Superhero Race and Gender Changes: The Un-Whitewashing Of Geek Culture

*SIGH* Let me begin by stating that I so wish people weren’t this obsessed with race. We don’t need to inject race into discussions where it doesn’t belong, but nevertheless, racial controversy has bled over into conversations about nerd-centric movies and TV shows. This applies to gender in equal measure. So… let’s do this.

INSTEAD OF throwing a collective hissy fit when a Hollywood star who happens to be Caucasian is cast in the role of a canonically non-white character, we should be acknowledging and cheering on the increasingly diverse casting that is happening in Superhero (and general Geek Culture)-Land as of late. Progress is happening, but people have a tendency to focus on the negative and controversial rather than all the good.

Lucy Liu’s v Martin Freeman’s Dr. Watson

For example, when Tilda Swinton was cast as the Tibetan sorcerer Ancient One in Marvel Studios’ Doctor Strange, people flipped out. For every “Ancient One casting,” however, there seems to be double the instance of reverse whitewashing (colorwashing? brown-washing?) and gender-reversing (see: 2016’s Ghostbusters) going around…


“Progress is happening, but people focus on the negative rather than all the good.”


Let’s roll the reel, shall we?

15 Recent High-Profile Examples:

1. The Ancient One (portrayed by Tilda Swinton in Doctor Strange, 2016)

CHANGE: Asian Male White Female


Yes, let’s start here. Everyone complains about white male hegemony (a.k.a. “The Man”) but the fact that they cast Tilda Swinton, an actress acclaimed for her daringly androgynous roles, as a powerful male sorcerer is actually quite forward-thinking. Tilda may be “white,” but the Ancient One is one of the most powerful entities in Marvel comics. He is a teacher to many fellow superheroes and without him, Stephen Strange would not have become the Sorcerer Supreme. They chose to endow his skill set and title upon a female. Funny how this is never brought up amidst the controversial cloud that looms over this casting choice, but that is incredibly socially inclusive and progressive.

2. Floyd Lawton a.k.a. Deadshot (portrayed by Will Smith in Suicide Squad, 2016)

CHANGE: White MaleBlack Male

3. Daisy Johnson a.k.a. Quake (portrayed by Chloe Bennet on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., 2013-present)

CHANGE: White Female ⇒  Asian Female


This is not a colorblind case of a minority actress being repackaged as an all-white character. Actress Chloe Bennet is half-Chinese and half-Caucasian in real life, but Daisy Johnson is 100% white in the comics. They rewrote her character for the TV adaptation so that the actress’ Chinese lineage played a major factor in Daisy’s own identity. As the earthshaking superhero, her powers apparently originate from her Inhuman Chinese mother, who was a major villain in the second half of season 3.

4. Elektra Natchios (portrayed by Élodie Yung and Lily Chee in Daredevil, 2016)

CHANGE: White Female  Asian Female


Young Elektra (Lily Chee) on the show:

One of the most iconic female anti-heroes in Marvel Comics history, Elektra Natchios, the main love interest of Matt Murdock/Daredevil, has always been closely affiliated with her Greek lineage. Well, in the Netflix adaptation of Daredevil, they finally switched her character’s heritage up. This time, she’s a woman of indeterminate Asiatic descent who was adopted by a Greek diplomat at a young age. One can’t help but think this change was to accommodate the actress’ actual half-Cambodian ethnic makeup.

5. Iris and Joe West (portrayed by Candice Patton and Jesse L. Martin respectively on The Flash, 2014-present)

CHANGE: White ⇒ Black

Comics ‘ Iris West v The CW’s Iris West

Comics’ Joe West v The CW’s Joe West

Many were initially shocked at the momentous casting of Barry Allen/The Flash’s love interest and her father/his foster father as African-Americans. While race had little-to-no impact on their characters’ context, this was major cause for celebration of racial inclusion because of Iris’ major role in Barry’s life. She is his Lois Lane and she has never been depicted or portrayed as anything but Caucasian before this version. Even the most cynical of Social Justice Warriors (SJWs) should be loudly applauding this moment in pop culture history.

