“Last Week Tonight with John Oliver” has an on-going segment called “How is this still a thing?”, and in honor of the 88th annual Academy Awards on Sunday (Feb. 28), the show wants to know how Hollywood whitewashing is still a thing.
The segment starts off by showing how some people have argued that it’s not the Academy’s fault that all the acting nominees are “whiter than a Yeti in a snowstorm fighting Tilda Swinton.” It’s the fact that there aren’t good roles for people of color — but “Last Week Tonight” would like to point out that when there are roles that could be played by actors of color, they go to white actors anyway.
“Just last year, Emma Stone played the half-Asian Allison Ng in ‘Aloha.’ Apparently ‘aloha’ means ‘hello,’ ‘goodbye’ and ‘you’ve got to be f***ing kidding me,'” says the voiceover. “And when Hollywood needed actors to play Egyptians in ‘Exodus: Gods and Kings,’ it knew just what to do … that was a guy from Australia and a guy from Britain pretending to be two guys from Egypt, a country in Africa. And if you like that, don’t miss ‘Gods of Egypt,’ opening Friday, starring a Scottish guy.”
The piece goes on to highlight Hollywood’s history of whitewashing, culminating in footage of Mickey Rooney as Ping in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” which in 1961 was lauded as a “broadly exotic” performance by the New York Times.
“Maybe all of this would be less egregious if any time an actor of color took on a traditionally white role, half the country didn’t go apes***,” the voiceover continues, as footage plays of Michael B. Jordan in “The Fantastic Four” and John Boyega in “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.”
So when you hear people say the Oscars are so white because the roles aren’t there, just remember the Academy gave Oscars for characters named O-lan, Billy Kwan and Luis Molina to actors named Luise, Linda and William, all of which is enough to make you ask, ‘Hollywood whitewashing — how is this still a thing?'”