Alright, everyone! Let’s gather around, hold hands, close our eyes and say a prayer for all of the recent whitewashed films that completely tanked at the box office – worldwide and domestic.
First, we have Exodus: Gods and Kings, the horribly whitewashed Ridley Scott movie that featured Christian Bale as Moses, white people ruling Egypt, people of color basically being their servants, and was completely historically inaccurate to what actually went down with the original story. The Eurocentric mess horribly crashed and burned when it hit theaters, making only $65 million in the United States and $203m in the rest of the world. Now, that might not seem that bad at first glance, but keep in mind the film had a $140-150m budget (and that doesn’t even include advertising, which tacks on another $50 million or so). That means the movie barely even made back what they spent on it, which in other words makes it a FLOP.
Next up to bat is Gods of Egypt, yet another film about precolonial Egyptian, mythological, legends and gods, that featured Nikolas Coster-Waldau as Horus, the god of air and the falcon. Also the cast featured Brenton Thwaites, Gerard Butler, Rachael Blake, Emma Booth, Rufus Sewell, Geoffrey Rush and several more white actors as Egyptian gods. Please tell me: should a white dude be playing a god named Urshu? I’ll let you simmer on that.
To be fair, the cast attempted to add some diversity with the casting of Chadwick Boseman and Elodie Yung as Thoth and Hathor. But both roles were cliched and neither character had a tremendously forgiving amount of screen time. The mystical Black man who knows everything and the hyper-sexualized Cambodian woman? No thanks.
This Caucasian disaster was even worse than Exodus. It only made $31m total domestically, though it had a very long theatrical run. Worldwide, it barely passed $150m. And that’s on a $140m budget. It passed that with the skin of its teeth, but the studio’s profit margin was absolutely zero. Good. It’s what the films deserve.
.And the most recent Hollywood disaster, Ghost in the Shell. I’m sure you’ve heard about the whole Scarlett-Johansson-plugs-Asian-technology-inside-herself-and-considers-herself-Japanese thing. Well, if not, you must’ve been living under a rock. Moviegoers in the US were seriously not here for this latest bit of selfish storytelling by Hollywood – and the film only opened to $19m, losing out to DreamWorks Animation’s Boss Baby. Man, that’s got to be embarrassing. Still think it’s about feminism over race, ScarJo?
To be fair, Ghost in the Shell has not opened in the vast majority of foreign markets yet, and we don’t know how it will perform there. If The Great Wall is any indication, it could do solid business. But it also won’t make any huge bank without the participation of U.S. audiences – who have clearly chosen they don’t want to shell out the money for the picture. That means no matter how it does in foreign markets, it won’t be a hit – unless they turn up in droves to see it, which isn’t likely.
This should send a clear message to Hollywood: NO ONE WANTS WHITEWASHING IN THEIR MOVIES ANYMORE. Sure, a small part of the population is okay with it – but it’s been proven that diversity sells, as it always has. Look at Moonlight, Hidden Figures, Get Out, Straight Outta Compton and several other black films that have performed amazingly at the box office of late. People are tired of seeing the same people in every film – the same white faces. Audiences want diversity or new stories from different people, and here’s how to help that problem.
Hire diverse directors.
I’m sure some Hollywood executive almost fell over gasping in shock at the absurdity of that idea, but wouldn’t that fix the problem easily? Don’t hire white, Western directors who know little to nothing about anime properties to adapt them for the big screen. Don’t hire white men to do films about Black achievement if they’re just going to add white savior moments that never happened (I’m looking at you, Hidden Figures). Don’t hire white women to do films about Asian culture if they’re just going to call them “girly martial-arts extravaganzas” (howdy there, Mulan).
Diverse directors will understand what’s going on with whitewashing and know to avoid it. Diverse directors will know their culture and how to portray it accurately to how it really is in real life. Diverse directors will not fall into the typical racist tropes and stereotypes of Hollywood. Diverse directors will understand. I’m not saying that white directors can’t understand, but the signs that they do understand are far and few between and I rarely see them.
Hire men of color. Hire women of color. Hire disabled directors. Hire LGBT+ directors. Hire mentally ill directors. Hire all different types of directors, because until you do the issue of Hollywood whitewashing and cultural insensitivity will continue.
Any other questions, Hollywood?