The Official Website of Felicia Day

Tiger Lily doesn’t equal Human Torch



The other day I posted this tweet:

“Wait they cast a white chick for Tiger Lily in the new Peter Pan? Did they not remember Lone Ranger last year? Or, you know, racism?”

(If you didn’t hear, Rooney Mara is supposedly playing Tiger Lily, who is a princess of the “Native” tribe, in the reboot.)

I got tons of Tweets that agreed with me, and then a lot of Tweets like this as well:

“I agree they shouldn’t screw around with classic characters. Oh wait they cast a Black Guy as Human Torch.”

“Are you actually retarded? Black men were cast to play Heimdall and the Human Torch, why aren’t you complaining about that?” 

Well, no sir, I’m not “retarded.” Thanks for asking. But from the general tone of the responses (most were civil, for the record), seems like there are lot people upset about black people replacing white people in the Marvel Universe. And they consider that issue a valid counter-argument to my comment about Tiger Lily’s casting. (I guess because they think both have “changing canon” in common?)

I’d like to clear up some stuff here, especially with regards to my initial tweet:

I am not upset about Tiger Lily, a role originally written for a Native American female character in the book, being cast as white because it upsets the canon. Screw canon. I am upset about a role that was expressly written as a female minority being given to white actor instead. And here is why.

Most lead characters and lead actors of movies are white. Period. I even dug up a recent study to back that up, like this is some fucking term paper or something: Across 100 top-grossing films of 2012, only 10.8% of speaking characters were Black, 4.2% were Hispanic, 5% were Asian, and 3.6% were from other (or mixed race) ethnicities. Just over three-quarters of all speaking characters are White (76.3%).

(In referring to “speaking characters”, I also assume that’s counting judges and store clerks and taxi drivers with just a line or two. You see a lot of casting stick minority characters to check the boxes of “yeah, we had diversity, look!” So we’re not even talking about opportunities to carry the whole movie here.)

Another thing to note from the study: “These trends are relatively stable, as little deviation is observed across the 5-year sample.” Gee, no movement towards reflecting the country or world we live in! Fantastic.

Bottom line, actors of ethnicity don’t get a lot of work to begin with. And that very fact creates a scarcity in the number of actors of different ethnicities to choose from when casting. It’s a chicken and the egg syndrome. In what instance can you point out a role where a Native American actress has a chance to be a lead in any movie? Almost none. So why chase a dream that doesn’t seem like it could come true, because the system would never allow it?

It’s a self-perpetuating reality we live with, so the only way to change it is to break the norm, and cast more leading characters with more diversity. At the very least give roles that are intended to be ethnically diverse to ethnically diverse actors, I mean, BARE MINIMUM, PEOPLE.

So for me, the opportunity to give a leading role that could be a Native American, a possible protagonist role that the audience could relate to and live the story through, to a white actor, is kind of shitty and backwards to me. And that’s why I posted my initial tweet.

To compare Tiger Lily being cast as a white women to Human Torch or Heimdall being cast as an African-American is not equivalent, because I don’t think this issue is about violating or adhereing to “lore,” I think it’s about providing more representation. And that’s why I think that the Human Torch being cast as African-American is an awesome thing, because that move evolves Hollywood and storytelling and the Marvel universe.

Remember in the past, lead characters were most likely written as white in the first place, because they were created in an even more white-centric world. Fantastic Four debuted in 1961, segregation was outlawed in 1964. You can’t say that the culture at large at the time didn’t influence the creator’s choices when making these characters! Fast forward fifty years, the culture at large NOW doesn’t match up with the lore from before, and we should be open to changing it.

Tiger Lily, in the book, is actually portrayed in an EXTREMELY racist way. But hey, it could be a great opportunity to re-invent the character as a Native American to be proud of, rather than dodge the issue entirely, and take the role away and give it to a white woman.

Why NOT re-imagine Tiger Lily so that the audience can fall in love with and admire a woman of color? Or reimagine a superhero as an African-American, one among a TON of white ones we see every day? Let’s show the audience that they can live through anyone’s eyes!

We have to make an effort to change the pattern of only seeing stories through white characters’ points of view, so that in the future, diverse protagonists are just a given. So that we can have heroes and villains and judges and love interests of all backgrounds, and not have to point it out as “look how special this is!” Evolving stories and lore is a GOOD THING FOR OUR WORLD.

And bottom line, if you feel so disenfranchised by one role out of TONS of roles being changed up ethnically, if you are saying you can’t possibly relate to a character who is another race from you, well, I think that’s more a problem of your own than anything else. But don’t worry, the stastics say you’ll have lots of other entertainment for your point of view to choose from. Around 80%, actually. Hooray, I guess? :/


So yeah, I guess that’s my expansion on my previous 140 character Tweet, haha. Happy weekend!

  • Jacob Loper

    Felicia, it’s like I told you: story absolutely comes first. The film will most likely blow hard, so why worry your gorgeous little head about it? If the film miraculously is decent, it will be because of the writing or screenplay, etc.

    Actors are what lyrics and vocals are to music. They are the most obvious connection to the audience. People project whatever they want onto them. Besides, Peter Pan is fantasy; no one is expecting (well, now they are) to go in thinking about how the Native Americans are represented. That’s silly.

    I think you’re old enough to know Hollywood is a business. A cruel, unmerciful business. And you can’t make bank when you cater to everyone who isn’t white. Sick, huh? Hey, you live in LA; I thought you’d be used to this sorta crap.

    It’s not like Zaboo was chosen to be Indian to fit a stereotype and appeal to a wider audience, right?

    • Jacob Loper

      Oh, and may your Sunday be tranquil and lovely; just like you.

    • Jacob Loper, what a condescending response. I take great objection to your tone.
      Thanks for your writing Felicia!

