Don't worry, though, because Scott got the criticism he deserved for Exodus: Gods And Kings, in which he cast Christian Bale as Moses and John Turturro and Joel Edgerton as Egyptian royalty, since nothing says Ancient Egypt like lily-white men and an Australian accent. Gods Of Egypt was also slammed for making Egypt look like Utah. Those movies are at 27 percent and 15 percent "fresh," respectively, and even though you just read their names, you've already gone back to forgetting that they exist. Mashable's review of Exodus, which was dedicated almost entirely to the controversy, declared that "The whitewashed cast of 'Exodus' is irresponsible -- and its own demise." Mashable's review of The Martian calls it "stellar," and doesn't mention the casting changes at all. So go ahead and whitewash as much as you want, Ridley -- just make sure the end result is entertaining.
How about The Great Wall, in which the white Matt Damon inexplicably helps defend ancient China from monsters? A Daily Beast writer "felt the bile rise at the sight of another blatant white savior narrative." But a year later, The Daily Beast declared that "With 'Dunkirk,' Christopher Nolan Proves He's Blockbuster Cinema's Most Daring Auteur." Dunkirk arguably has more of a white savior complex -- Nolan left out the Indian and African soldiers who fought in the British and French armies entirely, turning the movie into a bunch of white guys saving civilization all by themselves. At least The Great Wall came up with a decent excuse for Matt Damon to star alongside Chinese actors (he's a European mercenary searching for the knowledge to make gunpowder who gets caught up in their conflict). Christopher Nolan just took one look at the complicated legacy of colonialism, said "More like borelonialsm!" and casually whitewashed one of the most famous moments in human history. But The Great Wall looked dumb and is at 35 percent, while Dunkirk is a visual spectacle that's 93 percent fresh. So one's a shameful moment in Hollywood history, and the other is an incredible accomplishment that will win awards.
Marvel's Iron Fist, wherein Finn Jones plays a stereotypical mystical martial arts expert with all the energy of a comatose sloth? "Racially uncomfortable" and "falling into the white savior trope," and an RT 17 percent. Marvel's Doctor Strange, wherein Tilda Swinton plays Asian character who was originally Asian? "Engaging, smartly cast." "Tilda Swinton has a central role in this film, and it's far better for it." And it's sitting pretty at 90 percent. Doctor Strange had its detractors too, but that didn't stop us from giving it over $677 million. Again, Doctor Strange was arguably more problematic, as it took a character who was Asian in the comics and handed it to a white actress. At least Iron Fist's Danny Rand was always white, although that hardly makes it impossible to reinterpret him. But Doctor Strange was fun, while Iron Fist was a cure for insomnia. So the latter was perpetually dogged by whitewashing complaints, while white writers and fans briefly acknowledged the criticism of the former while waiting in line at the theater to buy candy.
The lesson Hollywood has to be taking away from all of this isn't to avoid whitewashing; it's to make sure a whitewashed movie is good enough that the controversy can be buried beneath a tidal wave of box office receipts. When Dragonball: Evolution (14 percent) and M. Night Shyamalan's The Last Airbender (6 percent) tried to start franchises, they were widely decried for sticking white actors in Asian roles, and both flopped. When Jennifer Lawrence was cast as Katniss Everdeen, who in the books is described as having "olive skin" and who lives in a dystopia where the well-off are white, it started a blockbuster series that grossed $2.9 billion. Whatever complaints about whitewashing in The Hunger Games (84 percent) managed to reach the mainstream didn't stop the franchise from getting its own theme park.
If this pattern doesn't change, every complaint about whitewashing from white people is going to look like nothing more than phony outrage to score points with each other on social media. It's a protest against Hollywood practices that lasts right up until Hollywood makes a movie we want to see, and self-righteousness that accomplishes nothing beyond letting us pat ourselves on the back for skipping a movie we weren't going to watch anyway. If this is something we actually care about, we have to make the ultimate sacrifice and not watch good movies. I know that sounds awful, but just think of all the potential for feeling heroic if it works.
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