I’m going to be talking about the new Star Trek movie: Into Darkness today, so if you haven’t seen it, you might want to skip this post.

I enjoyed the movie very much and I think there’s a lot of good to say about it. The actors captured their roles so well in this and the movie before it. But there was one thing that really leapt out at me.

There’s a character whose name is Khan Noonian Singh and he’s played by this guy:


Can you get more white than British actor Benedict Cumberbatch? I mean, the name alone!

I never saw the original Wrath of Khan movie, but I did always assume that Khan was Indian. With a name like that, how could he not be?

When I expressed my surprise about the casting on my Facebook page, a friend posted this fascinating article on “white washing”:


“By making the ‘ideal’ man Indian, Rodenberry he was pointing out that genetic composite of all humans probably wouldn’t wind up white. It was a brave choice, and it’s a shame to see it undermined by Abrams today.”

Apparently this is a thing that happens. If a villain is just a purely bad guy, then he can be “ethnic.” But villains who are more nuanced are white.

I guess the director (or whoever is in charge of such decisions) wanted to keep the audience guessing about whether this person was Khan or not. It was supposed to be some big plot twist. I went into the moving assuming that this was a remake of Wrath of Khan, so I didn’t know that was supposed to be a surprise. You know, it’s only a twist if you have the context of the previous movie. Otherwise when they say, “His real name is Khan” that means absolutely nothing to me, while I guess the audience is supposed to be gasping with shock. Never having seen the Wrath of Khan, I didn’t know anything about who Khan is supposed to be.

Now, Cumberbath did do an awesome job being creepy and unsettling and I could never tell whether I trusted him or not. But you know what? Having seen Ravaan, I am certain that Abhishek Bachchan could have done just as good a job!




{Another Patheos blogger also looked at this issue in his  post: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/filmchat/2013/05/ethnic-criminals-and-colour-blind-casting.html}

About Ambaa

Ambaa is an American woman of European ancestry who is also a practicing Hindu. She is fascinated with questions of philosophy, culture, and the meaning of life. Join her in the journey to explore how a non-Indian convert to Hinduism experiences her religion.

  • Kitty Davenport

    In the Roddenberry Star Trek Universe, Kahn is not any specific ethnicity as he and his followers were a genetic super race created in the lab by……a scientist named Noonian Singh. Kahn was originally played by Ricardo Monteban (So sorry for my horrid spelling of names) And was of a superior intellect.

    They chose the actor they did because he is well known for playing subtly menacing highly intelligent roles. Being an old school Trekkie I approve of this choice for Kahn half heartedly. This actor while he had the menacing intellect lacked the raw physical presence that Kahn projected. I cant see the new Kahn having the fiery sultry masculine passion that Ricardo brought to the table and it kinda seemed less rawr and more meow to me. :)

    Also if this character is supposed to be Kahn…they screwed up the time line and events even for an alternate universe. Kahn is found by Kirk in deep space in cryo-sleep with his followers who have been asleep for hundreds of years after narrowly escaping prejudiced humanity who wanted to hunt and destroy them for having been lab grown and not pure natural non GMO human. You should really watch the old series on Netflix. And then the movies. Great stories. You would love them.
    Ok Nerd out.

    • Ambaa

      I am a huge fan of TNG, but I never was able to connect with TOS. :(

  • http://amarchotoprithibi.blogspot.com/ Andrea

    As far as villains go, I liked Saif Ali Khan in Omkara. But I think that Bollywood has yet to give us a villain that is as cold and calculating as Khan. Benedict Cumberbatch was a fantastic ice king (if there is such a thing). I wonder if there are any British Asian actors who could fill the role?

    And I still want to see Sendhil Ramamurthy as James Bond. Very much.

  • Rohan

    Benedict cumberbatch or Michael Fassbender should be the next James Bond.
    In america they always do it in tv shows or movies to show that whites are superior in one way or the other(sorry to say it but it is)
    Intelligent villain – white , dumb one – ethnic
    Ever seen the facebook movie , divya narendra is played by a british born american actor , i mean if they think that the accent could get in the way , then arent there any indian americans who can act , there are almost a million of them in America , couldnt they find even one.In many shows there is one token black guy too , like 5 white people and 1 black lol , whats the meaning.
    Nowadays many shows they have created like ‘madmen’,’one man standing’ where

    they try to recreate the life of the 60′s or the 80′s in urban/rural america.Those themes are just excuses to hire less ethnic people because oh yes 60′s and 80′s there were only white americans in the main stream(asian locked themselves in books and blacks in ghettos?)
    Ever seen this movies ‘ romeo must die’?They didnt allow jet li(asian guy) and aaliyah (black woman) to kiss in the end , why? Because it would turn off the urban audience (just guessing how bad the rural audience of america is)