To The Nostalgia Critic, Regarding Your Video On White-Washing

While you do make some valid points about audiences being complacent with height washing (casting non Little People To Play Little People), and various other forms of impersonation, the crux of your video is both flawed and troubling, and I don’t believe that you are aware of this.

First of all, the title, “Is White-Washing Really Still A Thing?” Yes. It is still very much a thing. That’s why Gerard Butler got cast in Gods Of Egypt, Christian Bale got cast in Exodus: Gods And Kings, Noah Ringer, Nicola Peltz and Jackson Rathbone got cast in The Last Airbender, and why Emma Stone got cast in Aloha. Hollywood, like you said, is a business looking to make money. And in their eyes, White actors, even character actors with no charisma, are more likely to bring in audiences than actors of color. White-washing is still very much a practice, done out of fear and unwillingness to try anything new, and when you frame the issue as a question, you make it sound like it isn’t a problem. You make it seem as though this is a topic for debate, which it is not. It’s a problem that needs to be solved. This kind of framing the issue as a question is what allowed people, for years, to say that “climate change isn’t real,” or that, “smoking is no more unhealthy than eating twinkies.” So, yes, White-Washing is real, and a problem, whether you want to believe that or not, and when you frame it as a question, you diminish its significance, and the opinions of those arguing against it.

Second, your claim that no one gets upset when White characters are played by actors of color just isn’t true. I don’t know where you were when Michael B Jordan was cast as the Human Torch, or when Quevenzhane Wallis was cast as Annie, but there was a lot of angry White backlash. People threatened to boycott the movies. They sent the actors and directors death threats. People went nuts. So, already, one of your major arguments, that people who hate White-Washing are somehow hypocritical because there’s no backlash when actors of color get White roles, has no substance to it.

Third, you say that people shouldn’t get upset over the White-Washing in Ghost In The Shell, because there have been numerous instances, as with Seven Samurai, Infernal Affairs, and OldBoy, where Asian films were remade with White actors, and no one got angry. What you fail to realize is that, in each of those cases, the stories were not quintessentially Japanese, or Chinese, or Korean. They were universal stories that could be told anywhere. OldBoy was actually an adaptation of a Japanese manga series, which, in turn, was a re-telling of the myth of Oedipus. Infernal Affairs was just a cop movie about two moles chasing each other. And Seven Samurai was a simple tale about a group of mercenaries being hired to protect a small town. None of those films requires a distinctly Asian backdrop or cast to be told.  Ghost In The Shell is different. It, along with Akira, was one of the first anime films to bridge the cultural gap between America and Japan. It contained many stylistic, thematic, and social elements that were new and unheard of in the States. There’s a reason why so many filmmakers–James Cameron in Avatar, The Wachowskis in The Matrix, Jonathan Mostow in Surrogates–were inspired by it, and sought to emulate its style and ideas; that style, those ideas, aren’t universal. Americans simply wouldn’t dream up stuff like that on their own. What made Ghost In The Shell unique was its distinctly Japanese look and feel. The futuristic Tokyo landscape, the themes of identity and technology going too far, and the rather bleak tone, all are byproducts of Japan’s post-war psychology. Of course Japanese people would write stories in which technology was frightening, they’d seen the horrors of modern technology first-hand in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Of course Japanese people would make movies dealing with a search for identity, they’d had their old way of life destroyed and reshaped by a foreign power (seriously, Douglas MacArthur wrote the new Japanese constitution ). Everything about Ghost In The Shell is Japanese. A live-action adaptation therefore requires a Japanese cast and crew.

Fourth, you employ the “slippery slope” argument for why people shouldn’t get upset over White Washing. If we actually give leading Asian roles to Asian actors, then, my god, we’ll have to give leading Gay and Disabled roles to Gay and Disabled actors too! What’s wrong with that? As both a Chinese-American, and a person who is physically disabled, I want my story to be told by people who have had the same, or at least similar, experiences to me. And, the truth is, there are so few roles written for Asian, Disabled, Transgender or any non-White, non-male actors, that your irrational fear that, somehow, we’ll have to come up with a person who’s had a sex change and become a lesbian is patently ridiculous. The “slippery slope” argument is always a bad one to use. It’s the same argument that was used to fight ratification of the 13th Amendment, “if we free the slaves, we’ll have to give women the vote,” and to fight desegregation in Brown V Board Of Education, “If we let Black students into our schools, then we’ll have to let disabled students in as well.” Do you really want to be remembered like those people, idiots who fought against progress and the inevitable?

Finally, you spend most of your video criticizing people who want more diversity in their entertainment for not taking a stand against height washing or other forms of impersonation. Yes, height washing, refusing to cast actually disabled actors, and various other practices are awful, and need to be addressed. But the assertion that we shouldn’t get angry over White-Washing, unless we get angry over everything, is beyond ridiculous. You sound like an NRA member saying, “Well, unless it can get rid of all murders and violent crimes, gun control shouldn’t be implemented,” or an idiot writing off the Black Lives matter movement with the statement that “all lives matter.” Yes, all lives matter. Yes, all groups deserve to be represented respectfully and accurately. But some groups have a greater need for representation, or for protection. Asians are virtually invisible in Hollywood, with less than 5% of leading roles going to them. Police brutality is disproportionally aimed at Blacks and Latinos. Saying that people shouldn’t get angry over something because there are other things to get angry over doesn’t achieve anything. We need to focus on each issue individually, work to change it as best we can, and then, when we’ve made progress, move on to the next issue.

I understand that you probably aren’t trying to sound racist, or dismissive, or any of the other things that you came off as in your video, but I felt it was necessary to point out the troubling nature of your arguments. As the type of person not being represented in the media, both racially and ability-wise, I don’t want the discussion surrounding me, or people like me, to be dictated by a guy who has no idea what he’s talking about. Because, this election year, especially, that’s happening a lot.

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