Disney's 'Aladdin' remake accused of 'browning up' white actors
A few months back, the announcement of the new Aladdin remake caused a bit of a stir when it emerged that there would be a new character in the main film cast. Prince Anders, a suitor for Princess Jasmine, was never in the original 1992 version, but has been included in the plot despite claims that the addition of his character is an example of "whitewashing".
Obviously, as the film is set in the fictional Arabic nation of Agrabah, all the characters in the original flick are Arabic. Now, however, director Guy Ritchie has made the executive decision to cast Billy Magnussen, a blue-eyed, blonde-haired white man, to take a starring role.
And people weren't too happy about that.
When the live action reboot was first announced, producer Dan Lin had said that it would stay true to the original. "Luckily for me, Guy Ritchie has the same vision and Disney has the same vision, so we’re not here to make Prince of Persia," he said, referencing the casting of white actors in a film set in the Middle East. "We want to make a movie that’s authentic to that world."
Lin's claims have now been cast into doubt, however, after it emerged that white actors had been strategically "made up" in order to "blend" with other members of the cast.
This came to light after an extra in the movie, Kaushal Odedra, reported that at least 20 white actors were being "tanned" in order to look Arabian. "Aladdin was the perfect time to show diversity but also be accurate," said the 32-year-old actor. "[Disney are] being out of touch with what's going on around them."
"Disney are sending out a message that your skin color, your identity, your life experiences amount to nothing that can be powered on and washed off," he added.
Disney have admitted that they did, indeed, use makeup in order to make white members of the cast appear Arabic - but insisted it was out of necessity.
"Great care was taken to put together one of the largest, most diverse casts ever seen on screen," said a spokesperson for the company.
"Diversity of our cast and background performers was a requirement and only in a handful of instances when it was a matter of specialty skills, safety and control (special effects rigs, stunt performers and handling of animals) were crew made up to blend in."
However, as the film is being shot just outside of London - a city which has a population of over a million Asian people - it seems unlikely that the production simply could not find people to fit the role authentically.
"I can understand it if it comes to stunt people and animal handling," said Odedra, "but I think they did have a choice."
Actor and former White House Employee, Kal Penn, expressed his disappointment over the incident on Twitter:
The original Aladdin was an amazing film (and a very successful one, too), so it is disappointing to see it changed so much for no apparent reason other than to cater to a white audience.
The film is set for release in May 2019.