6. Iris West (portrayed by Kiersey Clemons in Justice League [2017] and The Flash [2018])

CHANGE: White Female ⇒ Black Female

So nice they did it twice! While Warner Bros. turned their back on Grant Gustin from the CW’s The Flash for the titular speedster big-screen role, they adopted the TV adaptation’s idea of casting Iris West as a young black woman.

The CW’s Iris West and the DCEU’s Iris West:


7. Perry White (portrayed by Laurence Fishburne in Man of Steel [2013] and Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice [2016])

CHANGE: White ⇒ Black

Perry White through the years, from inception to present

8. Johnny Storm a.k.a. The Human Torch (portrayed by Michael B. Jordan in FANT4STIC, 2015)

CHANGE: White ⇒ Black

Michael B. Jordan cast as the classically blonde superhero
Chris Evans as Johnny in 2004 v Michael B. Jordan in 2015

9. Nick Fury (portrayed by Samuel L. Jackson in Iron Man [2008], Iron Man 2 [2010], Captain America: The First Avenger [2011], The Avengers [2012], Captain America: Winter Soldier [2014], Avengers: Age of Ultron [2015],  and on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. [2013-present])

CHANGE: White ⇒ Black

People forget this part of David Hasseloff’s career but he played Nick Fury in 1998’s Nick Fury: Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.:


As the mean-mugging, no-bullshit director of S.H.I.E.L.D. and creator of the Avengers Initiative, Nick has been quite the prolific glorified superhero babysitter ;-P

10. Jimmy Olsen (portrayed by Mechad Brooks on Supergirl, 2015-present)

CHANGE: White ⇒ Black


Jimmy Olsen in live-action chronological order, past-present

Not only is this the first non-white Jimmy Olsen, it’s also the first time we’ve seen Superman’s photographer BFF look like a buff leading man instead of a scrawny, goofy sidekick.

Again, SJWs, not only did they change an iconic protagonist from white to black, they made him pinup-worthy… and Supergirl’s love interest. In fact, the actor’s second-billed on IMDB as the leading man to Melissa Benoist’s Kara Zor-El.

11. Dr. John (now Joan) Watson (portrayed by Lucy Liu on Elementary, 2012-present)

CHANGE: White Male ⇒ Asian Female

Lucy Liu as Dr. Joan Watson on Elementary and Jude Law/Martin Freeman as Dr. John Watson

The classic “Elementary, My dear Watson” line now refers to an Asian-American female instead of a British male war veteran. The fact that the show has been a continued hit for CBS for four years now and little raucous has been raised over this double-identity swap suggests the public is readier than most think for gender and race-bending entertainment.

12. Nikita (portrayed by Maggie Q on Nikita, 2010-2013)

CHANGE: White Female ⇒ Asian Female

Maggie Q as Nikita, the first Asian lead ever on a broadcast drama series:

Three previous incarnations of Nikita before the CW series:

La Femme Nikita has been a story told many times and many ways with many different starlets. The CW took a big-but-calculated risk casting this screen icon as anything other than Caucasian for the first time. Despite a decidedly shitty timeslot (Fridays at primetime), it amassed a huge cult following and excellent critical raves for its four seasons. Moreover, it made Maggie Q, previously known for being a model-turned-action star in Asia, an easily recognizable name and face in the American conscious.

13. Mercedes Graves (portrayed by Tao Okamoto in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, 2016)

CHANGE: White Female ⇒ Asian Female

Various animated and live-action versions of Mercedes Graves

This change may feel merely ornamental at first blush. However, Mercedes (“Mercy” as Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor fondly called her) is canonically not just a cog in Luthor’s evil entourage, but his most trusted advisor and personal assistant (and sometimes bodyguard/chauffeur). Mercy has caused Superman and Lois Lane a lot of grief due to her unwavering loyalty to Lex. The appearance of Mercedes in the film was a delightful Easter Egg find for comics fans and having her look Asian is majorly indicative of mass media’s increasing acceptance of all.

