Despite the widespread success of the new hard science fiction film The Martian, director Ridley Scott has been enduring heavy criticism this week for whitewashing the cast. The Martian is an adaptation of an Andy Weir novel of the same name, which features a primary character of Korean-American descent. But the movie version of The Martian chose a white actress to play the part.
According to Entertainment Weekly, Ridley Scott has been called out by the media watchdog group The Media Action Network for Asian-Americans, which published an open letter on Thursday, accusing The Martian of whitewashing two main roles. The character Mindy Park in The Martian novel was originally Korean-American, but is portrayed by white American actress Mackenzie Davis on screen, and the Indian character Venkat Kapoor was changed to Vincent Kapoor and portrayed by black British actor Chiwetel Ejiofor.
Guy Aoki, who spoke on behalf of The Media Action Network for Asian-Americans, claims he was disappointed by the casting decisions in The Martian for failing to take advantage of an easy opportunity for diversity.
“This feelgood movie, which has attracted Oscar buzz, shouldn’t get any awards for casting… This was a great opportunity to give meaty roles to talented Asian-American actors — and boost their careers — which would’ve enabled our community to become a greater part of the rescue team.”
While much of The Martian did feature diverse roles like those played by Michael Peña and Benedict Wong, these casting decisions only served to highlight the strange omission of the Korean-American Mindy Park. Noting this, Aoki questioned if Ridley Scott whitewashed the role to avoid having multiple diverse characters occupying the screen at the same time — as if audiences would mind.
“Was Ridley Scott not comfortable having two sets of Asian-Americans talking to each other? So few projects are written specifically with Asian-American characters in them and he’s now changed them to a white woman and black man.”
As the Guardian reports, The Martian isn’t Ridley Scott’s first time whitewashing a cast. His 2014 film Exodus had a white male, Christian Bale, in the lead role as Moses; and another white actor, Joel Edgerton, as the Egyptian pharaoh Ramses. Ridley Scott was actually confronted about the issue of whitewashing during a press conference for The Martian, and claimed he doesn’t regret his decision.
“I’ve got no regrets on anything with Exodus,” Scott said. “I’m very proud of it but when they start saying, ‘Well gee, shouldn’t Moses have been black and shouldn’t the wife be Ethiopian,’ well I don’t know, I wasn’t there. And also, I would never have got it, it would have been limited.”
Scott seems to suggest that casting more diverse actors in major parts would result in “limited” options. While there are certainly plenty of talented and willing Asian-American actors, many Hollywood directors seem afraid to cast them for lack of star power. However, The Martian had plenty of name recognition with Matt Damon in the lead, and the minor parts could have been filled by Asian-Americans.
“This insulting practice of whitewashing has got to stop,” said Aki Aleong, president of The Media Action Network for Asian-Americans. “Alarmingly, it has been increasing in frequency. Today’s audiences expect multi-racial casts in entertainment, as they reflect the multicultural environment in which they’ve grown up.”
Do you think The Martian is guilty of whitewashing? If you’ve seen the film, what did you think?
For the Inquisitr review of The Martian, click here.