Whitewashing and Racebending: Diversity in Literature and Popular Culture (Roundtable)

Cultural Studies and Media Studies / Interdisciplinary Humanities

Rafael Ponce-Cordero (Keene State College)

Jodi Van Der Horn-Gibson (Queensborough Community College, CUNY)

This year saw whitewashing of Asian characters from comics, as in Doctor Strange and Ghost in the Shell, as well as missed opportunities to re-cast Danny Rand in Netflix’s adaptation of Iron Fist and expunge the white savior narrative that has plagued that kung-fu comic. This panel will examine diversity beyond these adaptations of comics and consider whether and how popular culture in general addresses limited diversity in literature, especially in casting choices for adaptations, and what makes such adaptations effective or ineffective in addressing such real-life problems. Additional examples we anticipate submitted abstracts will consider include whitewashing in adaptations of religious texts such as Exodus, adaptations of video games such as Prince of Persia, adaptations of animated series such as Avatar: The Last Airbender, and adaptations of real-life stories such as 21. We will also consider progressive work accomplished in racebending, in stage adaptations such as Harry Potter and Hamilton, fan productions such as cosplay, and, returning to comics, in adaptations such as The Flash, Supergirl, and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

How has it been progressive or restrictive to change the race or ethnicity of a character in adaptations of literature and other texts? How do such choices in character design and casting increase diversity? How do such choices perpetuate problematic legacies from the source material? Examples may include stage, film, and fan productions of novels, plays, and comics.