      • Jacob Loper

        Dude, I didn’t make the rules or play by theirs. I wish Hollywood existed for fair entertainment, but that’s not it’s purpose. It’s a business first. Felicia was an actress for little over a decade. I don’t feel condescending pointing out the obvious.

        Although, I’ll admit you do have a point. I would’ve/should’ve worded it more politely, but I find it trivial when she’s so experienced in the trade, already.

      • Paul

        I agree, but since I don’t think I can be as polite about it as you, I’ll stop there.

  • Joanne

    For all we do to pat ourselves on the back as a culture for our movements forward in “diversity”…we are still so very far from being the all embracing, all accepting world we like to portray. Thank you for using your voice, one that is heard by many, but especially the younger generation, to highlight the continued inequalities and to champion for a more accepting world.

  • Great post. I agree completely. Another thing that makes this different from Heimdall and Human Torch is that there is nothing in those characters backstory or characterization that requires them to be white (like there is in Storm’s or Black Panther’s that require them to be black), they just have historically happened to be portrayed as white. Tiger Lily on the other hand is necessarily a Native American, that’s part of what makes her her. The fact that they’ve hired a white actress to play her is therefor, as you rightly pointed out, troubling with racist undertones at the very least.
    Keep up the good work!

    • Jeremy Roberts

      For the most part I agree, except that it should be pointed out that Sue Storm (Invisible Girl) and Johnny Storm (Human Torch) are brother and sister and that much of the F4 dynamic relies on the fact that they are a family. Now if through clever writing they can figure out a way to explain his being black (short of some lame adoption story)…

  • Michael Hughes

    I don’t disagree with your overarching point, as really, the issue is “lead roles”, not “speaking roles”, which are obviously totally skewed towards white males, and that is effed up.

    However, it really should be pointed out that the current demographic breakdown of American society is relatively close to the percentages of representation by speaking role in Hollywood. The only truly underrepresented minority in Hollywood products are Hispanic/Latinos, who comprise 17% of our population, and only 4.2% of speaking roles. Check out the stats here:

    Current US Demographic breakdown:

    White – 77.9%
    Black – 13.1%
    Hispanic or Latino – 16.9%
    Asian – 5.1%
    American Indian – 1.2%

    Just thought that was interesting to point out.

    • Matt

      Correct. Probably won’t get many comments because it is a fact that runs counter to the Preferred Narrative™.

  • I read this post twice and I continue to be impressed by how well-thought out it is. I think it’s really important that you bring up issues like this (and, actually, the issue about short-haired women which is, in my opinion, related). When I heard the casting choice, I was confused and disappointed. I feel like it’s particularly important for women to see more cultural representation because women are still, on the whole, under-represented in leading/significant/interesting/etc roles. Unfortunately, everything seems to be about money and what the studios think people want to see. Maybe if more people, especially more people that have some weight in the industry, say something about it every time, more people will be aware that it’s a problem. I think many people just don’t even realize. So thank you for your “college essay” complete with research. I plan on reblogging it to my tumblr to spread the word and hopefully others will do the same.

  • Dana

    Bravo, lady. *applause*

    I see it this way. They’re all fictional characters. But if a character is written as a specific ethnicity as part of the plot, then cast that character as the ethnicity for which it’s written.

    Unless you are trying to make an artistic statement, like when they made Othello with Patrick Stewart as the titular character and everyone else was black.

    If the character is NOT written as an ethnicity, then anything goes and it’s entirely up for grabs. And the comic-book world is whitewashed and male-ified enough already. Y’all did know women, people of color, fat people, disabled people, and LGBT people all read these books, right? It’d be nice to see ourselves once in a while. Portrayed in a relatively realistic way.

    P.S. People migrate, and there have been black folks in the Germanic and Nordic territories for a LONG time now. And Heimdall is a deity, not a human being. He can be any color he likes. Especially since Yeshua ben Miriam, who was originally a Middle Eastern Jew back when Jews looked like Arabs, is just about always portrayed as white in Christian religious art. Fair’s fair.

  • Willem.

    Agreed, its just poor casting.

    If Marlon Brando was still alive, He’d have agreed with you too, he was quite vocal on the issue regarding native americans. It is a shame to see things havent really changed in all those years.

    There’s exeptions but not many.. my personal favorite movie actually is one. The last of the Mohicans.

    Ironically it does feature a white “Indian” but the story states Hawkeye is adopted by the Mohicans. And while Daniel Day Lewis plays wonderfully as always, but the Native american actors Wes Studi, Russel Means and Eric Schweig are right on par with him.

    Beautifull movie still, if anyone wants to get rid of the bad taste in their mouth after watching this new peter pan movie, watch this one. The ending is simply phenominal.

    Felicia, I think you’d love this movie too if you haven’t seen it yet!

  • Redcliff

    and in games as MMORPG, always see white people.

    • Willem.

      Very true, though personly I do tend to have characters of other ethnic groups as well despite me being white.

      In the Old Republic I have two black guys amongst my sixteen characters, one is inspired by Mace Windu and the other kind of looks like Morpheus from the Matrix.
      But I also have an old wise asian jedi master, various aliens and quite a few women as well.. and quite a few are supposedly much older than me.

      And I do roleplay with all of them, but during that, the character itself looks the part. In a way I am just the writer of these characters, and I do my best to write them appropriatly.
      Not really much difference that I’m writing for them though, the morpheus guy is very much the cool guy. He does speak a little “street talk” as it where, but its quite weak since I dont want to stereotype him. I just feel it fits since hes a smuggler.

      I gues my asian jedi master might be a bit of a stereotype, but not a bad one I think.. he speaks normal like anyone else, but I do try to portray him as a spiritual person.. kind of the samurai ideal. A bit inspired by the Katsumoto character in the last samurai.

      • Redcliff

        Would there also a difference of opinion between different cultures (America, Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia …)?

