Sci-tech

Natalie Portman responds to 'Annihilation' whitewashing criticism

Natalie Portman responds to 'Annihilation' whitewashing criticism

Naturally the internet was abuzz with excitement for the film, given its steps toward representation for both women and people of color onscreen, but now the sci-fi film is making headlines for a different, all too familiar Hollywood problem: whitewashing. However, the character's race is not mentioned until the second book, and Garland notes he only wrote and cast the movie based on VanderMeer's first novel.

As reported by HuffPost, "In the sci-fi film 'Annihilation, ' Natalie Portman and Jennifer Jason Leigh play an ex-military biologist and a government psychologist who are part of a top-secret mission to explore a zone where odd phenomena are occurring", however the two have been "under criticism because, in the sequel to the novel 'Annihilation, ' Portman and Leigh's characters are identified as women of color".

MANAA board member Alieesa Badreshia blasted Garland in a statement this week saying: "He exploits the story but fails to take advantage of the true identities of each character".

In the novels, Portman's character is of Asian descent while Jason Leigh's is part Caucasian and part American-Indian. He told the Hollywood Reporter, "We are not surprised by the Whack-a-Mole diversity replacement that goes on; just when you finish objecting to one white-washed casting, another one pops ups".

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VanderMeer has not addressed the criticism directed toward the movie, though he did tweet last week that he did not expect Garland's adaptation to be completely faithful to the book.

"I knew at that time there were supposed to be three books planned, but I didn't know [anything] about the other two", Garland said during an interview with Yahoo in December. "That does sound problematic, but I'm hearing it here first".

"We need more representation of Asians on film, of Hispanics on film, of blacks on film, women and particularly women of color, Native Americans - I mean, we just don't have enough representation", said Portman.

"These categories like "white" and "nonwhite" - they're imagined classifications but have real-life consequences".

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Portman's character, Lena, is the biologist leading the all-female expedition, and is also plagued with guilt over her relationship with her husband and fellow scientist, Kane (Oscar Isaac).

Leigh said: "It's probably a valid criticism". It at least feels like less of a deflection of responsibility. There was no studio pressure to cast white.

Sonny Skyhawk, founder of American Indians in Film and Television, agreed that Garland had whitewashed the film. Intent does not equal impact, after all.

However, the character Portman plays does make an appearance in the sequel, Authority, and in the sequel the character is described as having Asian ancestry. He only wished to adapt a single novel and do it "like a dream of the book". It isn't until VanderMeer's later books that readers learn their ethnicities. Well, then why wasn't he informed of the aspect of race?

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However, the latest reports claim that Real Madrid are also pondering a summer swoop for the 28-year-old according to Daily Mirror .

Alex Garland's Annihilation is facing some criticism as it heads toward its February 23 release.


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