Marvel’s newest movie soared into theaters on Nov. 4 and like other Marvel movies, has been a commercial success. This is to be expected. By now the Marvel Cinematic Universe, MCU for short, knows how to put the pieces together in order to make a blockbuster.
What the MCU hasn’t figured out is their blatant colorism.
Canonically, the character of Doctor Strange is racially ambiguous, meaning that he is not white, but there is also no ethnicity placed on him. He is one of the most powerful people in the Marvel Universe, rivaling even the Scarlet Witch and her son Wiccan. Doctor Strange, with all of his talents, eccentric nature, and tan skin, is supposed to be a character that inspires awe and wonder.
Instead, looking at Benedict Cumberbatch, I can barely hide my disgust. This is the person they chose to play Doctor Strange? This person? When there are hoards of other high-profile actors of color to do the job instead? This is not to say that Cumberbatch ruins the movie, it leaves a sour taste in my mouth.
I’m not going to stand and pay for a movie where a character’s race is absurdly thrown out.
But what about Zendaya being casted to play Mary Jane in the latest Spider Man installment? Isn’t that the same thing? They gave no care to race when casting her.
There is a huge difference in casting a person of color into a ‘white’ role than casting a white person instead of a person of color. The difference comes from the fact that there are plenty of roles for white people in Hollywood; landing a role is difficult nonetheless, but people of color face a harder time because calling casts that specifically ask for caucasians are in a much higher number than those who specifically ask for people of color.
And this colorism isn’t a new phenomenon. It’s happening in the Hollywood all the time. The Western adaptation of Death Note - a Japanese manga and anime- is having it’s lead played by Nat Wolff. The Ghost in the Shell live-action movie is being headed by Scarlett Johannson. Both of these stories involve strong elements of Japanese culture, and the newest trailer for Ghost in the Shell is so Japanese that it is jarring to see Johannson even trying to fill the role of Major Motoko Kusanagi. A recent article from the Verge is titled “The live-action Ghost in the Shell gets the look right.”
It’s just that: other cultures are used as decorations, to get the perfect aesthetic and lighting. And that’s it. Its actual people are completely disregarded.
Fortunately, the colorism in Hollywood is being brought in the spotlight. It is being looked down upon, but the only way that Hollywood is ever going to significantly change is if there is a financial motivation.
Until enough people refuse to see whitewashed movies, whitewashed movies are still going to be made.