In the age of Gods of Egypt, Pan and Exodus: Gods and Kings, people of color almost expect to be extremely let down when it comes down to studios casting white actors in roles that are historically non-white. When I first heard that a live-action Jungle Book movie was in the works, memories of my childhood flooded back to me. Then I became saddened at the thought of Mowgli getting The Last Airbender treatment. Remember The Last Airbender? The all-Indian Fire Nation, white actors playing Inuits, and Asian actors relegated to background figures? But alas, maybe studio execs are listening, paying attention to the masses, and watching the three movies I listed above tank at the box office amidst the whitewashing controversy must have certainly showed them that in 2016 white isn’t automatically right. Or maybe Jon Favreau and the folks at Disney just aren’t complete boneheads. And since they don’t seem to be complete boneheads, they delivered what seems to be a crowd pleasing live-action version of The Jungle Book, and believe it or not, Mowgli (played by Neel Sethi) is still brown! What is sad is that this is even a big deal at all. How did we get here? How did we get to celebrating the fact that a studio leaves a classic character’s nationality unchanged? Why is it something that happens so often in the first place, the fact that studios feel as if white actors casted in major roles is still ‘playing it safe’. Is it me or in 2016 do studio execs prove to be more and more disconnected from the real world? The world in which millions of people stream diversely casted entertainment on a daily basis. In my opinion studios insult all of us as viewers when they decide that they will get more of our dollars if they turn brown, black, or asian characters, white. These are also the same studios that expect our praise when they decide to cast a black actor or actress in role previously held by white actors (a la Halle Berry as Catwoman or Michael B. Jordan as The Human Torch).
But anyway, lets raise a glass to Jon Favreau and the folks at Disney for this one. And here’s to Hollywood whitewashing becoming a thing of the past in the not-too-distant future.
Oh by the way, have you heard there’s a new Ghost in the Shell movie in the works? Motoko Kusanagi will be played by none other than… Scarlett Johansson. *sigh*