Movie Stereotypes

A Scene from the movie Ghost in the shell. (Picture credits Wikimedia commons and Vimeo)

Campbell, Hannah

A Scene from the movie Ghost in the shell. (Picture credits Wikimedia commons and Vimeo)

Jenny Nguyen, Copy Editor

With the recent release of the movie, A Ghost in the Shell, the issue of racial representation in movies has risen to contention once more. Specifically, the film’s casting of Scarlett Johansson as the Japanese cyborg protagonist has called into question the true role of race in films.

Through the decades, the film industry has engineered a broad and versatile role for white people, whereas other racial minorities have yet to break out beyond a narrow selection of roles in Hollywood. Whites can be anything from astronauts to cubicle workers, but such flexibility in roles are not afforded to other, non-Caucasian actors.

…Many actors and film producers alike would prefer to dismiss the dilution of interracial casting as mere myth, but the truth of the matter is that white centricity in the film has been a phenomenon as old as time and, contrary to optimistic belief, still exists in the movie industry today. With such a large and biased practice, the potential for diversity is compromised and, in turn, harms the range of film roles for other races. White centricity has regrettably evolved to the point where film productions have intentionally cast white actors for traditionally non-white roles in a practice called whitewashing; some familiar and innocent cases include The Last Airbender, Dragonball Evolution, and Pan.

…Although blacks have found some flexible ground in recent films, they are still oversimplified to loud, brash caricatures or distasteful thugs. Latinos assume roles as thick-accented domestic workers or exotic seducers with “spicy” temperaments. The roles of Asians uphold the stereotype of nerdy and tech-savvy mathletes, with the only departure from these archetypes being the kung-fu artists and poorly spoken foreigners. Arab appearances merely entertain alluring harem girls or hardy merchants hailing from deserts on their camels, and Native Americans, arguably the most misrepresented racial profile of all, are constrained to uncomplicated roles as strange medicine men or drastically barbaric and bloodthirsty warriors.

…In such a modern age, it would be easier for one to trust the idyllic belief that racial conflicts simply do not exist in American film anymore—that the movie industry offers equal opportunities for everyone. However, to endorse such a belief would be to accept the racial slants and stereotypes in film and society.