Other people playing white people playing other people

“Is she the right person to play a Native American princess?”

That is the first sentence that pops up, when talking about Roony Mara in an article of the daily mail. In case you haven’t heard (which seems impossible at this point.) Rooney has been cast to play Tiger Lily in a live-action adaptation of Peter Pan.

The internet, which usually partakes in shit-storms on a daily basis, took to this one. Shooting words left and right, heck! Felicia Day’s got a hand in there! To put it simply, they cast a white person to play a native american. 

rooney-mara_2565428aThis is the weirdest part of Hollywood that I doubt I’ll be able to understand, unless I’m making films myself. When I was attending Vancouver Film School, they painstakingly simulated as best as they could the process of auditioning. Telling you what casting Directors look for. It’s always about the confidence, the delivery, how well of a job you do, and what you think you’re supposed to do. Following directions and all that nonsense.

It gave me the impression that “Is this the acting we’re looking for?” is all they want out of you. At the end of the day it’s supposed to be the only thing that matters, when they have to sift through hundreds of people going for the same role.

When this Pan controversy was going on, it reminded me of the uproar that people had when Noah Ringer was cast to play Aang in The Last Airbender. Well actually, not only that, but a bunch of the main characters being white instead of coming from asian decent and the main antagonist being the one of colour.

When I first heard about it, I didn’t understand where much of it was coming from, because I know next to nothing about the franchise. And granted, I still had this point of view of ‘they only pick people that know how to act.’ So I’m basically as naive as someone who is just grateful to get an acting gig.

But then you ask yourself “Is M. Night Shyamalan someone who would understand this kind of sensitivity?” But maybe he’s got other things on his mind, than worrying about white washing. All in all, the movie seemed like a mess critically and publicly, something you’d hope the film industry takes a look at and changes. (I also heard that the acting was pretty bad.)

But then remember The Hunger Games?

Remember when there was a hoard of people that took to twitter complaining that a black girl was cast as Rue? Deciding that the movie was now ruined. Fans of the book everywhere only wanted to picture a scrawny-little-white-blonde girl, and exploding with rage that the colour of her skin was too much to handle. (Back to my previous defence that Amandla Stenberg probably knocked it out of the park in the audition, earning the role.)


One hollywood movie gets flack for casting white people, and another gets it for having a little bit of diversity in their film. When it comes to these movies it really just looks like ‘white people vs everyone else’, every single time it happens. But I don’t want to look at it that way.

There are fans of novels/comics/cartoons that adhere to authenticity above all else. If the piece of paper or drawing clearly states the features of a certain character, then those terms need to be respected. The problem with the film industry, is that they take a lot of liberties in order to successfully achieve the shallowest goal. Sometimes, depending on the casting director, the best actor that they have never fits what the paper tells them.

I would love to see more ethnicity in television and movies, because the world we live in is so much more than white. Yet it depends on the actors that are out there and want these roles. Putting someone in there just because they meet the requirements of skin colour will not always mean a great performance (It’s possible that they tried, even if it’s more likely that they didn’t.) 

… And yeah, if it were up to me, I’d love it if someone like Adam Beach was cast as Tonto instead of Johnny Depp.

I guess when it comes to these kinds of things, Hollywood needs to have a lot more transparency about their audition process. It would be less damaging to be told in a statement that they were looking to cast Native American women. Part of me feels that if Rooney got the role, then perhaps they opened up the audition to any ethnicity. Think about how interesting it would be if Tiger Lily were Asian or Black? Peter Pan is a world of make-believe after all, and any woman could be cast in that role. It doesn’t need to be a Native American Princess stereotype.

Perhaps they didn’t want to cast it that way because they knew it was a racist caricature to being with, and were too afraid to take that chance. But if it’s a white girl, and the character is still native american, there’s gonna be a whole lot more ‘racism’ finger pointing from our hands.

Honestly, it’s just hard to say anything about it when you don’t see anything. I would only hope that casting directors know what they’re doing. I’ll end up watching pan, because as much as I would love see more diverse roles out there, I just like acting. If Rooney Mara has a take on Tiger Lily that is worth seeing, then don’t knock it till you see it.

But really… She’s just grateful that she’s got another acting gig.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s