May 15th, 2012
06:20 PM ET

'Daily Show' comedian: Whitewashing in Hollywood does not reflect today's society

Comedian and "Daily Show" correspondent Aasif Mandvi recently told CNN's Suzanne Malveaux that casting in some Hollywood movies, like "The Hunger Games," and "The Dictator," which stars English actor Sacha Baron Cohen as a North African dictator, illustrate an "attitude that white is the normal and everything else is not."

Mandvi said that when films like "The Hunger Games" take a role written as ethnic and cast it with a white actor, they fail to accurately reflect the diversity of modern life.

"Fifty years ago you could almost excuse it, but today you do have a much more multi-ethnic society," Mandvi said.

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Filed under: Ethnicity • Pop culture • Race • Who we are
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  1. bubba

    There are WAY too many White and Black actors and very few Asian and Brown actors.

    May 18, 2012 at 8:36 am | Report abuse |
  2. amadeus1992

    Why is it considered racism when a white person takes a non-white persons' role in a movie but not racism when non-whites sometimes take white person's role in films? This story is dumb and racist.

    May 18, 2012 at 3:27 am | Report abuse |
    • nvmature

      Because 92% of roles in films, tv shows and commercials are written as Caucasian characters, no one complains when a minority characters steals one because it doesn't affect the ratio one iota. And because it happens so rarely. Generally speaking, overall, casting directors and directors stick to the casting as originally written in the script. As an actor I fault the producers, networks and studios. They have to power to affect change.

      August 11, 2013 at 10:33 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Just me

    So wait a minute. Is he saying that Hollywood, the home of the left coast ultra liberal, is racist? I thought that was the defining characteristic of the middle America conservative. The mind boggles.

    May 17, 2012 at 11:38 am | Report abuse |
    • C. Smith

      I'll give you a hint. The 'creative' types in Hollywood aren't really that creative, either. That's why they hate sci-fi and fantasy so much.

      May 17, 2012 at 11:42 am | Report abuse |
    • nvmature

      Without a doubt, Hollywood is the last bastion of racism among large conglomerates. it is about image control and old money.

      August 11, 2013 at 10:35 pm | Report abuse |
  4. di

    hello, films are fictional...they are meant to be taken such. I go to see a film to get out of my 'real' life for an hour or two.
    If you'd like a film to be 'real' you should come up with a plan to get your film out to the public, and with a say in who is hired in casting.
    I'm a minority, and it doesn't bother me one bit, may the best actor be cast.

    May 17, 2012 at 9:56 am | Report abuse |
  5. Huh?

    It's amazing how ignorant these comments are on this page. Compare the numbers of roles where white people acquire them to the number of roles that minorities get – and you'll see a drastic ratio. With the national census showing that minorities are growing more and more in population in this generation, Hollywood needs to reflect that and have more and more main roles go to minorities. If life imitates art, imitates life, imitates art – then Hollywood needs to follow suit. Stop white-washing, Hollywood, and get more minority faces in MAIN roles! Stop the white-washing! Period.

    May 17, 2012 at 2:10 am | Report abuse |
  6. erin

    He's right, but he's not even listing the most egregious of examples. How about Renee Zelwegger as a black character in that Cold Mountain movie a few years ago? That was ridiculous.

    May 16, 2012 at 5:38 pm | Report abuse |
  7. patrick

    A lot of comics do and should get a pass. Mel Brooks stands out BIG time on that. He made fun of everyone, and he knew he could get away with it.

    May 16, 2012 at 3:33 pm | Report abuse |
  8. eric

    Was there an issue when Will Smith Played James West in Wild Wild West? That was a white character, and there were very few, if any, black secret agents in the old west. Why should Eddie Murphy play a female role when there are REAL female actresses?

    May 16, 2012 at 3:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • John W.

      Excellent point. And I'll add that the Will Smith movie was a colossal flop.

      May 17, 2012 at 2:08 am | Report abuse |
    • Ramc

      The character of Red, played by Morgan Freeman, was white in the book of "Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redmption"

      May 17, 2012 at 10:22 am | Report abuse |
  9. raceisamyth

    And when your people stop enslaving women back where youre from....Americans might just listen to you. Till then....go back to your eastern mentality (Tyrrany)

    May 16, 2012 at 3:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • Guest

      Where he's from? You mean England?

      May 17, 2012 at 2:42 am | Report abuse |
  10. Logic

    If the actor is any good, he will get the job. I don't see Don Cheadle losing any roles to a white actor.

