Where Was The Outrage For The Social Network's Race-Blind Casting?

The Social Network has become a well-night unstoppable awards juggernaut, picking up yet another accolade this weekend, this time from the National Society of Film Critics. Yet, despite all the kudos, I'm surprised that more people haven't complained about casting two white Englishmen in the roles of a Brazilian and an Indian American. Folks got worked up into a lather over The Last Airbender this summer; so where's the outrage now?

As a brief history lesson, there was a typhoon of outrage this past summer when M. Night Shymalan cast three white kids as the leads for The Last Airbender. Many believed that the original cartoon characters were Asian or Inuit, and to cast Caucasians was to needlessly whitewash the film and deprive minority actors from good roles. There were pickets and threats of boycotts and just a whole bunch of hullabaloo.

I certainly got where many people were coming from, but ultimately I thought it was a bit silly. These were cartoon characters set in a fantasy world that was not Earth. Make 'em Asian, white, black, Indian or Bjork, so long as the actors were good. And of course, we all found out that the casting was the least of the movie's problems.

So why has there been nary a peep over the casting of Andrew Garfield in the role of Facebook founder Eduardo Saverin, a Brazilian, and of Max Minghella in the role of Divya Narendra, an Indian American? If anything, I figure this would be more of a cause to protest; after all, these are real people who actually exist, not a pack of magic cartoon characters that seem ethnic. And while both Garfield and Minghella have dark features, I'm not sure they'd ever be mistaken for a Brazilian or, particularly in the case of Minghella, an Indian.

Where are the protests for this bit of race-blind casting? Where are the charges that such casting has deprived minority actors from roles in the most acclaimed movie of the year? The website Racebending.com led the charge against the Shymalan film, but hasn't utter a peep against The Social Network, though it did rouse itself to action when it seemed like Marvel Films might cast a non-Asian in the role of Nico Minrou, an Asian-American character from the Runaways comic book.

To be sure, I've got no problem whatsoever with the casting of Garfield and Minghella. They both turned in solid performances and were clearly the exact actors that director David Fincher preferred to use. I just think it's telling that the selective outrage that was ginned up against the casting of a quartet of cartoon and comic book characters, fell noticeably silent here. Perhaps they only feel compelled to act when the characters are fictional or fantasy-based. Maybe they thought there wouldn't be as much publicity in protesting a non-blockbuster movie. Whatever the reason, it would make me think twice the next time they work up themselves up into a foam of righteous indignation.


  • rob winfield says:

    Brazilian people are light-skinned, duh.

  • Annabeth says:

    Let me get this straight: You think that casting white actors in the roles of characters of color is bad. An organization tries to call attention to this in some films. It did not call attention to that practice in another movie. And so your response is ... to care LESS about race-blind casting in future?
    A good reason why the organization may focus on fantasy elements rather than real people is that people are already familiar with the source material and therefore know, for instance, that Aang, Katara and Sokka, et al, are not white. Whereas these people would not know the details of the individuals in "The Social Network" unless they were in school with them at that time.
    Or is pique more compelling to you than logic? Looks like it.

  • Mr Black says:

    The article does touch on it - I don't think the project has to be a potential blockbuster to warrant uproar, it just has to be high profile. Projects based on a true story or real people would have to be about someone EVERYONE knows or is familiar with.
    I knew the creators of Facebook were barely old enough to drink but I didn't know they were Indian American and Brazilian. I don't think I'm alone on that.
    Now, if Fincher had shot an awards favorite about Genghis Khan starring Robert Downey Jr., the protesters would be out in force. Say Eduardo Saverin and your everyday Joe would say, "who"? Say Genghis Khan and people say, "Oh. Yeah".

  • cesar says:

    Regarding brazilian people, you say that Garfield does not look "brazilian", I think that before writing the article you should had researched what brazilian people look like or at least the ethnic backgroud of Saverin. In Brazil there was a lot of european inmigration, for example many germans inmigrated to te south so there are a lot of brazilians that are blond and blue eye, among many other europeans. Aditionally Saverin as Garfield are both jewish.

  • TurdBlossom says:

    Apparently, some races are more complaint worthy than others to the whiners and bitchers that get their collective tits into a knot over such things.

  • CiscoMan says:

    With regards to The Last Airbender, I thing some were responding in part to the fact that an established Indian-American filmmaker was involved, even though he's always made genre films in which race was not central to the story. I'd also agree with the previous poster that the story of Facebook isn't common knowledge, whereas Airbender was already a successful property with its existing "casting." When Max Minghella appears on-screen and gets introduced as Divya, the audience nods and turns their attention back to Jesse Eisenberg.
    A history of (at least perceived) injustices plays a part, too. I could be way off here, but I'm not familiar with any precedent where Brazilians were whitewashed out of a Hollywood film. I will, however, always advocate for more Alessandra Ambrosio.

