Well this is not surprising at all. Colorblind casting by the Royal Shakespeare Company for “The Orphan of Zhao”, a Chinese play, resulted in a cast that is predominantly white and with all the leading roles played by white actors. Of course, the RSC has defended their decision as neutral and fair:
The RSC defended its decisions on two counts. One is that they saw “lots and lots” of East Asian actors but in the end opted for “colour blind casting” and simply cast the “best actor for the role”. Generally, Joe Public is satisfied with this response, but a closer examination will reveal that the actors playing leading roles at the RSC are usually in the British classical theatre “circuit” which is very much a “no go zone” for East Asian actors.
East Asian actors can generally only audition for poorly written tokenistic roles, often in awful broken English and possessing not a jot of the wit, charisma and sex appeal of a Harry Hotspur, a Jack Worthing, a Hedda Gabler or even a Horatio. This makes it nigh on impossible for an East Asian Actor to build a track record that would make a company like the RSC feel secure in casting them in a lead role. I fully support casting “the best actor for the role” but only when there is a fully level playing field for the “best” to be assessed fairly. I also support “colour blind casting” but only as a mechanism for creating opportunities for actors from minority groups for whom chances are few and far between–not as a means of protecting those opportunities for the dominant social demographic.
That’s precisely the problem with colorblind policies of any kind—they assume POC and whites are starting on a level playing field, which is demonstrably false. If employers don’t make a conscious effort to hire minorities, then they’re contributing to a vicious circle in which minorities who are historically underrepresented in an industry are guaranteed to remain underrepresented.
As well, this kind of whitewashing of roles promotes the idea that race/ethnicity consists of nothing more than putting on the right costume or makeup, that POC are just white people + something else, that whiteness is neutral. Whitewashing is just the ‘PC’ version of black/brown/yellowface (and sometimes, as in the case of Cloud Atlas, they go hand-in-hand).
Whitewashing is an assertion of white supremacy. Think about what the casting decisions for “The Orphan of Zhao”, Cloud Atlas, Avatar: The Last Airbender, and Prince of Persia really signal: the people in charge not only think people of color aren’t good enough to be leads, but they aren’t even good enough to play themselves.
Finally, the fact that whitewashing still happens these days (and frequently too) means that white people have zero right to complain about a hypothetical black James Bond or Asian Doctor Who. Any honky who does can take a flying leap off the fucking planet.