    May 16, 2012 at 2:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • nvmature

      And just how do you know this to be true? You, like I, only see the results, not the process.

      May 16, 2012 at 7:03 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Kevin Nivek

    Is this guy a complete moron? Sacha Baron Cohen stars in The Dictator because he WROTE the damn movie with the intent of starring in it. There was no casting decision involved. Do a little basic research for God's sake.

    May 16, 2012 at 2:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kevin

      You're absolutely right. The sad thing is that this is an issue all over the Internet. This isn't the first story about SBC casting himself as an Arab (although, if we want to get right down to it, he is Hebrew which makes him a Semite, which makes him Arab).

      May 17, 2012 at 9:58 am | Report abuse |
  12. Solo

    I'm really tired of all of the discussions that are back to the 1970's "quota" mentality. Let companies hire who they want, let studios cast the actors that they want – all without the race card being played. It's still bad enough that most companies are pressured to scour the four corners of the Earth to make sure they at least interviewed minorities, even if they were never qualified to begin with.

    May 16, 2012 at 12:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • nvmature

      You miss the point. As long as the decision-makers continue to create the images with which they are familiar and comfortable, what the consumer views in the media won't change. Society has and will, but the TV/film world won't. In this case, art does NOT reflect life. Rather, it is reflecting itself or the "self" it thinks life is accepting of. That, my friend, is called cowardice and personality disorder.

      May 16, 2012 at 1:35 pm | Report abuse |
      • Solo

        Did you just complete Sociology or Psychology 101? You have that tone of "I know one sentence to make a point with" and it's hysterical. Be sure to add a typing class to your junior college studies.

        May 16, 2012 at 1:50 pm | Report abuse |
      • JT

        ...and you sound really defensive.

        May 16, 2012 at 2:19 pm | Report abuse |
      • eric

        Maybe they know something about marketing a film. George Lucas's had to fund Red Tails himself, because none of the studios thought a film about black airmen would appeal to the masses. Turns out, they were right. It doesn't make them racist. They know who their demographic is, and what they like. A simple matter of giving the masses what they want.

        May 16, 2012 at 3:25 pm | Report abuse |
      • Guest

        I'm reminded of XKCD comic #808, regarding crazy phenomena and making money. "Eventually, arguing that these things work means arguing that modern capitalism isn't _that_ ruthlessly profit-focused." Hollywood is about making money. They don't say "Well, a black actor would bring in more money, but I"m going to cast a white actor because I like white people better." Arguing that they do that would mean arguing that Hollywood isn't so ruthlessly profit-focused that they make bank robbers look like philanthropists, and one's opponent need only point to the endless string of sequels, remakes, reboots, and other exploitative and derivative stuff coming out of Hollywood to prove one wrong.

        May 17, 2012 at 2:18 am | Report abuse |
    • patrick

      The race card is played. Constantly. In hollywood. People don't see it because it's a white world with white tv. I don't think it's 100% maliscious. Imagine Mitt Romney trying to get along with blacks for example.

      May 16, 2012 at 3:28 pm | Report abuse |
      • yes!

        Anything people can cry about, they will cry about, I wish people would stop playing the race card all the time, it's getting really old

        May 17, 2012 at 5:21 am | Report abuse |
    • LeRoy Feist

      So...WHY were "minorities" never qualified to begin with?

      May 17, 2012 at 5:53 am | Report abuse |
  13. jimdog33

    Or it's a comedic look at brutal, stereotypical dictators from a particular region of the planet which is factual... lighten up.

    May 16, 2012 at 12:53 pm | Report abuse |
  14. danielle

    This is true Jorge, but unfortunately a large portion of society does get its information from Hollywood and the media. Many times this is the ONLY exposure they get to other cultures, religions, etc. Many people believe this to be a true representation of these people.

    May 16, 2012 at 12:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • nvmature

      Very true. The casual observer is being influenced rather they believe it or not. Images are being given them on an everyday basis and every minute basis.

      May 16, 2012 at 1:38 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Centaurlove

    Nick Fury was originally a white character in the comics. He was made black in the comics after Samuel L. Jackson agreed to portray him in the films.

    May 16, 2012 at 11:46 am | Report abuse |
    • kamibmom2three

      keep in mind... green lantern is a black guy in many comics (granted there are lots of green lantern incarnations) who was portrayed by a white guy in the film... i'm a comic geek girl though.. didn't really bother me, to be honest.

