Brow Beat

Last Week Tonight Takes on Whitewashing in Hollywood—How Is That Still a Thing?

Joel Edgertonand Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings.
Joel Edgerton and Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings.

Still from the video

As the Oscars draw near, discussion persists about why, for the second year in a row, all the acting nominees are white. And on Sunday, Last Week Tonight joined the fray to offer one theory: It’s not just because there aren’t enough good roles for people of color—it’s because even when those roles exist, they can still be doled out to white actors.

Examples are too many to count, but to name a few from recent years, there’s Emma Stone’s portrayal of a half-Asian woman in Aloha, Christian Bale and Joel Edgerton’s portrayals of Moses and Ramses in Exodus: Gods and Kings, and Jake Gyllenhaal’s performance as the titular Prince of Persia. “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 apeshit,” John Oliver and his team note. Unfortunately, as Michael B. Jordan, Amandla Stenberg, and more can tell you, it pretty much happens every time.