11 Movie Characters That Were Completely Whitewashed

The movie industry has a long history with racism, and although it has made huge improvements over the years there are still minority characters being whitewashed. There are many ways the industry whitewashes, but one of the most popular ways is casting a white person as a minority character. This is usually to give a movie more “star power” for the box office, or because the producers don’t trust that audiences will go see a film with a minority in the role. So when did Hollywood do this? These 10 times!

1. Tony Mendez in Argo

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Ben Affleck plays Antonia Joseph Mendez in the Oscar winning movie. You would have never known that the real person Affleck is playing is of Mexican descent. That is until you hit the one mention of the character’s last name in the movie.

2. Allison Ng in Aloha

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There were many headlines covering the fact that Emma Stone‘s character is supposed to be partially Hawaiian and Chinese. This is strange because of the casting of the character is white and that they had the option to do away with this characteristic but didn’t. The character talks about her racial background in the movie. According to Entertainment Weekly, after the outrage Stone said she “learned on a macro level about the insane history of whitewashing in Hollywood and how prevalent the problem truly is.”

3. Maria in West Side Story

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The beloved musical is about two rival gangs going against each other. One is Polish and the other is Puerto Rican. They decided to cast the lead Puerto Rican female role with Natalie Wood, who is of Russian descent.

4. Eben Oleson in 30 Days of Night

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The movie is based off of the comic book and the character is supposed to be of Inuit descent. They instead cast Josh Hartnett and changed the character’s last name in order to not raise eyebrows.

5. Mariane Pearl in A Mighty Heart

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The story follows a wife of a journalist who goes missing in Pakistan. The real Mariane was mixed race. But instead of finding someone who actually looks like her they went with Angelina Jolie. The actress darkened her skin, wore colored contacts, and had curlier hair for the role.

6. Ben Campell in 21

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The movie follows a true story about MIT and Harvard University students who made millions counting cards in casinos. The problem is most of these students were Asian American, but they still cast the main characters with Jim Sturgess and Kate Bosworth. They do have two Asian supporting characters, played by Aaron Yoo and Lisa Lapira, but they are mostly stuck in the background.

7. Dastan in Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time

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Given the title you would think the movie makers would be smart enough to do the right thing with casting. Instead they gave the lead role to Jake Gyllenhaal and just gave him a tan. They also had many people in the kingdom played by white actors.

8. Khan Noonien Singh in Star Trek Into Darkness

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In the original series Khan was Sikh from North India. It looks like the character was never done quite right since Mexican-born Ricardo Montalban portrayed the character then. Instead of becoming more progressive, Hollywood took even more steps back by casting Benedict Cumberbatch for the role in the remake.

9. Nora in Warm Bodies

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The movie is based off of the novel, which had this character be half-Ethiopian. Instead of sticking with this and having a little diversity in the movie, they put Analeigh Tipton in the role.

10. Tonto in The Lone Ranger

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Disney once again is an offender in whitewashing. For this movie about an American Indian named Tonto they put Johnny Depp in the role, gave him some face paint, and let him have at it. This mistake wasn’t made in the 1950s television series so this actually steps back on progress.

11. Tiger Lily in Pan


There was a lot of discussion going once news hit that Rooney Mara (who has Irish, German, French-Canadian, and Italian ancestry) is going to play Tiger Lily in Pan. This character is a Native American princess in Peter Pan which would require the actress to walk around in face paint and a head dress. What is Mara’s response? She said Joe Wright told her “They are natives of Neverland, and it’s a completely made up place. Then it just made sense to me.”