John Oliver drops the mic on Hollywood whitewashing so hard he breaks the stage

02.22.16 1 year ago

One of the things I hope people know about me, at least the people close to me, is that I am more than willing to cop to being wrong about something, or insensitive. I regret a conversation I had with Water Chaw, a critic who I like a lot who does good work as a programmer, during the release of Cloud Atlas, a film I love.

You remember the fan-trums that I wrote about last week? Well, I threw one. And I threw it because I didn't like Walter Chaw's dismissal of the film based on the whitewashed casting. “There's a point! They let everyone play everyone else! Halle Berry plays white! She plays a guy! Doona Bae plays a white Southern girl in the Civil War era! It's all mixed up!” I was adamant, and I refused to give an inch on my position, and I am fairly sure that by the end of the conversation, Walter Chaw thought I was a belligerent jerk uninterested in someone else's perspective. And he'd have been right.

I thought about that conversation tonight as I watched John Oliver's astonishing mic drop of a segment about the idea of Hollywood whitewashing. First of all, there's a Joel Edgerton joke that made me want to stand up and applaud. It's a miraculous joke. It's like watching the shark bite Quint in half. It's amazing.

John Oliver's first two episodes of the season have been explosively good. I'd like to discuss Trevor Noah and the new Daily Show at some point, but for now, it's clear that the most significant voice in comic political commentary right now is Oliver and his show, and I'm afraid I need him to work more often. 200 shows a year should be enough. I'm sure that pace wouldn't tax them at all.

Point being, when they get it right, they get it fiendishly right, and this whitewashing piece is pretty much the most inarguable summation of what's wrong with it and why the responses are no longer valid. Hollywood has to change. They will change. They will change even if they don't want to. It's not going to be instant, but it is going to be inevitable. And this piece should be the one-stop explanation of the issue from this point forward.

Last Week Tonight appears Sunday nights on HBO.

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