14. Valkyrie (portrayed by Tessa Thompson in Thor: Raganorak, 2017)

CHANGE: White Female ⇒ Black Female


An iconic superheroine based in Norse mythology is being played by an African-American actress? Her character also will be playing Thor’s new love interest (He’s ditched little Ms. Natalie Portman apparently). What a great time to be alive! Run the streets streaking in pure ecstasy!

15. Mary Jane Watson (portrayed by Zendaya Coleman in Spider-Man: Homecoming, 2017)

CHANGE: White Female ⇒ Black Female


This is, perhaps, the biggest race swap in geek film and TV history. Spider-Man is Marvel Comics’ most popular superhero by far and Mary Jane one of its most endearing love interests. Mary Jane’s race is not integral at all to her character, but devoted fans may take umbrage with the discrepancy between the image of her in their minds and their beloved comics and the one on the big screen.



They’ll go along for the ride, though, and accept the change that has come… Because change has come. Significant progress has been made in diversity in La La Land and it would be foolish to complain about a few perceived slights and not proudly laud the bold steps Hollywood has taken forward. It’s a brave new world, folks. Accept it. Love it…




25 thoughts on “Superhero Race and Gender Changes: The Un-Whitewashing Of Geek Culture”

      1. He is of French Canadian, Irish, Japanese, and Welsh descent…holy shit. I thought he was of spanish descent lol.


    1. Hi Jake,

      You’re right. As I explain in my intro, I used the term “un-whitewashing” erroneously on purpose in that context to draw attention to how ridiculous all the recent emphasis placed on race and geek culture either way is. You can’t win with either side. People are mad when you cast a non-white actor to play a white superhero and now they’re mad when you cast a white guy to play a white guy (E.g. Finn Jones as Iron Fist). SMH… Can’t win.


  1. Hi Lillian,

    Also nice to have a real discussion, instead of an internet catfight. I see what you mean about progress. I guess the issue I have with it is when it is used by people to argue that white people have it hard now and that minorities don’t deserve all these roles. Even though we would be considered racist or sexist for pointing out the facts and showing that there are a lot of roles they don’t necessarily deserver either.

    With Rogue One we get two star wars films in a row (out of 8) with female leads (at least focused on in the marketing) and most of IMDB and the internet acts like “feminazis” are sending men to death camps.

    Also, I did a paper on the Exodus casting that actually analyzed IMDB defense of the casting and the posts used at that time showed a very negative view. Same double standard I discussed and a level of racism that was surprising even for online e.g. no way did blacks create a great culture like Egypt.

    Hollywood is so ubiquitous that it is true that it does become international. You point out something interesting though. When I talked about films with mostly poc casts, I didn’t even mean to talk about foreign films. I was talking about American productions, things like The Get Down (an example off the top of my head). Yet you assumed I meant foreign. Not to criticize you but it is interesting how we can make that assumption, and I think it is an assumption partially fueled by Hollywood. America is still very much viewed as white. People will often defend the whitewashing of an Americanized adaptation. The Edge of Tomorrow was supposed to feature a Japanese lead. The film was Americanized and the director said the film would be “totally American”. People defended the whitewashing by saying that if the film takes place in America, it makes sense for the lead guy to be white. Yet this argument also excludes Asian-Americans. Clearly Tom Cruise is marketable and it brings it back to the marketability argument, but hopefully you can see the issue with this pervasive assumption that American must equal white.


  2. My issue with this argument is that it overlooks how often characters are whitewashed and acts like the playing field is level in Hollywood. To this day, roles are still whitewashed because people of colour are not deemed as being marketable. Of course, there are exceptions though, but exceptions can’t always destabilize a system.

