're still a force would be a good time..foreign films have been better than ours for decades-it's why we remake originals instead of nurturing local talent….

  • Mike

    Um, historically, today's ethnic “Iranians” didn't even live in today's “Iran” during the period described in the film. There were at least a couple a mass migrations/displacements I'm aware of.

  • a Director

    The thing to be said for all of this is that ultimately stereotypes, and racial profiling / pigeon-holeing is what Hollywood does. They need cookie cutter. Black guy – oh he must be like “THAT”. Asian “oh he must be like that”. Hispanic “that” and anything that doesn't fit the “THAT” which Hollywood can easily distill gets passed over. It's easy to make films like Tyler Perry's which are inside jokes for a very specific audience, but it by no means is mainstream. There is no color-blind casting and that isn't the fault of the audience, its the insecurity of the casting directors and marketing people. The state of this country is a representation of Hollywood – the Tea Baggers / Republicans are a mostly white bunch who haven't yet accepted that America is a land of immigrants of ALL COLORS. The only place where color doesn't matter is sports and music – sports is about a very measurable success meter, and music isn't visual (as MTV doesn't play music videos anymore anyway). Films is a whole other matter. If you make a film (and I HAVE unlike the posters on this topic here) with lots of non-white actors you face a very daunting challenge of getting it released – because how do you sell it. The point is that there's no answer – there's just a lot of talk – and unless directors / studio execs / and mostly the marketing execs realize that embracing a diverse offering is in its best interest, nothing will change.

  • SuzyQ

    Positive: A lot more diversity in television this year!
    Negative: No black centered tv shows or leading roles filled by anyone who's not white.

    All I can say is everyone is right, it's pretty disgusting that roles written specifically for someone of ethnic background have been filled by white people. Two friends of mine (both white) told me not to see Prince of Persia when I asked how they liked it. Not because they read an article about racism and wanted to be politically correct, but because they said the fact that none of the characters were the ethnicity they were portrayed to be was actually distracting and kept them from being able to really get into the film and enjoy it. I still haven't, and probably will not, see that film.

    On one hand, I don't think that the lack of diverse leading talent in film this summer is the direct result of an underground campain to smear black people. But as much as I could make excuses for Hollywood, or point out similarities between me reading Cosmo and my black friend reading Essence because we identify with those individually, there's no way I could justify the lack of diverse leading characters this season. It's obviously different for me because i'm a super white little girl, but these films do effect me in the way that Prince of Persia effected my friends; they're not realistic. It's not part of my life to walk out of my house and see only white people just like me. It's not realistic to go to work everyday in Los Angeles and Hollywood and say that all I see are white people. I'm a server at a high end restaraunt in Beverly Hills on the weekends and the biggest parties I served last weekend were executive meetings of large all-black firms and corporations. My choices at the box office are limited this year, and for me it's not about having to think “Are there enough black people on the screen to make me feel like us white people are being equal?” but “Is this how life really is?”

    The resounding answer is no.

    We've all had black teachers as well as ethnic and white ones, black bosses as well as ethnic and white ones, we have black friends and ethnic friends, and for heavens sake the leader of our country — who was elected by a majority — is an amazingly honorable black man. When life influences art (and film is art), then there should automatically be films and telivision shows that represent black and other ethnic cultures, specifically AND generally. I think the greatest fear to many people when we recognize a trend like the one in film this summer, is that we could, without realizing it, fall into one of those times in history where art begins to influence life instead.

    On another note…

    When you're the majority, you're “burden” is to shut up and listen. No matter what we think, who our friends are, or how ‘not racist’ we are, white people do still have control in the population. As the majority, and as a group responsible by association for the sufferings of the minority past, present, and future, we can only be the people we believe we are and do our best not to perpetuate the crimes of our ancestors. Why do we feel such a need to make people be quiet when they have a complaint? Why do we have such a problem with people getting angry at signs of digression? It's being ignorant of our role in the problem AND solution.

    Nothing will ever be perfect. There will always be some contention between blacks and whites, asians and latinos, catholics and protestants, jews and muslims, democrats and republicans, socialists and capitalists, the list goes on and on. But there will also hopefully always be America, where we can be all of those things, where we can be “I,” and still, successfully, be “us.”

    The point is, as people who are supposed to be artists, who are supposed to portray the world how it is and how it should be and how we would love for it to be, the film world (and television) is lacking lately. Hopefully with articles like this, and angry voices in response, we can pull our heads out of our asses a little, and get with the program.

  • Murphybo

    Studio heads — WAKE UP. I am white and even I'm sick of the white wash. Put some hot, manly men of color in feature films! There's no excuse for your racism–stop blocking them from Hollywood.