Written By: Johnny
2016 has been a year where race and diversity in Hollywood has been in the forefront of our minds. Between #OscarsSoWhite & whitewashing scandal of the Ghost in the Shell movie, this topic has been covered by many news outlets. We at Dork of All Trades rarely enjoy talking about topics we don’t love, and very rarely cover current issues this controversial, but another Nerd Podcast Mafia show kicked the hornet’s nest.
On April 29, 2016, a show called the Nerdtastic4 Podcast opened a discussion about race in Hollywood, TV and films. It was a strong, hour long conversation that led me to writing in to them about some of my views on the issue. Here is a link to their episode 9; and below is my email to them.
I first want to thank you for starting the conversation in our podcast group about race and white washing in film. Last fall, I had taken a class called ‘Race and Diversity in Film” at Temple University; I got an A in that class and graduated that semester. Since then, I have probably drowned all of the brain cells used to store that information in copious amounts of alcohol, but I do recall a couple issues addressed in that class, which focus on the topics you’ve discussed on episode 9.
My ‘Race in Film’ class focused on HARM theory. HARM, or Hollywood’s Acting Rule for Minorities, theory suggests that if and when a minority character appears in a mainstream movie, this character will be compromised in some way, shape or form, often in relation to the white counterpart* (source text : You Mean There Is Race In My Movie? by F.W. Gooding Jr.). I say that, to say this, major movies are designed to reach the greatest possible audience and the most of the audience in America is the white majority. In a survey of movie admissions in 2002, 68% of all tickets purchased were by whites, 15% by Latinos, and 11% by blacks. I don’t have enough statistics to make a correlation between these facts and films that haven’t been “whitewashed”, but it is to assume that Hollywood thinks that since white people are buying tickets they want to see other whites.
Whitewashing in Hollywood has been a big issue in the news as of late, especially considering the Ghost in the Shell movie, which you guys covered in your episode. The problem with Whitewashing is that Hollywood is structurally designed to favor white actors. Statistically speaking, Hollywood’s infrastructure has a lot to do with how movies are cast. In 2002, the racial representation in the screen actors’ guild was 75.8% white, 15.5% black, 6% Latino, 2.5% Asian, and only .2% Native American. The Writer’s Guild racial representation in the same year was 94% white, with all other races making up the other 6% (black, Latino, Asian, Native American). With this many whites in the movie/TV business, it is no surprise that the majority of A-List celebrities are whiter than cage free organic Mayonnaise.
Film companies ARE companies, and they will try and get the most bang for their buck, and that often means changing the race or gender of characters to get the most financial gain. It happens in other countries too, most notably in the Japanese live action remake of Attack on Titan. If you’re unfamiliar with the post-apocalyptic world of Attack on Titan, let me fill you in. Walls have been built around the last civilization to protect its citizens against these giant man eating creatures called Titans. The inhabitants of this civilization are very diverse, they come from all corners of the world, but many have European names like Eren Jaeger, Annie Leonhart or Thomas Wagner. One character, Mikasa, has been noted by other characters to be of Asian descent, and that she is probably the last Asian woman in the city (key subplot of her almost being sold into sex slavery as a child because of her race is an important set up for her personality and relationship to other characters). But when Japan’s movie studio chose to cast the characters they were mostly, if not all, Japanese actors and they ignored that very pivotal point in the story. Japanese movie studios have a large amount of Asian actors just like the majority of actors in Hollywood are white. The actor who matches the race majority in each country appeals to widest audience in each country, and because of this it’s really not surprising that Scarlett Johansson has been cast as Kusanagi in Hollywood’s Ghost in the Shell movie.
Thank you for a wonderful discussion a couple weeks ago, sorry I am so behind on podcasts and my letter wasn’t very timely. Keep up the great work!
Desmon, from Nerdtastic4, has told me they responded to my email on this week’s episode; which can be found here. Being a white as fuck, wonder bread white, male from Pennsylvania I am certain that when it comes to race issues my voice does not matter. But diversity and celebration of other cultures is something that I believe in. We must understand that diversity, although it makes us different, doesn’t make any group superior, and that having diversity leads to exchanging of ideas and a better society as a whole.
It’s safe to say that we, Nerdtastic4 and I, share opinions on the topic. It is an important conversation to keep going, because if the articles stop being written, eventually Hollywood could sweep it under the rug and ignore the issue altogether. Enjoy the Nerdtastic4 Podcast and the diversity of all other Nerd Podcast Mafia shows listed below. Thank You.