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So it turns out that a Genie and 3 magical wishes might not be enough to ward the critics off the back of the Guy Ritchie directed Aladdin movie. The news that Disney admitted to “browning up” white actors for middle eastern crowd scenes continues to attract both positive and negative reception.
According to Sunday Times, white actors were used as extras for roles requiring skills that were not readily found in a 1.1 million population of people of Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi and Arab heritage, that are residents of the filming site. The Roles which included stunt men, dancers and camel handlers were taken up by the white actors.
Critics tagged the act as an insult to the movie industry to have Caucasian actors “browned up” so as to resemble people of rich complexions that were originally needed for the movie. Even though Disney claimed that more than 400 of the 500 background performers were of African and Asian descent, the production was still criticized for failing to hire enough actors that are of the right ethnic identity out of a supposedly large number of people of color that are just as talented as the Caucasian extras.
The Original animation which is being recreated was based on a Middle Eastern setting, which was why only people of rich complexion were needed for the production. So it might have been termed as an insult on the movie industry, but is the perception of actors being professionals that pretend to be what they’re not, and make-up or even fake an accent to be even more convincing in their roles not valid anymore? Actors are trained to put their sentiments aside and do their job. And this was evident in the 1996 miniseries of Gulliver’s travel. European actors had to “earthen up” to look like the filthy, deformed and nasty yahoos that portrayed the primitive, degenerative, bestial and materialistic form of humans. Fortunately, no race has their color exactly like the yahoos so no real criticism or controversies generated from that.
In fairness to Disney, for the production to be culturally correct, people of rich complexion should only take up roles in the movie, and this was why they had to “brown up” white extras that offered skills that is common to a Caucasian dominated movie industry. As reported by Sunday times, the production for the film has already been delayed because of struggles to find actors of suitable heritage who could sing, dance and act. This is most definitely part of the reasons why Disney decided to “Brown up” some white actors to avoid the whitewashing mistake movies like “Gods of Egypt” and “Exodus: Gods and Kings” made.
On the other hand we have people who feel offended that Disney is sending out a message that, “ your skin color, your identity, your life experiences amount to nothing that can be powdered on and washed off”. According to this narrative the “Brown up” is not an inspiration to people of color or a reflection of the actual world we live in and it doesn’t help people to celebrate their real beauty which embraces the pride and heritage of their skin tone.
EXTRASHADE have also recognized the need for diversity by creating sunscreen specifically formulated for rich complexions. This is because over the years people of color have held on to a common misconception that the melanin rich skin doesn’t need sunscreen. With hyperpigmentation being common in people of color, and an increase in people of rich complexion presenting with skin cancer, EXTRASHADE is breaking the norm of formulations not being thoughtful to the uniqueness of melanin skin and how it respond to sun exposure.
The movie which is to be released May 2019 will star Egyptian-born Canadian Mena Massoud as Aladdin, British-Indian Naomi Scott as Jasmine, and Will Smith as the Genie. I’m sure many people will be yearning to relive their childhood by watching the movie, or watch the movie solely for the purpose of looking out for Caucasian features that appeared tanned.