Don’t whitewash people even if they are playing cats

Critics have been eager to accuse the producers of the film adaptation of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s hit musical, Cats, of “whitewashing people” even if they are playing a cat in the film. It’s a rather peculiar situation and in my humble opinion it is a case of political correctness gone slightly mad.

Hayward as Victoria the White. Montage by PoC. Pictures in public domain.
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However, I understand the sensitivities because in the past many films have been rightly accused of whitewashing because white people have played the roles of Native American Indians or Chinese people. The culture in those days was, by our standards, completely improper. Nowadays there is a much higher sensitivity towards race and colour but some might argue that the modern world is overly politically correct.

In this instance, the principal dancer at the Royal Ballet, Francesca Hayward (the first mixed-race team principal), is wearing white make up in the movie. She plays a white cat whose name is Victoria the White, which is why it is acceptable to be white when her natural skin colour is not white. In other words, she is playing a role in which she has white fur colour not skin colour.

“Obviously I would never have agreed to be part of something that would change the colour of my skin had I been playing a human. The bottom line is, I’m playing a cat… A cat that’s white, let’s not read into it.”

Hayward understands that there’s been a bit of a backlash because whitewashing, as it is called, has become a sensitive subject these days.

“Just don’t whitewash people even if they’re playing cats.” Said one viewer after seeing the trailer.

People can make their own minds up as to whether it is acceptable for a dancer like Hayward to wear white make up when playing a cat. Do you think it is whitewashing? I don’t as you can see. I agree with her. It seems to be a question of common sense. But I am, like others, sensitive to people’s feelings and views.

My thanks to the article in The Times by Grant Tucker for this story.

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