Between the current #OscarsSoWhite issue which will be firmly in the conversation this weekend at the Oscars, and the release of “Gods Of Egypt” on Friday, which Lionsgate and director Alex Proyas have already apologized for when it comes to its lack of diverse casting, the issue of representation remains at the forefront of Hollywood. In fact, a recent study confirmed the galling numbers when it comes to diversity in Hollywood, while John Oliver recently reminded everyone on “Last Week Tonight“ that the industry has a long way to go, particularly when it comes the practice of whitewashing casts.
Last fall, among the many complaints leveled at Joe Wright‘s flop “Pan,” was the casting of Rooney Mara as Tiger Lily, a key “native” character in the film. And in a recent chat with Deadline, she shared her shame at being associated with the diversity problem in Hollywood, while also explaining the approach to Tiger Lily in the film, and taking the dubious position that casting roles based on their ethnicity could curb creativity.
“I think that there are two sides to it. Yes, I do think it curbs art and creativity, and I also think that if you’re going to go by that, you have to be able to… it has to go both ways. It can’t just be that you don’t want a white girl to play a certain part. It has to be both sides. And I do think it can curb art and creativity. That being said, is there whitewashing in Hollywood? Absolutely, and I feel really bad and embarrassed to be a part of that,” she said.
“In J.M. Barrie’s book, the natives were not Native American. That was something later attributed and there’s probably racism behind even that attribution,” Mara continued. “In the book, they’re called the Pickaninny tribe, which is wrought with racism. But it was never my intention to play a Native American girl. That was never an option to me. It was Joe [Wright’s] pure desire to make the natives a conglomeration of many different cultures and indigenous people. To make them people of the world. He wanted them to be natives of planet Earth. I thought that was a really beautiful intention of his. That being said, I understand the anger about whitewashing. I completely do, and I agree with it.”
From what I recall, the “natives” in “Pan” were multi-racial, though Mara did stand out, and having a white actress carry the signifiers of other indigenous cultures is certainly problematic. At any rate, Mara’s thoughts leave a lot to unpack, and we’ll leave it to you to continue the conversation in the comments section.