The practice of whitewashing in Hollywood films is nothing new. We hear about it more often now, thanks to the Internet and egregious cases like Ridley Scott’s Exodus, but this issue has been ongoing since before Ben Hur. Quite often in other films, Native American actors get passed over in favor of pale-skinned actors. Look no further than Marilyn Manson’s casting as a Native American hitman to see the silliness at hand. When Native American actors are actually hired to play roles, they end up in questionable Adam Sandler movies where they are portrayed in a less than positive light.
With Joe Wright’s upcoming Pan, much fuss has been made over Rooney Mara’s casting as Tiger Lily. Mara herself admitted skepticism over the role because the character has “always been portrayed” as Native American. Mara says Wright convinced her that “they are natives of Neverland, and it’s a completely made up place.” Wright recently spoke with Reuters to further defend his decision.
Wright says Tiger Lily is the biggest “bad-ass warrior” of the film, and young girls will worship the character. When asked about Rooney’s casting over a Native American actress, Wright said he made up for his decision by casting black, Indian, and Korean actors to play Tiger Lily’s tribe:
“I liked the idea they were indigenous people who were fighting against the colonialist rule of Blackbeard. I can understand how it appears from an outside perspective. But when people see the film, they get it.”
Wright maintains that he cast plenty of minorities in the film, and the Tiger Lily casting controversy has been been blown out of proportion.