We are currently living in very sensitive times, especially when it comes to diversity and treatment of women in entertainment. Two years ago, Lionsgate faced an uproar with its “white-washing” of Gods of Egypt. There were also issues and concerns raised with films such as Ghost in the Shell, Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Lone Ranger. With social media and online news everywhere, audiences are no longer standing for unrealistic portrayals of iconic characters.
Now we have a reverse of sorts as Disney has been accused of “brown-facing” white extras for its upcoming live- action adaptation of Guy Ritchie’s Aladdin.
A previous report alleges that Ritchie used makeup to darken the skins of 100 white extras in order to fill a number of background roles, while ignoring Asian actors and actresses who live near the Surry set. This prompted an immediate backlash against the House of Mouse. The studio released a statement addressing the claims:
“Great care was taken to put together one of the largest most diverse casts ever seen on screen… Diversity of our cast and background performers was a requirement and only in a handful of instances when it was a matter of specialty skills, safety and control (special effects rigs, stunt performers and handling of animals) were crew made up to blend in.”
One would hope that Disney would not ignore such culturally sensitive matters, especially as it is well-known that Asian actors have the most difficult time being cast in American films.
The film, which stars Mena Massoud as Aladdin, Naomi Scott as Princess Jasmine, Will Smith as the Genie and Navid Negahban as the Sultan does feature a pretty diverse cast, so in this case one might give Disney the benefit of the doubt. The Guy Ritchie-helmed film will follow a line of successful Disney live-action remakes that includes Beauty and the Beast, The Jungle Book and Alice in Wonderland.
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Aladdin is slated to hit theaters on May 24, 2019.