FOX’s latest attempt at the X-Men universe has brought some positive reviews. I was drawn in when a friend told me how relevant it was given the modern social climate.
As I looked more into the characters and actors, however, I realized there was a significant faux pas. Here was a show about racism that itself was committing a racist act: whitewashing.
John Proudstar, the Apache mutant known as Thunderbird, is played by Blair Redford; while an impressive actor, Mr. Redford has only tenuous claims to Native American heritage. In fact, you can’t find a confirmation about his ancestry, other than casual mentions about “roots” and “descent.”
In other words, he’s what the Internet calls a “Pretendian.”
For those unaware of that term, “Pretendian” describes a variety of Caucasian actors who justify their casting in NA roles because they claim some distant heritage. Johnny Depp, Blake Lively, Taylor Lautner – all white performers who use their (supposed) distant ancestry to forward their careers.
Let’s be clear: heritage is not the same as culture. Unless you were born, raised, or integrated into an ethno-racial group, you are not a member.
No matter how proud you are or what support you show, you are an ally at best, regardless of who your distant ancestor was. You should not claim to represent that culture, let alone take the (often-limited) opportunities afforded to members.
What’s even more frustrating about The Gifted, is that this isn’t a new issue and could easily have been fixed. There are plenty of fantastic NA actors who could have filled the role, as Fear the Walking Dead proved its past season.
Yet, the systematic racism of Hollywood is evident as it continues to cast Caucasian actors in PoC roles, despite the constant backlash. You’d think after the last Marvel movie to pull this nonsense, that someone would learn the lesson, but it continues.
We’re not saying The Gifted is a bad show – it remains very relevant to modern social problems. Plus, no show is perfect, as even Fear the Walking Dead has miscast some of its roles despite its apparent diversity.
Still, with “whitewashing” being such a known problem, and there being talented NA actors from which to pull, there’s something ironic about this show’s behavior given its subject material.
Please, Hollywood – try to practice what you preach. If you’re going to talk about racism, don’t whitewash your cast.
And no more “Pretendians!