  • SD says:

    Why are you only just asking this now? Did you only just see the movie?
    Or does it only matter now that it is a front runner for Oscars?

  • Dixon Gaines says:

    I certainly will make a research whenever I might write about Brazil. But my point here wasn't about color; there are plenty of South American countries with a wide variety of hues -- Brazil, Peru, my mother's native Colombia -- my point was that Garfield isn't Brazilian and Minghella isn't Indian, and why it might be that some self-appointed guardians of racial casting don't seem to mind it.

  • matt says:

    no one complained because no one knows much about the people behind facebook except for whatshisface. the airbender is based on ethnic characters that are beloved by a solid fanbase. i'm sure if the movie were based on actual famous people, there would have been an uproar -- but again, no one knows or gives a damn who these people are.

  • James says:

    And Minghella also isn't "white", the way I'm pretty sure you're defining it. He's half British (of Italian ancestry), but also half Chinese. He may not be Indian, but he's hardly the white Anglo you seem to be implying.

  • Jana says:

    For God's sake, Brazilian is a nationality, like being American or Canadian.
    Brazil has a huge white population. Look at all of the white Brazilian models like Giselle Bundchen.
    As for Max Minghella's casting, I have read complaints about it.

  • GiddySpencey says:

    They didn't complaint about it so that Movieline would have a reason to write a half-baked piece of agit-prop when it wasn't "cool" enough to like The Social Network anymore (read: when it became a clear Best Pic frontrunner). Isn't it obvious? 😉

  • kj says:

    Saverin's ethnically Jewish, not American Indian- which was said in the movie, along with being easily visible on his wikipedia article
    As far as I can tell, Garfield is a simply prettier version of Eduardo, and Anglican to Jewish is an acceptable "bend" in my opinion.
    Meanwhile, Nahrendra may be initially viewed a much more serious case, but honestly, he's much more light skinned then the picture you have led me to believe, and Minghella is apparently half Italian, half Scottish-Chinese... more of a melting pot (and definitely not an Englishman)
    And honestly it's a completely different ball game than TLA- a case of a director remaking some characters as white, rather than an adaption of a true story which kept the ethnicities and races of people the same in name, and did a better job of casting true-to-real-life looking actors than it did in writing true-to-real-life characters (as far as I understand their personalities)

    • Deef says:

      For future reference:
      Actors of fully Jewish background: -Logan Lerman, Natalie Portman, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Mila Kunis, Bar Refaeli, James Wolk, Julian Morris, Esti Ginzburg, Kat Dennings, Erin Heatherton, Odeya Rush, Anton Yelchin, Paul Rudd, Scott Mechlowicz, Lizzy Caplan, Emmanuelle Chriqui, Gal Gadot, Robert Kazinsky, Melanie Laurent, Marla Sokoloff, Shiri Appleby, Justin Bartha, Adam Brody, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Gabriel Macht, Halston Sage, Seth Gabel, Alden Ehrenreich.

      Actors with Jewish mothers and non-Jewish fathers -Jake Gyllenhaal, Dave Franco, Scarlett Johansson, Daniel Radcliffe, Alison Brie, Eva Green, Emmy Rossum, Jennifer Connelly, Eric Dane, Jeremy Jordan, Joel Kinnaman.

      Actors with Jewish fathers and non-Jewish mothers, who themselves were either raised as Jews and/or identify as Jews: -Andrew Garfield, Ezra Miller, Gwyneth Paltrow, Alexa Davalos, Nat Wolff, James Maslow, Josh Bowman, Ben Foster, Nikki Reed, Zac Efron, Jonathan Keltz.

      Actors with one Jewish-born parent and one parent who converted to Judaism -Dianna Agron, Sara Paxton (whose father converted, not her mother), Alicia Silverstone, Jamie-Lynn Sigler.

    • Deef says:

      Hellooo? Andrew Garfield is Jewish, too.

  • Cookie says:

    Are you actually asking for a fuss around this??
    Brazilian people have their origins all around the world, you are simply thinking of the national stereotype. I'm assuming you are an american citizen and as so what happens in Brazil is pretty much what happens in America, it is a melting pot, except that there aren't minorities in there. No one makes the distinction concerning their background.
    That I can see, Eduardo Severin is a white guy, could be from anywhere, yes, The Social Network could have gone for an actor sharing the same nationality but it certainly wasn't a mistake to cast Andrew Garfield.
    And the first time I saw Max Minghella in a film I actually thought he had asian features, particularly from India. So he doesn't. Still, not wrongly cast.
    Get a grip...