        In Europe, I just play once a black male at “Guild Wars 2”, but never seen a character another colors.

    • Greg Burgess

      Well most MMORPGs are based on European myths: Nordic, Arthurian, Gallic, Roman, Greek. There are so many other mythologies to draw from; Hindu, Chinese, Japanese, African, Egyptian (African as well) but the MMORPGs seem mired in western culture. Don’t get me wrong, western culture is fascinating, but what about a gaming world based on, say, the Mahabharata? Or the Aztec, Mayan, Incan or Hopi mythologies? We’ve also got Sumerian and Mesopotamian pantheons and magic we could draw upon, not to mention Yoruba, Hittite, or Igboo. Maybe the game designers in Silicon Valley haven’t read much ancient texts, but almost the whole world has access to the internet. And I think gamers from the states would appreciate variety in their choices.

  • Tiger Lily was never a native American. She was a mock Red Indian portrayed by a normal caucasian actress. She was not from a “book”… Rather from a play by J M Barrie. Aladdin was not an Arab. Aladdin was Chinese in the original story. If you want to get on someone’s case, go after Aladdin.

    • Charybdisjim

      Sure the older story of Aladdin is set in a Chineese town (probably on the Silk road given the geographically diverse origins of a few of the characters involved), the character’s specific and the character is explicitly said to be Chinese. Despite this most of the characters have names derived from Arabic and are muslim and there was one Jewish character as well. The character’s father was named Qaseem – which is not a particularly Chineese name nor is Aladdin. For example, the princess in the older forms of the story – daughter to the emperor of China – is named “Badroulbadour.” This an Arabic name literally translating to “full moon of full moon”; this is sort of old school meta referencing Arabian Nights and basically means “beauty of beauties.” That may have been a choice of middle eastern story tellers to give characters names familiar to the audience and a lack of impetus to chose names appropriate to the setting. It also gave them a chance to use names with immediate meaning and to a middle-eastern audience and which served to reference other temporarily popular stories.

      The ethnicity of the various characters seems to be established mostly to enhance what would be the exotic nature of some of the settings and far flung exploits in the narrative, to an audience who had little or no knowledge of China at least. For a modern adaptation of the story, I think matching ethnicity to the names of characters might actually make a lot more sense. In a day where people are more familiar with China and Chinese names, Chinese characters with names like Aladdin and Bradroulbadour might seem more odd than authentic as I don’t think most people are intimately familiar with the older incarnations of the story.

      • Fiona Marple

        The “older story” of Aladdin is the only story—the original story, from the Arabian Nights. Even in the comical pantomimes done in England every Christmas season, the Aladdin characters are all Chinese. Look at the Cole Porter TV version from 1958, with Cyril Ritchard: “Come to the Supermarket in Old Peking.” China. The only exception to the Aladdin-in-China rule was the Disney film of a couple decades back, which used only the name, the lamp and the genie and otherwise had little to do with the real Aladdin story.

  • Gerard Coleman

    You are so good! And thanks for standing up to false equivalency as it is used to support some people’s feeble minded attempts to excuse bigotry and discrimination!

    • Fiona Marple

      You are quite welcome. i didn’t wish to be heavy-handed, but when Felicia stridently declares that Tiger Lily was depicted “racistly” in the original book, when there was no original book, beyond a stage play—it’s obvious she’s blowing smoke. And Tiger Lily could not have been a “native American” or even an American Indian, because she never was anywhere near America. She lived in Neverland.

      • Gretchen

        Plays are also books, you know. And there was a novel based on the play, Peter and Wendy (2011), which I’m guessing included Tiger Lily though admittedly I haven’t read it. And the idea that Tiger Lily wasn’t a Native American because she lives in Neverland is hilarious….ly stupid. Thanks for the laugh this morning. By all means, film-makers, use offensive stereotypes of anyone you like, so long as you set it in a fictional universe! Then it’s okay. Fiona Marple has given you permission.

        • Gretchen

          Gah, 1911, not 2011. Seven years after the play.

  • Burst Bubble

    Apparently gender and ethnicity are the only differences among humans. How many ‘mentally challenged’ people have you seen in major roles? I can think of two, in Rain Man and Forrest Gump, and NEITHER of those two were played by real retards! Amputees? Dull, pudgy PWBs? Seriously, how many beautiful, vivacious redheads do you think really exist? Aside from Tony Stark, if STEM professionals are not goofy or gay, they are always out to either destroy the world by releasing some unnatural horror, or else they are enabling some soulless corporation to achieve world domination.
    Maybe the casting people couldn’t FIND an actual NA who could fill the part. Can you name an appropriate person off the top of your head?
    Why is an indigenous person from Mexico a ‘Hispanic’, while a different indigenous person from, say, New Mexico a ‘Native American’?

    • Fiona Marple

      An indigenous Mexican is not a Hispanic but an Indio.

  • Don Gregory

    Agreed. I wonder also — while the ethnicity percentages in “speaking roles” mostly correlate fairly well the US ethnicity percentages (with the exception mentioned above), I wonder how they correlate with the ethnicity percentages of the total population of working actors? Should they, at all? Hmm. That could be another chicken-egg situation.

  • Robert Babcock

    I will agree with “The Super-Cool-One” that recasting a character that was specifically written for a specific cultural character with one that is not even remotely close to the original is not a cool thing to do. Hold on…dog is throwing the food bowl around because it’s empty and he’s hungry…

    For example.

    Probably not a good idea to recast the lead character in a reboot of Shaft by casting Ben Affleck or Nathan Fillion. This would take an iconic figure and do it grave injustice. Nothing against Ben or Nathan, but ….

    Now the above model fits into the “Super-Cool-One”s model.

    But if we were recast for that role of Shaft by giving that role to Sandeep Parikh, he could pull it off, but I would reckon to think that it may just get a little bit of hate-mail because the original role was designed for a specific cultural character.

