5 Unintentionally Racist Casting Decisions

Posted on July 18, 2010
Views: 76,640

Subscribe to our newsletter

Advertisements

Let’s just get something straight: like it or not, racism has never exactly been a stranger to cinema. Why do you think there have only been four black men to win a Best Actor Oscar? And is it a bigger travesty that there have been only four, or that Jamie Foxx has one while Morgan Freeman does not (and yes, we know that Freeman has won Best Supporting Actor, but still)? Hollywood has gotten better about giving people of all creeds and colors a chance, but that doesn’t mean they haven’t made some missteps along the way. Sometimes, those missteps aren’t intentional, either. Case in point with these absolutely ridiculous casting decisions that could be considered downright racist…

1.

John Wayne as Genghis Khan

John Wayne was a lot of things. Tall, imposing, talented, charismatic, and decidedly not Mongolian. Did that last thing stop him from portraying the most famous and feared Mongolian in all of history? Of course not. And that’s precisely why the extremely white cowboy from Iowa who played football at USC wound up with the role of Genghis Khan in the film The Conqueror. The movie was a pet project of Wayne’s for years, and just to really emphasize how crazy the production was, it was filmed largely near the main site of US nuclear testing and was funded by Howard Hughes.

The movie was pretty much an unmitigated disaster, and not just because a white man was portraying one of the most famous Asians in history. Of the 220 cast and crew members, 91 contracted cancer, including Wayne (who would later die of the disease in 1979). At the very least though (in hindsight) even Wayne knew that it was an awful movie and that he was never in any way, shape or form the man to play Genghis Khan. He even stated that the film taught him “not to make an a** of yourself trying to play parts you’re not suited for.” Oh, if only Mickey Rooney had taken that advice, but we’ll get to that in a minute.

john wayne

2.

Natalie Wood as Maria

And we jump right from John Wayne to one of his co-stars from the classic western “The Searchers”, Natalie Wood. Perhaps the most famous role Natalie Wood portrayed in a career cut far too short by her untimely death in 1981 was as Maria in West Side Story, in which this daughter of Russian immigrants portrayed a Puerto Rican. Wait, what? We realize that with her dark hair and complexion she wasn’t the whitest girl on the block, but doesn’t it seem like a bit of a slap in the face not to cast an actual, you know, Puerto Rican in a role that had already been well established on Broadway?

Particularly when you consider that the woman who actually played Maria was also in the cast. And Rita Moreno, who actually is from Puerto Rico, by the way, didn’t just play the role of Maria on Broadway. She dominated it, winning a Tony for her efforts. So maybe the producers of the big screen version just figured her stage success wouldn’t translate to a movie, right? Nope, because she won an Oscar for her (other) role in the movie adaptation, becoming the first Hispanic to win one. So maybe Wood just had a better voice, right? Wrong again. Wood didn’t sing any of her own songs, but still got the part of Maria anyway. All because Hollywood just didn’t want to give the good roles to Hispanics in 1961, meaning that maybe this one wasn’t so unintentionally racist after all.

natalie wood

3.

Fisher Stevens as Ben Jabituya

Maybe Short Circuit isn’t the greatest movie in the world, but it was sure entertaining when it came out back in 1986. Who doesn’t remember “Johnny 5 is Alive” or Steve Guttenberg back when he was actually getting work? Who can forget the timeless story of a robot who gets struck by lightning, which inexplicably brings him to “life” and sets the army hot on his trail, trying to capture or destroy him for some reason? Personally, we feel that if a good natured robot became sentient, our first thought wouldn’t be to destroy it. But then again, Terminator came out two years before Short Circuit so maybe the army guys were just paranoid.

Anyway, Johnny 5’s creator in the movie is Ben Jabituya, an Indian scientist portrayed by Fisher Stevens: very much a white man and very much from Chicago. Now if you’ve never seen Short Circuit, first of all shame on you. But anyway, think about the biggest possible caricature of an Indian man you can. You’re probably thinking of Apu from The Simpsons, right? Well now you know exactly how Fisher Stevens portrayed Ben. Seriously, the only thing that was missing was a line where he thanked Johnny 5 and invited him to come again.

fisher stevens

Advertisements
Random
Page 1 of 4
Loading...

Latest Articles

Makeup Artist Transforms Her Face Into Her Favorite Cartoon Characters

Makeup Artist Transforms Her Face Into Her Favorite Cartoon Characters

Laura Jenkins is a London based brilliant makeup artist who brings various cartoon characters to life on her own face, or to be more precise on her mouth. This is what happens when...

5 Most Unique and Unusual Islands - #3 Is it Cute or Creepy?

5 Most Unique and Unusual Islands - #3 Is it Cute or Creepy?

For most of us islands hold a certain mystique. It could be their seclusion that entices us, or the perceived difficulty of reaching them. Others are relatively untouched and...

5 Ad Campaigns That Backfired - #5 With True Message

5 Ad Campaigns That Backfired - #5 With True Message

It's fair to say that in the digital age we're beaten over the head with advertising on a regular basis. With constant exposure to commercials, banner ads, and other spots trying...

7 Utterly Bizarre Assassination Attempts

7 Utterly Bizarre Assassination Attempts

Assassinations are a dirty part of global politics and warfare, and as you can probably guess there are tons of attempts on the lives of political leaders that you never even hear...

15 of the Scariest Urban Legends From Around the World

15 of the Scariest Urban Legends From Around the World

Everyone loves a good old fashioned urban legend. People love getting a good scare, and something about urban legends just makes it feel like these things could have actually...

15 Myths About History You Probably Believe

15 Myths About History You Probably Believe

It turns out that a lot of what you were reading in history textbooks was wrong, and some of the things you believe are either skewed by false information passed down through the...

8 Prettiest Nations in Europe

8 Prettiest Nations in Europe

It might be hard to tell the difference between women in Europe, but every man with a keen eye will tell you exactly why these nations have the prettiest women.

13 Things You Didn’t Know About the Lord of the Rings Movies

13 Things You Didn’t Know About the Lord of the Rings Movies

The Lord of the Rings will go down as one of the greatest movie trilogies in history, and this year Peter Jackson’s follow-up trilogy The Hobbit will be coming to a close as...

13 Crazy World Records You Won’t Believe People Bothered to Set

13 Crazy World Records You Won’t Believe People Bothered to Set

These are the people who work on breaking and re-breaking world records that no one in their right mind would ever even consider as a legitimate thing. You know, the records that...

13 Famous Fictional Characters You Didn’t Know Were Based on Real People

13 Famous Fictional Characters You Didn’t Know Were Based on Real...

Through all mediums of entertainment - music, movies, books, and so forth - we get attached to the truly great, fleshed out characters who just jump off the page or screen and...