  • Matt says:

    I agree with pretty much everything you say here, especially about how the casting is a complete non-issue. Just one thing, though - Max Minghella was born in London, so he's English, whatever his ethnic background. English people are like Brazilians in that way - we come in all kinds of colours, and with every sort of ethnic background.

  • maliu says:

    Your musings suffers horribly from a lack of research. Although I am not a part of the organization who lead the charge against TLA their concern is well warranted. TLA's main character Aang, the hero or christ-like figure if you will, was obviously of Asian origin - background & philosophy. Can you remember when was the last time an Asian hero was portrayed on TV or in the movies? Not just a hero but the MAIN CHARACTER. Movies like "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon," "Hero," and their ilk don't count because they originated outside of the American run studio system with a cast entirely made up of Asian actors so of course the hero would be Asian. It is obvious that you have never had to watch 20+ hours of TV programming & wonder, why don't I look like that character? What's wrong with my eyes? How can I change me, my face, my skin color to look more like what I see on TV? Or, think I must be ugly because I don't see "me" on TV. Shyamalan not only white washed the characters but he went one step further by having the ONLY actor of Asian descent cast as the villain. Don't get me wrong, Dev Patel is the only casting decision that I approved and made me interested in seeing the movie because he is wonderful. But the message this casting decision sends out to the segment of our population deserving the utmost care & respect, our children, seems to say that if you are Asian, or look Asian you are not worthy to be the hero. BTW, I am not Asian, I am part-Hawaiian, yes we are actually a race of people originating in Hawai'i. And before the comments rage let me just say that the Hawaiians you see portrayed in movies & TV do not reflect me as an adult, but at one time I did wonder why can't I have blond hair & blue eyes. Lastly, it is unfair to compare these two movies as the source material - cartoon vs. true story - is aimed at & marketed for differing segments of the population.

  • Tom says:

    The fact that many people's argument seems to be "casting directors have more of a responsibility to well-known fictional characters than they do to lesser-known people in the real world" says something pretty incomprehensible about many people.

  • GPQ says:

    Where was the outrage? Well it's pretty simple. The weeaboo crowd loved A:TLA. And embarrassingly enough, there are a lot of weaboos that think Asians are 100% better than white people. While there were some activists in the mix too, it's the pissed-off-weeaboo fans that really made the furor over A:TLA, not existing activists. The only other casting they've made a fuss over since was... Marvel's Runaways. Again, they focused specifically on an East Asian character casting.

  • gillen says:

    what's with all this ethnic sensitivity? is hollywood man, and everything there is possible. then its just sensible that who ever plays these roles is not the argument, but whether this actors fits the role perfectly in terms of acting (and they did), because a little make up could do the trick. hell Avatar did it blue. Spidey 3 interchange hair colors with their actresses. Benjamin even make it possible to age reversely. so stop winning with this race story. its totally for morons.

  • Peter says:

    There were complaints about Minghella''s casting....I first learned of it reading a popular asian-american blog.
    But, I'm writing because I am hearing the same complaints about the complaints, namely that this is Hollywood and movie making, so casting directors should choose who best to play the role, and that those whole complain about race-based casting (or whitewashing) are "morons", as Gillen says. I'd just like to ask one question - if Ken Watanabe (with better English) or Denzel Washington were cast as James Bond (appropriate age, suave, sophisticated, handsome, both good actors), I'd bet people like Gillen would be the first to complain that "Bond ain't black"
    Dixon - would you ever accept an ethnic-asian bond even if he was the best actor for the part?

  • R. Bender says:

    I'd do Brenda Song, and she's not white.

  • mary says:

    so why weren't "white" people cast as Indians in "slumdog millionaire"? That's racism.

  • dcmoviegirl says:

    "I certainly got where many people were coming from, but ultimately I thought it was a bit silly."
    If you thought it was silly, then you really didn't get it. You don't get what it's like for a brown, tan, or yellow child who feels inferior, because even the *one chance* they get to see of a reflection of themselves as the hero or the lead instead of the snappy sidekick, is whitewashed.
    If you think that child or these children are being "silly", then you really, really don't get it.
    Like it or not, the media has impact, it has power. And if those reflections aren't given to the proper people of color even on those rare occasions that they can, it contributes to the impact you see in what I linked.

  • dee says:

    Uh Andrew Garfield is Jewish just like Eduardo. How could you not know that? (i.e. why would you know that Saverin is Jewish but not Garfield?)