    When I heard of the recasting of Johnny Storm by giving the role to Michael B. Jordan I had a mixture of logic freeze flavors. I really liked M B. J when he was on All My Children so it tickled my brain to see him get a major role. It also intrigued me as to why they are going to change the dynamic of his character. Was this a marketing gimmick? Was Chris Evan that super awesome as Johnny Storm that they couldn’t find anyone to do that role so well that they decided to go another direction (color)? Was the, did they, well what the…

    If they make him be Susan’s adopted brother or his brother from another mother…ok…it could work.

    I had to ask myself “Self….what is your problem with this?”

    So basically it boils down to once again the middle finger seems to go to tradition. Johnny Storm was already a character with a history. It would seem quite disrespectful to the those who are inspired by their skin color to have a new hero of their skin color only to find out that he was really originally a different color and they changed the color of his skin in order to make a statement of some kind. Again….Shaft as Nathan Fillion…or Ben Affleck.

    If Amy Okuda would have been hired to play the role of Tiger Lilly would “The Super-Cool-One” have the angst she has now or would she say “Hmm…this could work?”

    So no, comparing the Tiger Lilly issue to the Johnny Storm issue is not the same, but there are similarities and this discussion is good to have for even if you don’t agree or do agree in the end we can all babble about it and maybe learn something from each other…maybe.

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  • Rogerborg

    When did Idris Elba get American citizenship?

  • Dev Null

    Plus, and I realise this is entirely tangential to your point, the Human Torch is _boring_. Anything you can do to break that character away from its canon is a start. But he’s not contentious, he’s just dull.

    Tiger Lily, as you rightly point out, is also problematic because she’s not just boring in the original, she’s a whole bag of 2-dimensional walking stereotypes of women and Native Americans. If you keep the things she’s a stereotype of – that she’s a she, and native – then you can reverse some of the stereotypes by writing her as a deep and interesting character. If you make her white – or made her a guy – you just ignore the problem. But – and here, I think, we might start to close in on the studio’s motivations – if you ignore the problem then you at least can’t screw it up. If they left her as native, and she ended up still a bad stereotype, then they _really_ were going to cop some bad press. It’s cowardly of them, and I don’t condone it, but I might understand it a little bit.

  • Duine Sidhe

    I have to agree that the movie and TV establishment has a really poor record when casting people into roles that should have someone of a specific ethnicity or other requirements as a white actor when there are others who fit the role better. I can’t remember the role, but Maysoon Zayid, a comedian and actress with Cerebral Palsy was trying out for a part for a woman with CP. She has a comedy bit about it, where she describes how she didn’t get the part because they were concerned she wouldn’t be able to do the stunts. Really?!? As she put it, if _she_ couldn’t do the stunts then the character shouldn’t be able to do them. Hollywood really needs to start casting people for parts designed for non-whites or other specific types of people better!

  • Mike

    are you single? I think you’re a genius

  • Chris

    Wow, so I’m only slightly a fringe fanboy (as in I just watched TableTop but I’ve never seen Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog). I googled you cause I thought you seemed pretty awesome. Now I know you are awesome. Thanks for being an intelligent human being and, you know, actually caring about things.

  • Eric

    First. Love all of the stuff I have seen you in. On this note. I will say that I do have issues with anyone messing with the original comic book characters. Johnny Storm as an African American does bother me only because the comic character is a white guy. In the same way I agree with you that a role written for a female minority character should be played by a female minority character. If they rewrite the comics to have a black Johnny Storm, like they changed Nick Fury in more recent years from the WW2 white version, I will have no issues, but until then I would like the studios to stay true to the comics.

    • David Samuel Auer

      Newsflash: The Marvel films (MCU) are not set in the same universe as the comics. If so, Earth in the Avengers would be invaded by Skrulls, not Chitari which are the counterpart of Skrulls in the Ultimate Universe (another Marvel Universe separate from the standard comic universe). Movies are always different from their counterparts in other media, because different media are just that. You cannot flip from one page to another in a film so you must tell the story differently. With the exception of Sin City, every comics-based film has rewritten large parts of the story for aesthetic and narrative purposes. Aesthetics are open to debate. You may like a film’s reinvention of a character or retelling or not. I prefer Spider-Man being bitten by a genetically engineered spider to being bitten by a radio-active spider in the original as this makes a trifle more sense, but even if the original was better, the casting of the spider is not given from a marginal species of spiders to an entitled species of spiders. Films do not take place in a vacuum and I don’t like it when films reinforce historical injustices.

  • Kim

    Thank you for writing this.

  • Valashu

    Well said, Felicia. I entirely agree. This is precisely why I’ve not seen, nor will see, either Star Trek: Into Darkness, or The Lone Ranger. This sort of thing just is not OK, and boycotting instances of it, it seems to me, is the very least we can do to send that message to Hollywood.

  • David Samuel Auer

    Suppose my mom makes a cake and divides it up equally between five kids. That is fair. If a mom makes a cake. One of the kids eats half of the cake and then she divides the remainder up equally among the other five kids, that is not fair. In film, whites have over half the cake. Dividing up the roles the same way they have always been is not fair. I tried to keep the analogy simple so that even an entitled white kid could understand it. In this example, the mom could fairly divide up the cake into four and distribute the cake to the other four kids leaving the glutton none. Felicia is not suggesting anything so drastic. She is just saying don’t take some of tenth of the cake from one of the other kids and give it to the glutton.

    • David Samuel Auer

      I agree with everything David says, but feel I should have proofed it before submitting. Either stick with my mom or a mom, don’t jump in between the two. She is dividing the remainder up between all the kids not the other kids. I hope I did not put words in Felicia’s mouth that did not belong there, but I think I conveyed the spirit of what she was saying. Not that she needs clarification; she made the point excellently. I just wanted to throw in my peseta into the mix.