    Also, compare the online reactions to instances of whitewashing (your argument about the triumph of diversity and talent over race) —

    …and the reaction to casting like the ones above (accusations of reverse-racism, political correctness) etc.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for adding this valid and articulate point to the conversation.
      Yes, you are right that America has a long history of whitewashing characters of color in pop culture and that it is still happening today, e.g. casting ScarJo as the iconic Japanese character, The Major, in “Ghost in the Shell.”
      To that point, I will raise two counterarguments purely for the sake of discourse. Just food for thought:

      1. We live in the most pluralistic society in the world, in which multiculturalism and assimilation are heavily encouraged, especially in pop culture. It is, therefore, easy to forget that African-Americans are still a small fraction of the U.S. population. It is important for young kids of all colors to be able to see themselves represented in the media, to know that they can grow up to play a superhero if they so wanted. However, we have to remember that progress, while it is happening, takes time. Growing populations will bring more representation. As someone of Asian descent, I wish to see more Asians everywhere in pop culture, as well. At the end of the day, though, I know that Asians, Blacks, and Latinos are all generously represented in contrast to the percentage of the population they consume. We can encourage diversity everywhere, but we also have to look around and cherish the fact that we have come a long way from, say, the 1950s.

      2. This second argument is one which I’m not even sure works but I will just throw it out there: Could it be that in many instances, casting directors and producers are worried about the average American TV viewer and moviegoer not being able to relate to either an unknown minority actor/actress or a minority star in general, as much as they would a familiar white face, to be blunt? Obviously, this is not ideal but many times in Hollywood, it’s just about the bottom line (rather than plain and simple bigotry): Producers just want to make sure their money won’t be wasted on an unprofitable property. Not ideal, like I said, but reality tends to not be ideal, unfortunately.

      In any case, thank you for engaging me in a thoughtful discussion. Have a great day!


      1. Hi, thanks for responding.

        For the first argument, I see what you mean but a 2015 diversity report shows that even to this day, 1 in 10 mainstream Hollywood roles go to minorities. Still very disproportionate. Examples like the one you have listed here tend to overshadow this greater truth. Progress has been made for sure, but there is nothing wrong with pointing out how unequal the system still is.

        My problem with the “relatability’ issue is that Hollywood thinks people can care about robots and talking animals, but caring about someone who isn’t white is a stretch. I know people say it isn’t bigotry but the two seem so intertwined in this case, imho. Especially since Hollywood is also more willing to take risks on unknown white actors. Also, foreign audiences that are mostly people of colour (poc) e.g. China, most of Africa, India, etc. are all expected to shell out money to see movies with actors but the same “colour-blind” mentality doesn’t work with American audiences for some reason. If you cast a film with mostly white actors, and even whitewash roles meant for poc, then it’s not about race. It’s about marketability, it’s just about making a film that appeals to people. If a film is mostly black, Asian, latino etc. then people not only think the film is targeting a certain race, but they also think it is excluding white people. The same argument about marketability or talent trumping race go out the window. So pretty much, white becomes natural and universal to Hollywood execs and audiences. Meanwhile, colour becomes part of an “agenda”. That is my issue.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Again, thanks for engaging me in a rational discussion. Too often do these conversations turn into emotionally hijacked petty catfights…with neither side getting any messages across.

        So pretty much, white becomes natural and universal to Hollywood execs and audiences. Meanwhile, colour becomes part of an “agenda”. That is my issue.

        I don’t disagree with you. It seems to be that this is the case less and less, though, and I will share some specific examples below:

        The thing is–Internet outrage over whitewashing a character tends to overshadow any acknowledgment of progressive casting (Zendaya being cast as MJ was maybe the only one of my examples amongst many other “colorwashing casting” examples that did cause a backlash). I wrote this article to say to everyone, “We can point out what is wrong and celebrate what has gone right simultaneously.”

        E.g. Merely 10 (or even 5) years ago, there would have NEVER been a black actress cast as the main love interest of a major iconic white character and as the second-billed actor overall on a primetime network show. Now, I am talking about the CW re: “The Flash.” The CW’s main target audience is Millennials and the generation younger than them. They may not be the biggest network, but they are the most influential network as far as pop culture and our children (our future leaders, lawmakers and innovators) are concerned. It is more significant than most realize that Candice Patton was cast as Iris West. I was shocked that the CW took that leap and even more (pleasantly) shocked when I went on IMDB message boards (which are brutal and uncensored) and saw that most (as in vast majority of) viewers didn’t care about her race. It was a very touching moment for me and I wish more people were as vocal about that huge step forward as they are about setbacks. It’s not about being “grateful” or anything like that–It’s more like, “How can we truly move forward together as a society on any level if we don’t ALL acknowledge the positive while addressing the negative?”

