By JAMIE NEWMAN
It was released on March 14th that in the new “Peter Pan” film, which is scheduled to hit theaters in 2015, Rooney Mara will play the role of the Native American princess, Tiger Lily.
This is a recurring issue in Hollywood with directors, producers, and casting agents continually hiring actors to play characters who are not of that character’s race or ethnicity. Mara is now one example, as she is a Caucasian woman playing a Native American woman, but this is far too often an occurrence in Hollywood.
Similarly, “The Hunger Games” movie franchise faced controversy over hiring Caucasian actress, Jennifer Lawrence as the female lead because in the books Katniss is described as having a dark skin tone.
The popular television show, “Longmire,” is set in a small, Wyoming community, which is located next to an Indian Reservation. Lou Diamond Philips is one of the leading actors on this show and plays a Native American. However, Philips is Filipino.
In addition, the 2013 Disney film, “The Lone Ranger” starred Johnny Depp in the leading role as Tonto another Native American, however, Depp is Caucasian.
Why does Hollywood continue to test the boundaries of race?
Several Disney films have stereotypical portrayals of various races, such as in the classic cartoon films, “Peter Pan” and “Pocahontas.”
The Star Wars franchise also takes part in this. For example, In “Star Wars, Episode I: The Phantom Menace,” the alien character, Watto, is an example of a character embodying the stereotypes associated with those of Jewish decent. Watto, who was the slave owner of Anakin Skywalker, is obsessed with money.
In the history of American film, characters’ races are often changed, or at least portrayed by an actor who is of a different race or ethnicity. And when they are portrayed, the portrayal is layered with stereotypes that skew the actual culture and heritage.
This action alone robs the autonomy and equality that minorities have worked for centuries to obtain. Now, more than ever, America is a large blend of several rich cultures, and each culture should be represented accurately and kindly.
Typically, Native American, African American, Arabic, Latino, and Asian portrayals in media are more stereotypical than accurate.
For example, Native Americans are portrayed as being primitive and silent. Arabic’s are often portrayed as being exotic, riding camels and knowing how to belly dance. African Americans are put in roles where they are the “best friend” of the lead actor. Latinos are sultry and vivacious. Where Asians are portrayed as being very intelligent or socially awkward.
This is the 21st century. Our culture has evolved over the centuries, like most places in the world, and is always striving to improve. Racial tolerance and accurate portrayals in media is an area in need of great improvement.
For this inequality limits minority actors in roles, as well as destroys the integrity of a character, and of a film.