  • Sue Lyn :)

    you should so totally create a film to fit everything you just said. why dont YOU write a native american woman that can be a positive influence. do a kickstarter and I’ll totally support it.

  • Aaand… this is yet another reason why you’re very awesome and I love you. Thank you for being.

    • Also I wanted to share this on Twitter via your social media buttons underneath the title, but all it does is let me click on the image. I guess more tweaking in your new site is needed.

  • Tiffany

    Completely agree- there’s a huge difference. Comics were one of the few industries to reflect diversity and become a soap box for acceptance and they are now acknowledging the need for more diversity as they translate to movie format! My only beef is the role of Tiger Lilly, while for a Native American actress, is still a a stereo type on the page. That’s what they should be changing, not the color of her skin.

  • SomedudeNamedZane

    I would suggest the real difference here is the change of cannon. Changing the cannon in a fictional universe can be done. Which is why it’s okay to have a black human torch. No big deal we are just changing the story slightly. No big deal people by and large are all pretty similar. Therefore the race of the character of the human torch can be anything and he will still feel like the human torch.

    However Tiger Lilly is a Native American! Not only is that central to who the character is but it’s not something they are changing about her back story. This is the reason that this is obnoxious to me. You can’t just plant white people into that spot because it’s racist and silly. You can’t in the year 2014 just slap in a white girl an put on a little make up and bam off you go and have people not be annoyed.

    This is something Hollywood does constantly because they think that middle America isn’t ready or doesn’t want to see. That fact of the matter is their dead wrong we don’t care as long as the show/movie is good. We just want to be entertained. Look at I love Lucy a show about a mixed race married couple that came out in 1951 and is one of the most beloved television shows of all time.

  • Jim_in_Denver

    Out of curiosity how do those statistics match up with the actual percentages of those races as they relate to total population?

    • Which population? The US in 2010 (from Wikipedia)

      European American
      72.4 %

      African American
      12.6 %

      Asian American
      4.8 %

      Native Americans or Alaska Native
      0.9 %

      Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander
      0.2 %

      Some other race
      6.2 %

      Two or more races
      2.9 %

      Of course, this doesn’t reflect breakdowns by specific geography. Cities I would venture have a wider mix than most rural towns as an example.

      • Jim_in_Denver

        And there we go.

        Felicia is advocating passing up on 99.1% of the population for a job because they’re not the right race? Maybe… of the .9% of the population that is qualified in Felicia’s eyes, simply because they’re the right race, there aren’t any actors better suited to the role based on… oh you know maybe… skill?

        Watching all of the shrieking involved with the release of the new Star Wars cast I realized there is a bludgeon being blindly wielded, quite haphazardly at that, to enforce an ideology which is as hypocritical as it is misguided no matter how well intended the agenda may be. Trying to shoehorn specific “races” into a film cast simply for the sake of diversity is idiotic especially given the fact that the racial distribution of the population is so greatly lopsided.

        • Except the ‘job’ in this case specifically relates to a character that is Native American as per the script. If all casting (and casting calls) went out without specifying race in the first place, the argument might have more weight. However, since the vast majority of casting calls (at least that I’ve seen, and I am not an expert by far) go out including those factors, why should a role that is already written based on a specific race not go out based on that? Because now it’s excluding people who aren’t of that race?

          • Jim_in_Denver

            Because make-up?

          • How’d that go with Johnny Depp?

            Put another way to clarify – are you advocating we remove all race based casting calls or just for this role?

          • Jim_in_Denver

            I didn’t watch the movie, the previews looked horrid.
            I advocate not tossing out the race card or shrieking sexism at every decision made by another person(s) that doesn’t align with someone’s ideological bias. I’m weary of the vilification of opposing view points (from every camp).

  • Okay, so while I stumbled onto your page via a great book review by this chick on Goodreads (turned out it was you). At first I was clicking around to see your DragonAge-clips at first (total geekorama happiness ensued in front of my screen! Yay for elvish assassins and DA-action! :D) but I kept finding interesting and thought provoking posts to read. So I kept on reading.

    I was saddened by the way you have been treated since you cut your hair off. Personally, I find your short hair very becoming and I am a fan of short hair on women. (I have short hair too.) I am also a fan of long hair. Or no hair. I basically like people executing their own free will to look any way they feel like, and rocking that.
    I’m crazy like that… 😉

    Now, _this_ post…
    I had this discussion with my husband the other day, and while we both find “whitewashing” exceptionally annoying and just plain stupid, I am so happy I found this post because THIS is the very issue. THIS is what I wish I could say when people yap about it. THIS is what I will keep quoting and the link I will send people.

    So. To round off this novel: You are a breath of fresh air, Felicia. I wish more people exercised their brais the way you do.
    Please, “don’t let the bastards grind you down”.

    Best wishes and my sincerest well wishes/
    Zarah in Sweden

  • Josie Lawson

    Awesome post! Native Americans went from being played by white people in the 50’s (either as evil, or occasionally very wise) to a few NA actors playing a few NA characters in a few movies (Daniel Day Lewis played the lead in LAST OF THE MOHICANS – he’s not even American, much less Native American 🙂 ), to the current, wonderful, LONGMIRE (bonus: Katie Sackhoff in a very well-written supporting role), with NAs playing NAs. Still, Native Americans and their issues are basically invisible in this country (don’t get me started about the obscene numbers of rapes of women on tribal lands) and, while everything doesn’t have to be about “relevant social issues”, it would be at least nice if we didn’t return to casting white people as NAs.

    AND, as comic books, graphic novels, superhero movies and tv shows play a huge role in empowering kids from “less than ideal backgrounds”, the rise of diversity taking place in such, so that black and NA (whole series of NA superhero comics rebooting) and female and minority kids have role models that look like them (rather than just having to fit their own brain into the body of the white boy/man), is a beautiful thing.