        To your point about foreign countries accepting American movie stars who don’t look like them, I can speak from personal experience that growing up in China (until age 7), the viewpoint was that “because America is the #1 superpower in the whole world, their culture is something we should emulate and toward which we should all strive.” Our film industry is indeed larger than any other in the world, aside from Bollywood (maybe, I’m not sure). Like it or not, our culture has permeated and directly influenced many others…so that is my roundabout way of saying, “Hollywood is international, hence why other countries can embrace our films and shows (and stars), whereas we’re less willing to accept theirs.

        Sorry for a little rambling, but I am a writer haha.






  4. Unwhitewash? Poor choice of a word considering these characters were written as white 50 years ago but I agree with you. These characters are being bent to fit the complexion of the 21st century one where multiculturalism is the current norm. For example a kid like Peter Parker from Queens NYC will likely date someone of a different ethnic and racial background than him considering Queens is currently the most diverse place in the entire country.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Sorry, but for one, you’re wrong about Nick Fury. Sam Jackson isn’t playing the same Nick Fury that Hasselhoff played, he’s playing a parallel-universe version from the comics who *quite explicitly* says “If they ever make a movie of me, I want Samuel L. Jackson to play me.”

    And two, you forgot a few 😉

    G.I. Joe’s Ripcord (portrayed by Marlon Wayans in ‘G.I. Joe: Rise of Cobra.)

    James Bond’s Felix Leiter (portrayed by black actor Jeffrey Wright in Casino Royale)

    Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’s Ford Prefect (portrayed by black actor Mos Def.)

    Conan the Barbarian (portrayed by biracial Pacific Islander Jason Momoa in the ‘Conan’ remake.)

    James Bond’s Ms. Moneypenney (portrayed by black actress Naomi Harris in ‘Skyfall,’ ‘Spectre.’)

    Dracula’s Jonathan Harker (portrayed by biracial Pacific Islander Keanu Reeves in Coppola’s ‘Dracula.’)

    Elmore Leonard’s Karen Sisco (portrayed by Latina actress Jennifer Lopez in ‘Out of Sight.’)

    Silence of the Lamb’s FBI Director Jack Crawford (portrayed by Lawrence Fishburne in the tv adaptation ‘Hannibal.’)

    Silence of the Lamb’s Dr. Chilton (portrayed by Hispanic actor Raul Esparza in the tv adaptation ‘Hannibal’.)

    Red Dragon’s Reba (portrayed by black actress Rutina Wesley in the tv adaptation ‘Hannibal.’)

    Denzel Washington (Black, duh) in the ‘Equalizer’ movie adaptation.

    Benicio Del Toro (Puerto Rican) in the ‘Wolfman’ remake.

    Fred from Scooby Doo (portrayed by biracial Hispanic actor Freddie Prinz Jr. in the ‘Scooby Doo’ movies, I & II.)

    James West from the ‘Wild Wild West’ tv show (portrayed by Will Smith in the ‘Wild Wild West’ movie adaptation.)

    Men in Black’s Agent J (portrayed by Will Smith in the ‘Men in Black’ movies.)

    Psycho’s Marion Crane (portrayed by Black actress and singer Rhianna on ‘Bates Motel.’)

    Commander Adama (portrayed by Hispanic actor Edward James Olmos in the ‘Battlestar Galactica’ reboot.)

    The T-1000 (portrayed by Asian actor Byung-hun Lee in the ‘Terminator: Genisys’ reboot.)

    DC Comics’ Bruce Wayne (portrayed by David Mazouz, biracial Sephardi Jew of Greek & Tunisian parents on ‘Gotham.’)

    DC Comics’ Zed Martin, from ‘John Constantine: Hellblazer’ (portrayed by Latina actress Angélica Guadalupe Celaya in ‘Constantine.’)

    DC Comics’ Dr. Leslie Thompkins (portrayed by biracial Brazilian actress Morena Baccarin on ‘Gotham.’)

