A Fictional Conversation (Or: Books, Films, and Whitewashing)

The following conversation is completely fictional. Though I’ve heard similar things going around…

-The movie whitewashed the book’s character!
-Reportedly the book is non-committal on the character’s race.
-The author said on Tumblr that the character is biracial. And they claimed to dislike when characters are whitewashed in the transition from book to film! Yet when the casting was announced, and the actor was revealed to be white, the author said they were pleased with the casting!
-There’s probably a clause in the adaptation-rights contract preventing the author from saying anything negative about the film.
-Why would the author allow whitewashing?
-Authors generally don’t get to approve/consult casting, unless their film agent writes a clause into the contract.
-They wrote a diverse character – surely they suspected that whitewashing might happen!
-It’s a risk they take when they agree to a contract.
-So they agreed to whitewashing?
-Not specifically, but they agreed to having no official casting approval.
-So if no casting-approval clause was written into the contract, why did the author sign it?
-To put food on the table. To pay rent and utility bills. Get rid of debts, and whatnot.
-So in the choice between not allowing a bad thing to happen versus money…they chose money.
-At some stage in their life, most folk have to choose between love and money.
-So they sold out their conscience, if they had one?
-When you’re short on funds, sometimes you have to do what’s best for you financially. Besides, there’s no guarantee that signing an adaptation-rights contract means that the film will actually be made.
-But it COULD happen, it DID happen, and WHITEWASHING happened.
-You take that risk when you sign a contract without a casting-approval clause.
-But how can anyone respect that author, knowing they allowed this to happen?
-Tangentially, it may be their fault. But mostly the blame should be placed on the film company – maybe they weren’t aware of the Tumblr that mentioned the biracial identity. Or maybe they knew, and decided to whitewash, anyway.
-So you’re saying to boycott the film, but not the author?
-Something like that, yeah. Authors do need to pay their household/company bills.
-But other authors claim that if we want film adaptations of ANY young adult novel, we should buy a ticket to ALL dramatic adaptations of YA books.
-Targeting the YA film audience is a bit of a crapshoot, anyway – too juvenile for some adults; too old for some primary/elementary-age kids. It’s a small niche.
-Isn’t that age-ist?
-Sometimes what people like in books, they don’t like in film/TV, and vice-versa. YA is often great on paper, but on the screen…quality may vary.
-There are exceptions, of course.
-Of course – a great film transcends the targeted age-bracket.
-Last I heard, the whitewashed film has its sequel greenlit. So whitewashing is good for business?
-Perhaps box office tickets were purchased by people who weren’t aware of the whitewashing.
-Surely some of those moviegoers are big fans of the author, and definitely would have read the Tumblr.
-And they probably figured that if it was okay with the author – the author DID sign the contract without a casting-approval clause – it’s okay with the fans, too.
-But surely the author should speak up on the topic of whitewashing, and address the claims that the character was whitewashed!
-Their contract may not allow them to speak in any kind of not-100% approval of the film.
-Damn. Contracts are so restrictive for authors!
-And the author signed this contract, whether they were coerced or agreed freely.
-So does purchasing a ticket to the film mean people are financially supporting whitewashing?
-Tangentially, maybe.
-I don’t want to support whitewashing, but I do want to see the film. What should I do?
-Won’t the story be better in your head than it ever could be on film?
-Probably not.
-You doubt the awesomeness of your own imagination.

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