    • Gustave

      First, let’s get our literature straight; Hawkeye, Danial day Lewis’ character in the book, is white. Second, since the book takes place before the Revolution, he is also English. So as for as the ethnicity casting police, spot on choice. Second, Johnny Depp is part Native American. So do we have to now do genetic testing to determine blood purity when casting roles. Third, why not make Peter Pan with an all Polynesian female cast. Classic story and, as most everyone here seems to agree, casting doesn’t matter. Good luck finding producers.
      Truth be told, I think they likely could have found an outstanding NA actress to play the part. Mara was cast for the most important cause of any in the entertainment industry, writ large, box office! As for Ms. Day’s outrage, when the only tool you have in facing life is your “diversity” hammer, EVERY choice looks like an “intolerant’ nail. So next time you are offered another “Buffy” role, turn it down and insist it be recast to be more diverse.

      • Josie Lawson

        Having never read, “Last of the Mohicans”, I’ll concede your points on that.

        The rest, however? – “when the only tool you have in facing life is your “diversity” hammer, EVERY choice looks like an “intolerant’ nail.”

        1) I am an actress (amateur, at this point, but still).

        2) My great-grandmother was Mohawk, so I have silver and black hair (when I was younger it was, of course, completely black) and (because some of my ancestors were also Welsh and Swedish) pale skin that freckles and burns. It wasn’t a big deal when I was growing up but, when I moved to CO, I was immediately shoved into the “generic ethnic” category. I was auditioning for Hispanic (I took German in high school and speak very little Spanish), Polynesian, Jewish, etc . roles. I was surprised, having grown up in the very eclectic Washington, D.C. area, at the level of bigotry towards anyone with black hair and brown eyes. I’d never experienced anything even remotely like it before and could only imagine what actual Hispanic and Native American (who were invisible) people who lived there experienced.

        I had trouble finding an agent, being told, “we have enough of ‘your type’ “, which I knew didn’t mean mid-30’s Mom-type, because that was in huge demand for commercials in that place at that time. I was cast (along with a lot of other people of different ages and genders) in an award-winning commerical that dealt with domestic violence. I was really happy to get the part – until the producer told me, “The client said, ‘wait! we have no Mexican people! We’ve got to have a Mexican person!’ ” Kind of took the wind out of my sails.

        Agents and producers told me, “We try to find Mexicans who can act, but there aren’t any.” At the time there was a theatre company run by and featuring Hispanic people, so that was B.S.

        I had trouble finding a job. At the time, the main restaurants in Denver had no “Hispanic-looking” people working the floor – they were all in the back cooking and/or washing dishes – which is what I remembered happening to black people when I was a kid in the 1950’s. Fortunately, my Dad raised me in such a way that none of this kind of marginalization made sense to me and my CO experience really drove the point home.

        In other words, if you are an ethnically-identified actor, “EVERY choice looks like an ‘intolerant’ nail’ is not because “the only tool you have in facing life is your ‘diversity’, but because bigotry AND sexism are huge problems in certain quarters.

        • Which says to me, they’re only looking at who comes in to auditions and not at why they’re not seeing more people of color audition? Or they’re just not looking.

      • Chuddox

        Also, in the movie, when Hawkeye gets arrested for sedition Chingachgook asks “Where are they taking my White Son” so literary ignorance aside, the movie provides its own rather unsubtle clue.

  • Betho

    Well said felicia, there are plenty of amazing actresses out there who could play the role and actually have Native American heritage. love the hair too! I always am growing and cutting my hair and it really comes down to me thats it. gee whizz some people are bizarre. ANyway I’m a fan of the stuff you do, keep living the dream!

  • Justsomeguy

    Love it! Such an articulate thought! Couldn’t agree more.

  • Chuddox

    I think its disrespectful to Rooney Mara to assume she got the part because the studio didn’t want to cast a native descended actress into the role. I think you are looking for racism where there is none. Ultimately it seems like you are saying Ms. Mara is not qualified to do the job because of the color of her skin, which by its very meaning is a racist comment. Seems to me Sam Jackson did it just fine with Nick Fury (originally white), Idris Elba was a great Heimdall (originally white). Maybe I’m naive here but I think the best performer should be chosen for the job, period. I’m not going to accuse someone of a racially motivated agenda without -some- proof it actually exists. It seems to me your tweet was motivated by knee-jerk reaction more than a carefully expressed criticism. Your explanation only further serves to discredit your view. Your second to the last paragraph works in the inverse, you know, as well. If you cannot possibly relate and identify with a character because they are NOT a certain race its a personal problem you have.

    • Nothereenoughtosignin

      If there was a movie called “The Last White Man on Earth” with the role of the white man played by Morgan Freeman would you still feel the same way? If so then kudos you’re consistent and that I can accept.(p.s seriously not being sarcastic:)

      • Chuddox

        I love Morgan Freeman. He’s a legendary talent, and I think he’d do a great job. I reply with a question in return.
        Should we then judge New Line Cinema, and Peter Jackson for not casting a SINGLE Hobbit or Dwarf role to an individual of the requisite stature (I concede they were given roles as doubles, but we are discussing lead roles)? Do we condemn or marginalize the performances of the actors playing those roles because they are NOT the requisite stature? With Make up effects, CG, and all the other tools available are we really going get upset over something as trivial as the actors genetic heritage?
        It seems like a stretch to accuse a studio, casting director, et al. of racism when any number of plausible, and completely devoid of malicious intent, reasons may exist for their casting decision. I would like to correct myself, its more than stretch, its outright reaching.

    • I agree with you about the point not being about Rooney Mara’s acting ability, but please don’t say there isn’t any racism at all. It’s written perhaps accidentally into the story of Peter Pan, which can be but is slow to be updated.

