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Yellowface Whitewashing

A related phenomenon wherein white actors are cast to portray what were originally non-white characters is often termed "whitewashing." In these cases, the original work features non-white characters or non-white European cultural markers which are altered to cater to the perceived viewing habits of the majority Caucasian European based, society. Instead of using yellow face makeup, the film makers change the race or origin of the characters.

Few examples of modern Yellowface whitewashing are as notorious as the films 21 and Dragonball: Evolution. In 21, the story of real-life Asian American blackjack players was re-cast to feature white actors in every prominent role. Dragonball's Goku, the Japanese equivalent of Superman (an alien child lands on Earth, is raised by the native culture, and becomes adopted as the champion of his new home), was likewise whitewashed with the casting of Justin Chatwin.

Cast of The Last Airbender (2010)

Cast of The Last Airbender (2010)

In The Last Airbender (2010) all of the leading Asian characters from the original animated series were played by white actors. With the exception of two characters, the The Last Airbender's cast should have been entirely Asian. Film critic Roger Ebert wrote, "After the miscalculation of making the movie as live action, there remained the challenge of casting it. Shyamalan has failed. His first inexplicable mistake was to change the races of the leading characters; on television Aang was clearly Asian, and so were Katara and Sokka, with perhaps Mongolian and Inuit genes. Here they're all whites. This casting makes no sense."



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Yellowface -- Contents

Racist Asian Stereotypes

Legal Discrimination and Violence

Yellowface on Stage

Yellowface in Film and TV

Yellowface Whitewashing

Yellowface in Europe

Yellowface Caricatures in Politics

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Black Stereotypes

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Asian Stereotypes

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Hispanic Stereotypes

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Indian Stereotypes

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Arab Stereotypes

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Jewish Stereotypes


Racial and Racist Stereotypes in Media


Ken Padgett