If this years Oscars proved anything, its that Hollywood doesn’t always make the best choices when it comes to casting on the basis of ethnicity and racial background. The truth is, white washing is still very much prevalent in even the biggest blockbusters, as evidenced by the recent uproar surrounding Tilda Swinton’s casting in Doctor Strange. Although its crazy to think this issue is even still a thing in 2016, we’ve certainly come a long way since the early days of cinema when black face was a common occurrence, and it was perfectly okay to change an actors appearance to look Asian.
With that in mind, lets look back at some of the worst crimes against diversity we’ve seen over the years on our screens, if only to ensure they are never again repeated.
The Crows – Dumbo (1941)
These characters may have barely registered with you as a kid, but when re-watching Dumbo as an adult its impossible to miss the blatant racial stereotyping on display from the pack of singing crows, led by the tastelessly named Jim Crow. Whilst the filmmakers at the time may not have seen the error in their ways, modern audiences have come to view the scene as an offensive mockery that’s executed with the subtlety of a sledgehammer.
Jack Robin – The Jazz Singer (1927)
This one goes back even before Dumbo, to the earliest days of cinema, and one of film’s most notorious uses of ‘black face’. You can imagine studio executives not giving the choice much thought back in the day, as this type of insensitivity was common at the time. These days however, this type of character has become a case study of exactly what not to do on film and TV, a lesson the contestants on Australia’s Red Faces clearly didn’t pay attention to.
Mudflap and Skids – Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (2009)
The most recent entry on our list is also surprising for the fact it occurs in what is essentially a kids film. We were already offended by Michael Bay’s bloated sequel for various other crimes against humanity, but when these exceptionally annoying characters come rolling in, the film hits dramatic new lows. The writers manage to pull out every racial caricature in the book, all of which are executed with typical Michael Bay subtlety eg. Zero. We were supposed to think it was funny, but not even the kids were laughing at this one.
Mr. Yunioshi – Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961)
Breakfast at Tiffany’s is considered a beloved classic by many, but few would argue the fact that one poorly judged performance makes the film somewhat difficult to watch at times. The performer in question is Mickey Rooney, and the character in question is the spectacularly unfunny Mr. Yunioshi. Rooney, you might have noticed, was not Asian; but it didn’t stop the comedic actor from turning things up to eleven as he fully commits to the role.
You can almost imagine him asking those the crew at the time “Am I going too far with this?” and them simply replying “Are you kidding me!? No way, if anything you’re not going far enough!” Except you did Mickey…you really, really did.
Uncle Remus – Songs of the South (1946)
You may not be familiar with this post-Civil War era film from the earliest days of Disney, and that’s because the film was deemed so racist that DVD production was never commissioned, and the film has essentially been buried by the studio ever since. The main source of anger from audiences is directed squarely at the character of Uncle Remus (James Baskett) who is strangely nonchalant about the whole Civil War thing, and whose general attitude towards slavery is one of complete indifference.
One things for sure, you won’t see this character, or indeed this film, being rebooted by Disney anytime soon.So there you have it! What movie characters offended you on every possible level? Be sure to join in the conversation below or on our Facebook page!