      • Chuddox

        Actually I think you missed the point I was making. My point is: It isn’t about her race. Its about her acting ability, not because of skeletal structure and melanin ratio of her skin. People find offense when they are looking to be offended.

  • Jugador

    I couldn’t agree more.
    So much so that this is:
    a) One of the first blogs I’ve ever read
    b) Certainly the first I’ve ever replied to
    (I’m aware how little my opinion counts) 🙂

    I am (painfully) caucasian, I wanted to say right off the bat.
    So there is no racial sensitivity here when I say: (while maybe not suited to that role due to age alone) when there are such indigenous talents as Moon Bloodgood (best name ever!) out there, why would anyone cast some pasty white chick in that role?!

    Also I remember when the late great Michael Clark Duncan was cast in Daredevil in a role initially created as a white guy, all the needless and baffling controversy surrounding that.
    Granted, the purists out there don’t like changes when it comes to revamped art ;
    But I only have two words to say:
    Orbus Unum people!


  • Jugador

    After reading some of the other posts below mine I now feel compelled to point out:
    When I said I couldn’t agree more
    I meant With Felicia!

  • druid001

    Characters in comics weren’t created black or white because of segregation, they were created that way because the artists decided to create them that way. Hollywood was not a billion dollar industry that kept trying to suck money by making 2,000 different versions of the same comic and btw, there are plenty of non-white superheroes as well. People who grew up with those comics have no interest in watching their favorite superheroes portrayed by actors or actresses of different ethnic backgrounds just because it would be”cool” to do so or if this would “show that producers are not racist”. What a load of bull crap. If they really want superheroes of different ethnic backgrounds, then they can go create their own comics and stop fucking with the ones that have been out there for the past 50 to 100 years. Those “people” who created those comics were artists who were out there to entertain themselves first and they didn’t make those comics so that executives of billion dollar production companies with as much creativity as a doorknob would keep on raking in cash by exploiting their pieces of art. While we are at it, after blaming segregation for the lack of more superheroes of different ethnic backgrounds, we should also make sure to brand the creators of those comics as being racists as well. After all, only a racist would only dream of white superheroes saving the day since non-racist white artists always dream of people of different races… Maybe they can even make a new Star Wars with Steve Urkel starring as Luke Skywalker while Denzel Washington can steal Harrison Ford’s role and they can even put Will Smith somewhere in there. And of course the director couldn’t be George Lucas as obviously segregation caused him to choose an all white cast, so he would be replaced by Spike Lee…

  • YT

    I realise that this post/news is a months old, but reading it through I would like to express my personal opinion because it touched a chord with me. And I do agree with your sentiments Felicia.

    Sidetracking a little, I would like to bring up the movie Breakfast at Tiffany’s. I was told it was a classic and was curious about it, so I watched it. I was horrified by a scene that introduces an Asian character; what upset me most about it was not a white man as an Asian but a white man as an Asian caricature. It made me feel dirty about my heritage (Chinese) and that everything about me is just a joke to the white man. I was in my late teens at the time. About a decade later and having watched a bunch of movies since, I’ve come to the realisation that when white actors play an ethnic role it always going to be caricature. This isn’t about Rooney Mara not being a good actress and not doing a good job in the movie, it’s about representation, especially when the ethnicity of a character is central to the character.

    Superheroes/heroes are built in personality and character. For example, people don’t love Batman because he is white; they love him because he is impregnable in his sense of justice, the strength of his determination, etc etc. qualities of which are not specific to a race. Looks and racial background may change some backstory, but it doesn’t make them less of a superhero/hero because, ultimately, they possess the characteristics of a superhero/hero. This is why comic heroes can be betrayed by an actor of any race.

    Coming back to the main point and not drag this on, I just want to be able to watch a movie and feel like my heritage hasn’t been exploited as entertainment. I just want a Chinese person to be a Chinese person and not what a Westerner thinks is a Chinese person. And I’m sure that other people of colour would like to feel the same about their respective heritage.

  • Cloeflux

    One thing I would like to say on this is that the biggest problem is in seeing Tiger Lilly as a Native American. There is no realistic, quasi-realistic, or otherwise type of realism to the portrayal of anyone or thing in Peter Pan. The ‘Red Faces’ are a stereotyped version of Native American mythology written to be consumed by 19th century children who glorified the mythologies of the West. The problem is in the literature, not in the choice of actress. I think it is reprehensible that white actors are treated with preference in terms of the writing that is done, but I think it is a separate issue to the idea that Tiger Lilly should be played by a Native American. She is not a character that represents true Native American heritage on any level just as the pirates do not represent true pirate heritage – yes, there were real one’s of those too. In fact, Blackbeard, starring Hugh Jackman (who is not English but Australian) was a real English pirate who didn’t use violence and used only the perception of being fearsome as a way in which to handle his business of theft. He led his crew by their permission (according to Wikipedia) but I get the impression that this is not the Blackbeard of this story (the new Pan film that is). The point is, the character is residing in Neverland which is filled with literary imaginations, none of which are realistic in any world. Felicity, your point is absolutely on mark – I do not disagree – I just don’t know how I feel about suggesting that the prejudicial ways that Native American’s are portrayed justifies caring about for this particular story – its too far gone already to be redeemed by placing a Native American in the role to meet political correctness because that is so lost already.

    Found this because I just finished watching The Guild – all six seasons on Netflix – loved loved loved it – I am a gamer too and this hit the mark perfectly.

  • John Reynolds

    I presume you have been willing to turn down roles and suggest they be performed by actors of color? After all, every character you have played could have been a different ethnicity and it wouldn’t have mattered.

  • John Doe

    Have you mentioned this to Joss Whedon, who seems to have a distinct lack of minority characters in his various films and television series?

