WhiteWashing

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”:

http://bitchmagazine.org/post/the-race-of-khan-in-the-new-star-trek-into-darkness-movie-0

“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!

 

Right?

 

{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}

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