A white actor has been cast in the Aladdin remake, and people aren't happy
Hollywood doesn't have the best track record when it comes to racial issues. In the past, we've seen glaring instances of cultural appropriation, such as white actors cast as people of colour, and a general lack of diversity in films across the board. There's simply no excuse for whitewashing these days, nor has there ever been - so why does it keep happening?
Just recently, actor Ed Skrein dropped out of Hellboy when he realised that his character was supposed to be Asian-American. Similar issues were raised earlier on in the year, too, when Ghost in the Shell (originally a Japanese animation) was remade with a white cast. Time and time again, diversity and proper representation is being overlooked, in favour of casting an already well-known white actor.
The latest film to fall victim to whitewashing is Guy Ritchie's live-action remake of the Disney classic, Aladdin.
As everyone who's seen the 1992 animated version will know, the film is set the fictional Arab nation of Agrabah. Understandably, there are no white people in it. So why exactly has Billy Magnussen, a blue-eyed, blonde-haired actor, been cast in the remake?
Many people have used Twitter to ask the exact same thing.
Some were clearly irked by the casting, arguing that the new character was only introduced to satisfy white viewers. "Disney shoehorned a white guy into the
#Aladdin movie because they just gotta have a white person in a movie set in the Middle East," wrote RJ Sharp.
Others were simply baffled by the choice: "I am so confused to why they add a new white character to a complete story that is set in the Middle East?" wrote Nardy.
And their confusion is understandable. It seems to many that the only reason to throw a white man into the film would be as part of some misguided attempt to appeal to white viewers. But that's completely nonsensical, considering the original was hugely successful with only Arabic characters in the story.
Producer Dan Lin had said at the beginning of the year that the remake 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."
Evidently, Lin's definition of 'authenticity' is slightly different to everyone else's.
Some may argue that having one white actor in a cast that is still mostly made up of people of colour is no big deal, but others beg to differ. This series of tweets demonstrates the imbalance in the way white people are represented in comparison to other races:
The importance of having diverse characters on our screens goes beyond the need to fill some sort of quota. Diversity provides better representation for kids who are looking for positive images of themselves in the media, allows different stories to be told from previously-muted perspectives, and ultimately demonstrates that white people don't have to be included in everything.
Disney have yet to comment on the matter, but have announced that their casting is complete, and that production is already underway.
For more occasions where Hollywood has been guilty of whitewashing, check out 10 times movie executives painted Tinseltown white.