  • Sorry to dig up an old thread! I found it through checking your site and Goodreads. (Congratulations on your book! I hope to check it out eventually.) I got excited by the content here and wanted to practice some cultural research argument analysis.

    I enjoyed reading this post and definitely agree about the key issue in Tiger Lily’s casting being about a lack of racial diversity in film, even more than it is about the canon of Peter Pan. For me, this is ultimately about adding a second obstacle to my enjoyment of a story that already devalues femininity by having all of the female characters there for the sole purpose of supporting the male protagonist, and this second problem is on the best character in the play who comes closer to having the independent streak I like to see in characters than Tinkerbell who has a fiery personality but is dependent upon Peter to give her something to do and can’t stand for Wendy to be around at all because she’s losing importance and attention.

    Anyway, I agree an opportunity to update the story was missed, possibly because of the childhood tradition of the play which is probably more important in Europe than it is here. I wonder if an extra effort to find Native American actors was not made because the casting director saw a performance that was good enough for childhood and previous memories of seeing a white actress as Tiger Lily. And I’m also wondering what a writer can do to make it impossible to consider any other race than the one as written. I thought in the case of Johnny Depp as Tanto, at least some research went into the wardrobe and makeup for authenticity, but the resulting film still gives a squirmy feeling that we shouldn’t be seeing this actor in this role. But maybe it happens because actors from the relevant racial group do not feel the role is written respectfully to begin with and they don’t want anything to do with it.

    (Commenter YT made a great point about the difference between a character written as a caricature, as Tiger Lily is, being more offensive than just a well written character of color cast with an actor of racial privilege. Though I think Tiger Lily is a positive character despite the treatment of her race, which Tanto [WTF] seems to fail to be and the Chinese landlord also totally fails at because race is a tool for lazy comedy which it is not in Peter Pan. Peter Pan is a story written in days when it was harder to travel and meet real Native Americans but everyone in London was curious about them and wanted to learn the only way they could, through stories, if no one in the family had travel photos yet.)

    So I think the question is: What do you do with these stories that were written during times with different standards of political correctness? Do you keep adapting them at all and try to convince a marginalized group that there is a cultural gift here for them as well? Or do you just write a new story that includes them and even lets them lead? And I feel like the strongest and most inclusive stories are written by members of a marginalized group about a protagonist in that group. Writers of underrepresented backgrounds don’t necessarily show up on a black and white page, but I have a gut feeling they should be selling more scripts. I don’t know what changes the perspective of decision makers who green light scripts or enables them to look where they are not looking to grow their audience by approving more accurate AND positive portrayals of more diverse cultural backgrounds. (I want to add that disability and sexual orientation count as diversity also but that is tangential to a discussion of Peter Pan.)

    • Chuddox

      No story should ever be changed for political correctness, ever. It disrespects the author’s vision of the work for the sake of making the work more readily digestible. No one should have their work included simply because their ethnicity is “under represented”, ever. That disrespects the author by not presenting the work because of its merit, but because of a completely nonsensical reason like “under representation”. “..Accurate AND positive” misconstrues the nature of life, as “accurate” isn’t always “positive”.

  • Lee-ann Dunton

    This blog post is really old, but I just saw & read it for the first time. I rarely comment on things, especially when I’m late to the game, but I wanted to say THANK YOU. Thank you for using your position as a celebrity to (attempt to) educate people on the inequalities in society. It’s important that these types of issues are raised and discussed. You are smart, eloquent, and you have a heart of gold.

  • Max Blancke

    I am not usually worried about casting and race. I try to remember that these folks are actors, and their primary job is to pretend to be what they are not. I did enjoy Carson Grey in the 2003 film. I have not seen Pan yet, but I was disappointed at the previews, seeing Tigerlilly as an Adult Caucasian. Not just being acted by one, but that the character in the film is one. Kind of off-putting.

  • John Doe

    Still waiting on why you as a white actress take roles from minorities that could use them, or if you have mentioned your observation to Joss Whedon, whose casts are fortunate if they contain a token black or two even when the premise suggests diversity (as in Firefly).

    • blackjac5000

      You mean like how Jewel Staite was cast as Kaylee based on merit even though the character was originally envisioned as Asian much in the same way that Chandra Wilson as cast as Grey’s Anatomy’s Bailey on merit even though the character was originally envisioned as a cute and adorable blue-eyed blonde?

      • John Doe

        So is it about talent, or about filling a minority quota?

        • blackjac5000

          Real-world production logistics at work: they were filming in and around LA, which is only about 11% Asian and translates to about 450,000 options out of a national pool of about 15 million. Can’t make bricks without clay.

  • blackjac5000

    In all seriousness, it goes to long-established characters having long-established casting notes, especially when said characters have been depicted visually for who knows how long. There’s wiggle room on Rooney as an American Indian because of all the thinned-out bloodlines in real life (e.g. astronaut John Herrington, who I never would’ve guessed was Chickasaw until I saw his Native American History Month TV spot, and how there was exactly one full-blooded Manshantucket Pequot left on the planet when Foxwoods Casino opened), and Heimdall can be black because the movie version is the “real” Heimdall and the ancient Vikings simply assumed he was as white as they were because none of them had gone to Asgard and laid eyes on him, but Michael B. Jordan as the Human Torch wasn’t the it’s-been-done-in-the-source-material-already situation like Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury (technically an alternate universe version of what we saw The Hoff do in 1998) or the it’s-been-done-before situation like Halle Berry as Catwoman (a callback to Eartha Kitt on the Adam West show) or the this-is-the-closest-we-could-get-in-the-real-world situation like Michael Clark Duncan (none of the white wrestlers they auditioned first could act).

    I’m a big proponent of both blind casting simply because it’s practical and respecting the creator’s original artistic vision because it’s their baby and you better have a damned good reason for making changes to it other than present-day political concerns.

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