    DC Comics’ Sal Maroni (portrayed by Hispanic, Puerto Rican actor David Zayas on ‘Gotham.’)

    DC Comics’ Deathstroke (portrayed by biracial Maori actor Manu Bennett on ‘Arrow.’)

    DC Comics’ Slipknot (portrayed by Native American actor Adam Beach in ‘Suicide Squad.’)

    DC Comics’ Dr. Hugo Strange (portrayed by Asian actor BD Wong in ‘Gotham.’)

    DC Comics’ Wildcat (portrayed by Hispanic actor JR Ramirez in ‘Arrow.’)

    DC Comics’ Captain Boomerang (portrayed by Lebanese actor Nick Emad Tarabay on ‘Arrow.’)

    DC Comics’ Two-Face (portrayed by Billy D. Williams in ‘Batman’ 1989.)

    DC Comics’ Captain Cold (portrayed by biracial/Black actor Wentworth Miller on ‘The Flash.’)

    DC Comics’ Kid Flash/Wally West (portrayed by black actor Keiyon Lonsdale on ‘The Flash.’)

    DC Comics’ Sarah Essen (portrayed by Latina actress Zabryna Guevara on ‘Gotham.’)

    DC Comics’ John Constantine (portrayed by biracial Pacific Islander Keanu Reeves in ‘Constantine.’)

    DC Comics’ Superman (portrayed by biracial Japanese actor Dean Cain Tanaka in ‘Lois & Clark.)

    DC Comics’ Lana Lang (portrayed by biracial Chinese actress Kristin Kreuk on ‘Smallville.’)

    DC Comics’ Pete Ross (portrayed by black actor Sam Jones III on ‘Smallville.’)

    DC Comics’ Shayera Hall/Hawkgirl (portrayed by Iranian actress Sahar Biniaz on ‘Smallville.’)

    DC Comics’ Roulette (portrayed by Malaysian actress Steph Song on ‘Smallville.’)

    DC Comics’ J’onn J’onzz/Martian Manhunter (portrayed by Black actor Phil Morris on ‘Smallville.’)

    DC Comics’ Arthur Curry/Aquaman (portrayed by biracial Pacific Islander Jason Momoa in ‘Batman V Superman.’)

    DC comics’ Toyman (portrayed by Black actor Sherman Hemsley in ‘Lois & Clark.)

    DC Comics’ Hank Henshaw (portrayed by Black actor David Harewood on ‘Supergirl.’)

    DC Comics’ Miss Martian (portrayed by Black actress Sharon Leal on ‘Supergirl.’)

    DC Comics’ Kendra Saunders/Hawkgirl (portrayed by Latina actress Ciara Renee on ‘Legends of Tomorrow.’)

    DC Comics’ Tulip O’Hare (portrayed by biracial/Black actress Ruth Negga on ‘Preacher.’)

    DC Comics’ Java* (portrayed by Black actor Michasha Armstrong on ‘The Flash.’)
    *Note – In the comics, Java is an unfrozen caveman, so saying he’s White might be debatable.

    DC comics’ Commissioner Loeb (portrayed by Black actor Colin McFarlane in ‘Batman Begins.’)

    DC Comics’ Snapper Carr (portrayed by biracial Puerto Rican actor Ian Gomez on ‘Supergirl.’)

    Marvel’s Alicia Masters (portrayed by Kerry Washington in ‘Fantastic Four 2005’ & ‘Fantastic Four 2: Rise of the Silver Surfer.)

    Marvel’s Sue Storm (portrayed by biracial Latina actress Jessica Alba in ‘Fantastic Four 2005’ & ‘Fantastic Four 2: Rise of the Silver Surfer.’)

    Marvel’s Flash Thompson (portrayed by Latino actor Tony Revolori in ‘Spider-man: Homecoming.’)

    Marvel’s Ned Leeds (portrayed by Pacific Islander Jacob Batalon in ‘Spider-man: Homecoming.’)

    Marvel’s Liz Allen (portrayed by Black actress Laura Harrier in ‘Spider-Man: Homecoming.’)