      May 16, 2012 at 12:53 pm | Report abuse |
      • Anymoose

        Movie was based on the Hal Jordan GL. John Stewart is the black GL you are thinking of who came later in the comics and shown in the animated Justice League show.

        May 16, 2012 at 7:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • JT

      NO, he was made black when they rehased the comic series, well before Sam Jackson was cast to play the role.

      May 16, 2012 at 2:21 pm | Report abuse |
  16. Rachel

    Which Hunger Games character is he referring to? Wasn't all the fuss about the characters that were black in the book and cast with black actors and it surprised some folks.

    May 16, 2012 at 11:46 am | Report abuse |
    • Silencer

      The main character, Katniss. She was described as having olive skin and straight black hair.

      May 16, 2012 at 4:51 pm | Report abuse |
      • Rachel

        I guess I read her as looking similar to my sister. She has olive skin, straight black hair, and green eyes. And we're Caucasian.

        May 16, 2012 at 4:58 pm | Report abuse |
      • kmrussell

        Not to mention, the book describes her sister and mother as fair skinned and light / blonde hair, so I just always thought Katniss was like me with dark skin and hair.

        May 17, 2012 at 9:32 am | Report abuse |
  17. barryffs

    Who paid for the creation of the film again? Who wrote it? Who intended to star in it? If it's Sacha's film, written by Sacha for Sacha, then just shut up. It's a FILM.

    May 16, 2012 at 11:44 am | Report abuse |
  18. Scott

    Hollywood is fantasy land – stop trying to make our entertainment a stage for political/social/moral equality. It is escapism fun.Crying on CNN isn't going to create anything but backlash. Go talk to the movie execs and make your case there. We have no control over them, and to be honest I'm tired of minorities crying me a river on unimportant things. It dilutes the real issues like equal opportunity in the workplace and stereotyping in the courts. There are a hundred worthy places to bring up the issue of racism, but hollywood casting isn't one of them.

    May 16, 2012 at 11:39 am | Report abuse |
    • Michael

      Hollywood IS a workplace. If casting were tied to Equal Opportunity Employment regulations like every other business then they would be in some serious hurt.

      It's not inconsequential, while movies can be vehicles for escapism, people place a lot of value in what they see on the screen. It influences their narratives, how they define happiness, what success is, body image, etc. These things filter into the rest of society including other workplaces, courts, and schools.

      May 16, 2012 at 11:57 am | Report abuse |
      • barryffs

        You are missing the point on the most basic level. It's a film.

        May 16, 2012 at 12:27 pm | Report abuse |
      • nvmature

        Micheal, you are absolutely correct. It is about image control. More than just entertainment and movie making, it is the power of suggestion and the creation of a world reality.

        May 16, 2012 at 1:37 pm | Report abuse |
      • gatecrasher1

        Casting in entertainment is generally exempt from EEOC regulations on race, nationality, male/female, age, etc under the "bona fide occupational requirement" principle. For example, you have a male role? You can cast a man in it without any fear of legal reprisal, or looking for a "qualified woman". You can turn down an 80-year old who wants to play Harry Potter as a Hogwarts student. The law is reasonable in this respect, because not following casting guidelines, some of which are necessarily discriminatory, would unreasonably interfere with the right to present a production the way that the writer/ director/ producer etc wants to.

        May 16, 2012 at 4:56 pm | Report abuse |
      • Guest

        If casting were tied to EEOC regulations, filmmakers would be out of business.

        If you have a role that calls for, say, a young suburban housewife, an elderly woman isn't going to fill it, nor is a college-age man, nor a teenager. The star of Home Alone couldn't have been a 30-something woman. Etc. Scriptwriting, like any fiction writing, is telling a story; casting is matching actors to the characters in that story. It's all about how the author imagined them, and you can't assign actors according to some kind of quota system any more than you can require authors to write to such quotas. "Sorry, Mr. Burton, but our quota says the lead actor in "Roots" has to be white...."

        May 17, 2012 at 2:40 am | Report abuse |
    • nvmature

      You, sir, obviously don't work in Hollywood. It is the last of the racial bastions for image control. Hollywood is nothing but political.

      May 16, 2012 at 1:41 pm | Report abuse |
  19. Jorge

    Anybody who relies on Hollywood (or the U.S. media, for that matter) to provide social reference for them is on his way to becoming a deluded psychotic with Multiple Personality Disorder. When we watch TV, my wife and I try to keep a B.S. count, just for kicks, we can't keep up.

    May 16, 2012 at 7:50 am | Report abuse |