Tiger Lily White
The last we heard of Joe Wright’s reimagining of Peter Pan, titled simply Pan, Garrett Hedlund had just signed on to play Captain Hook, which was very interesting. Since then, Hugh Jackman has been confirmed as the bad guy, Blackbeard—has Jackman ever played a villain before? I’m into it—and we’ve learned that the movie will start circa World War II and they will, in fact, be casting Peter as young boy (so much for Pan & Hook, Pirate Bros, booo). Yesterday brought another piece of casting news and this…this might have just killed my interest in this otherwise promising project. Because they’ve cast Rooney Mara as Tiger Lily.
Rooney Mara as Tiger Lily.
Rooney. Mara. As Tiger Lily.
No matter how many times I look at that sentence, it never makes any sense. And it’s nothing against Mara—she’s a good actress. But Tiger Lily is American Indian. And Mara is not American Indian. At least when Johnny Depp played Tonto there was a connection, however tenuous, to the native community. But casting Mara as Tiger Lily is—well, we’re just not even pretending to try with this one.
What’s infuriating is that Warner Brothers is bragging up this project as “multi-racial/international”, but they took a character of color and whitewashed her. What am I supposed to think if the principal roles are all white and actors of color are relegated to the background? What is that supposed to tell me about how my people are valued in society? Diversity in Hollywood isn’t a catchphrase, it’s a commitment.
Just ask the executives at Fox, who have made diversity one of their chief causes and are reaping the benefits—last fall’s diverse Sleepy Hollow was one of the biggest break out hits of the year, and the best new comedy on air, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, has assembled a tremendous cast of multi-ethnic comic talent. They’re making a concerted effort to reflect the kind of multiculturalism we see in our lives every day, and they’re getting better shows for it. And that Fantastic Four reboot that cast Michael B. Jordan as Johnny Storm? It’s a Fox property.
But you have to make diversity a priority. Despite inclusion initiatives like Fox’s, the statistics about diversity in Hollywood remain pretty depressing. Warner Brothers is talking about it, but whitewashing what could have—SHOULD HAVE—been a prominent American Indian role is not a step in the right direction. It’s just…more of the same.