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See alsoRace and Fandom, Racebending, Mukokuseki
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Whitewashing refers to characters being portrayed with a lighter skin tone and/or or being made to appear more white, either physically or culturally. For instance, an anime character's name being changed to sound more "American" in the dub is whitewashing. Whitewashing can occur in canon reboots/adaptations or in fanworks (and the former can often influence the latter). It can be caused by colorism, racism, casteism, classism or other reasons.

In particular, perceived whitewashing by fanartists who depict a character's skin as paler than it appears in canon is a hotly-debated issue, with many fans (especially fans of colour) pushing back against this erasure of a character's ethnicity, while others claim they are being oversensitive or discouraging artists from depicting characters of colour altogether.

Due to ambiguities in the source text, people may disagree on whether a character portrayal does or does not constitute whitewashing.

Prominent Examples of Whitewashing

In Canon

How to Spot Katniss Everdeen, a piece of fanart contrasting Katniss' whitewashed appearance from The Hunger Games films with her true-to-book appearance. (Art by magiceve)
  • Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games - book and movie appearance differ[1]
  • Lavender Brown from the Harry Potter films - Lavender Brown, whose appearance is not clearly detailed in the books, went from being played by black actresses in the second and third films to being played by a white actress in the sixth film, when the role became a speaking one.[2][3]
  • The whitewashing of the Avatar: the Last Airbender cast (save for the main antagonist, Zuko) in the film The Last Airbender gave rise to the Racebending movement.
  • Holly Short from Artemis Fowl - in the widely-panned 2020 film adaptation, Captain Holly Short, who is described in the books as having "nut-brown skin", was played by a white actress, Lara McDonnell.[4] Holly Short was also portrayed as having pale skin in the Artemis Fowl graphic novels.[5]
  • In the 2017 Ghost in the Shell live-action film, white actress Scarlett Johansson was controversially cast in the role of Major, who is canonically a Japanese woman named Motoko Kusanagi.[6] To compound matters, the film turned the Major's change in ethnicity into a plot point by revealing that she was originally a Japanese woman before being reincarnated in a Caucasian cyborg body - literally whitewashing her.[7]
  • Wanda Maximoff and her twin brother Pietro Maximoff were also victim of whitewashing in their live action adaptations. While their origin in comics suffered several changes the main and more important one had them as the biological children of Magneto and his wife Magda, a romani woman. Later a retcon would change their parenthood again after decades, giving them yet another romani mother, Natalya. But the Marvel Cinematic Universe wouldn't respect this, casting Elizabeth Olsen and Aaron Taylor-Johnson, both white, as the siblings. Fox would also take part into this by casting Evan Peters as their own version of Quicksilver.[8] [9]

In Fandom

  • Nessa from Pokemon Sword and Shield - some fans denied her blackness by calling her "tanned", and depictions of her in fanart with pale skin sparked off debates about how to accurately portray dark-skinned characters.[10] A game mod was even created that turned Nessa white.[11]
  • Reigen Arataka from Mob Psycho 100 is sometimes whitewashed in fanart by western fans



  1. ^ STOP WHITEWASHING!!!!! by abnormalisdope via Tumblr, published January 6, 2015 (Accessed June 29, 2021).
  2. ^ This Lavender Brown Tweet Shut Down Those Black Hermione Casting Issues, 2016
  3. ^ Harry Potter’s History of Recasting and Changing Characters’ Races
  4. ^ Twitter thread by Klaudia Amenábar, posted January 9, 2018 (Accessed June 29, 2021).
  5. ^ Holly Short: Skin Tone Debate, Artemis Fowl Confidential thread by Troublelover16, originally posted February 4, 2015 (Accessed June 29, 2021).
  6. ^ Scarlett Johansson addresses ‘Ghost in the Shell’ controversy, Gavia Baker-Whitelaw, The Daily Dot. Published February 9, 2017 (Accessed July 2, 2021).
  7. ^ The 'Ghost In The Shell' Twist Is What Fans Feared Most, Olivia Truffaut-Wong, Bustle. Published March 31, 2017 (Accessed July 2, 2021).
  8. ^ The complicated history of Marvel whitewashing Scarlet Witch, Gavia Baker-Whitelaw, Published Feb 12, 2021 (Accessed July 3, 2021).
  9. ^ Why the MCU Needs to Deal With Its Whitewashing Problem, Chelsea Jackson, Published Sep 25, 2018 (Accessed July 3, 2021).
  10. ^ This Nessa (from Pokemon SwSh) whitewashing controversy is kinda blowing up in the art community right now, ResetEra thread by vestan, originally posted June 17, 2019 (Accessed June 29, 2021).
  11. ^ Pokémon: The Disturbing Implications of the White-Washing Nessa Mod by Anthony Gramuglia, CBR. Published December 5, 2019 (Accessed June 29, 2021).