Ten Thoughts on “Whitewashing”

The whitewashing controversy is pretty simple at its core:


  1.  if a character’s race is changed toward yours, you will tend to be sanguine with it. If it is changed away from yours, you will tend to object. If you have control of the property, you will choose changes toward you, on average.
  2. To this end, if you are group X, you will put X’s into makeup to resemble Y’s so you can control the image systems and keep the money circulating in your own communities. When that stops working, you’ll change the back-stories.   It all achieves the same result, and other X’s will support any change you make.
  3. The changers will not be honest about the fact that they simply preferred the change. They will blame the audience, the lack of actors, the material, another country. Anything but themselves.
  4. The audience prefers it too, but also will not take responsibility.  It is the creators, the material, other people.  Never them.
  5. As this is what is really going on, and everybody does it, you can remove this entire issue from the table and ask instead: what kind of world do we want?  I can answer this for myself: I want a world where art reflects the world as it is. Not “politically correct” but “demographically correct” which, we can see, translates into “economically correct.”  But #1 continues to dominate far too often, corrupting the creative process (thank God!) and creating under-performing movies and television and outright bombs.
  6. This will only change when the pain of doing it (social or economic) outweighs the pleasure of doing it.
  7. Those who point this out will be attacked verbally, gaslighted, accused of racism (!),  being “Social Justice Warriors” (which, to my mind,  is a little like insulting a guy by calling him a “stud”), threatened with rejection/loss of friendship or even physical force.  Impugning their intellectual capacity and moral or emotional health.   Its fun to watch, if you know who you are.
  8. The simplest answer is that when there is diversity among the decision makers, the images will be diverse. If you are an X, and X’s are in control, you will try to come up with ways to keep control and shut down the complaints. “Educate us.  We’ll do focus groups.   Show us the numbers.  Explain how it feels.”  Nope. It won’t be a matter of the same faces making different decisions.   The ONLY possible argument against rough statistical distribution is a belief in differential capacity. Those who believe we aren’t equal will rarely say it out loud, but they will object to the notion that the power should be shared. In fact, they will call you a racist if you dare to suggest that X’s shouldn’t have all the power. It’s funny once you grasp the beliefs that generate the words.
  9. This is a universal human tendency. All countries adapting material will shift it toward “them.”  When Japan licensed Spider-Man, you’d better believe he was Japanese.  The problem is NOT the tendency, the problem is lying about it.
  10. Why do I care so much about Asian Whitewashing?  Partially just from fair play.  It sucks. It isn’t fair.  I’m an Asianophile, having lived as a martial artist my entire adult life.   This shit is wrong. But…partially the very real, selfish knowledge that the exact, precise thing was done to my people, and would be done again given any opportunity.   And that it only stopped because we raised hell, stopped taking shit, dealt with the exact same excuses, the exact same delaying and gaslighting tactics, the exact same “you’ll reap the whirlwind!” threats if we didn’t shut the #$%% up and take whatever slop we were offered.    And I simply made a decision: I would rather die than have my grandchildren deal with this.  To the limit of my capacity, it stops NOW.  In this generation.


And the weapon of choice is truth, and love.  There is nothing particularly evil about all this. The people who make the choices or defend the decisions are not evil.  They are just obeying an unconscious directive, some combination of genetics and social programming,  a tendency to believe their dog is the best, their mommy prettiest, their daddy the smartest and strongest. Their country/ethnicity/race superior and central to existence.  That THEY are the essential, universal human, all others branches from that root.


That’s where we start.  It isn’t where we have to end.  You really can make a decision.  The 21st Century is asking us to put the 19th Century behind us.  My tribe are the science fiction people, the future thinkers, the open hearted, those brave enough to be called names because we don’t tolerate body-shaming, racism, sexism, because we believe in marriage equality and the right of children to grow up without fear, and to dream that they are the heroes in their own stories.


That doesn’t mean we want to throw out the values that created the foundations of our world. It means we are the generations who will decide the future.


There is room for you.  All you have to do is wake up, and tell the truth.






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