    Marvel’s Dr. Franklin Storm (portrayed by Black actor Reg E. Cathy in ‘Fantastic Four’ 2015.)

    Marvel’s Roxanne Simpson (Ghost Rider’s girlfriend, portrayed my Latina actress Eva Mendez in ‘Ghost Rider.’)

    Marvel’s Dominic Fortune (portrayed by black actor Delroy Lindo in ‘Marvel’s Most Wanted.’)

    Marvel’s Ben Urich (portrayed by Black actor Vondie Curtis-Hall in the ‘Daredevil’ tv series.)

    Marvel’s Bollovar Trask (portrayed by Black actor Bill Duke in ‘X-Men III: The Last Stand.’)

    Marvel’s Wilson Fisk/Kingpin (portrayed by Black actor Michael Clark Duncan in the ‘Daredevil’ movie.)

    Marvel’s Uncle Ben Parker (portrayed by biracial Hispanic actor Martin Sheen in ‘The Amazing Spider-Man I & II.’)

    Marvel’s Electro (portrayed by Jamie Foxxx in ‘The Amazing Spider-Man II.’)

    Marvel’s Baron Mordo (portrayed by Black actor Chiwetel Ejiofor in ‘Dr. Strange.’)

    To say nothing of such classics as:

    DC Comics’ Selena Kyle/Catwoman (portrayed by black actress Eartha Kitt on ‘Batman ’66.’)

    DC Comics’ the Joker (portrayed by Hispanic actor Cesar Romero on ‘Batman ’66.’)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi, Daniel. Thank you for the very thorough list!

      My list wasn’t the definitive all-inclusive list of ALL minority actors who have portrayed white characters on film/tv… Just the most recent and most high-profile examples. I’ve thought of including a lot on your list as well, so thank you for adding those names here.

      You are right about Nick Fury– I suppose he is playing an original, black character but most casual moviegoers wouldn’t know that and Nick is EVERYWHERE in MCU movies. He still stands as an example of increased diversity in geek culture.


      1. Glad to help shed some light on the rich history of color-washing in genre adaptations. I’m biracial myself and can’t help but see it when actors who are POC play traditionally-white characters.

        Liked by 1 person

    2. @Daniel Sydney-Carton ~ To be fair, many of your examples don’t really count. For some, like Keanu Reeves, Martin Sheen, Freddie Prinze Jr., Wentworth Miller, and Jessica Alba (for example) the fact is they LOOK white (or white enough), so nobody would call “color-washing”.

      The T-1000 doesn’t count because it’s a shapeshifting machine, it could mimic any race it wants, nationality has nothing whatsoever to do with its character.

      It’s been said that, in terms of racial heritage, Jason Momoa is more accurate to the character of Conan from the books than Arnold ever was. Whether that counts or not depends on your point of view.

      And lastly, Martian Manhunter doesn’t count because his human form is already typically a black man. Casting a white actor in the role would get calls of white-washing brought down, even though he falls in the same category of the T-1000, a shapeshifter who could be any nationality he wants.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You bring up great points as well– the matter of whether one “looks” a certain race is very subjective so I tried to present the most recent and most well-known examples where the actors are very obviously “Asian” or “black.” Martin Sheen as Uncle Ben doesn’t count, actually (for example) because he is technically 100% Caucasian. His Hispanic half is white–via Spain.


  6. Un-whitewashing? How can you white wash something that was created white to begin with? Your examples are not un-whitewashing its taking white characters and giving them a race change.


    1. I only wrote “UN-whitewashing” in the title in reference to recent complaints about film and tv roles like the Ancient One going to white actors a.k.a. “Whitewashing.” You’re right that “color-washing” and “gender-reversing” are more appropriate terms but I wanted to confront, head-on, the accusation that Hollywood is being whitewashed when there are plenty of examples that it’s not.


    1. Yes! Indeed another prominent example. I only excluded him because he’s been covered almost head-to-toe so far as Heimdall…Not many would recognize him. I can’t wait for “Thor: Raganorak” when he won’t be in his helmet all the time.


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