The Business of Whitewashing

Hollywood’s “old boy’s club” mentality is causing them to miss out on major international box office revenue by excluding black actors from lead roles. We live in a culture where a movie starring a majority of black actors, is (unofficially) labeled a “Black Movie” – (http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2005-10-19/features/0510190174_1_black-director-black-people-african-american), but why is that? Is there a certain acceptable number of black lead characters that Hollywood will allow, or is there another, more politically acceptable explanation? To answer this question, let’s take a look at the recent film “Exodus: Gods and Kings” by Ridley Scott, and explore his claim that he would never have achieved funding for this film if he cast actors of more historically accurate races – (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/11/26/ridley-scott-exodus-controversy_n_6225022.html)

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The film “Exodus: Gods and Kings” faced major scrutiny and a social media campaign to boycott the film, due to it’s “whitewashed” cast. The term whitewashing refers to the Hollywood practice of casting white actors in major roles that are based on historically non-white people – (http://stopwhitewashing.tumblr.com/about). Exodus is a retelling of the story of Moses and Ramses, starring Christian Bale and Sigourney Weaver, that takes place in the Northeast African country of Egypt.

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When we look strictly at the numbers, Exodus was made for $140M and made $194.6M in the Foreign Box Office. Compare that to a lower budget film, Equalizer starring Denzel Washington, which was made for $55M and made $90.8M foreign. Although Exodus has a bigger and better looking number, the amount of profit actually made is almost identical. There are many other films led by black actors that have made even bigger profits, like “I Am Legend, made for $150M and made $328M foreign. “12 years a slave was made for $20M and made $131M foreign.

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When you have the bottom line as the alleged excuse for making these types of casting decisions, make sure the bottom line actually backs up the excuse. This is the information age, and numbers don’t lie.

 

 

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