Movie News Guide accuses Gaiman’s American Gods of white-washing by casting black actor?


Well this certainly isn’t online journalism’s finest moment.

On Friday, media website Movie News Guide published an article titled “Starz ‘American Gods’ Criticized For Casting Ricky Whittle As Shadow; Book Author, Producers Defend Decision.” The article, written by Ralin Mae Dayon, opened with the words “Starz TV adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s fiction book ‘American Gods’ is under scrutiny. It is for ‘white-washing’ after Ricky Whittle from ‘The 100’ had been cast as main protagonist Shadow.” It went on to link to an article in Vanity Fair, which they said spoke about the problems with white-washing in Hollywood. Seems like a standard article, right? Well, that’s only if you’ve never seen a picture of Ricky Whittle.

Ricky Whittle

That’s actually the photo of Whittle, a decidedly not-white actor, that headlined the MNG article. The Vanity Fair article they referenced also made the exact opposite point that the author claimed, praising the casting and how it reflected the racial diversity of the actual book. Unsurprisingly, the article caught the attention of the best-selling author Neil Gaiman himself and he took to Facebook to air his confusion. “An embarrassing sort of article,” he wrote in a post on Friday morning, “where the person who writes the article (and the headline?) doesn’t actually look at the photo of the person they are writing about, and doesn’t read the article they link to properly, and misses the point in an embarrassing sort of way. Not sure how long it will be up in this form, but no, nobody has criticised us for whitewashing by casting Ricky (why would they?)” After some presumably panicked shuffling for catching the attention of a celebrity for all the wrong reasons, MNG retracted the article and published an apology on Saturday where they assured Gaiman, Whittle, and their readers that “the writer and editor of the post have been reprimanded and we will make our own investigations about this issue.”

At the very least, it is a baffling amount of over-sight. At its worst, it detracts from the very serious conversation surrounding white-washing in modern media. Whether it be Gods of Egypt starring white actors from Scotland, Denmark, and Australia, a character named Mokoto Kusanagi being played by Scarlett Johansson, or films based on real people who said in interviews they would never want to be played by a white actor – roles that should be going to actors of colour that simply don’t time and time again. And in an industry where characters are white by default, that detracts from an already very limited pool of available roles, as though people of colour must always justify why they are the way they are rather than just being. It’s what makes the casting of American Gods so significant; characters of colour are plentiful in the source material and that has been reflected thus far. Producers Bryan Fuller and Michael Green deserve every inch of recognition they’ve received for not falling back on the industry’s old habits and making an effort to ensure they have the appropriate diversity in their cast. Gaiman even commented on it in his Facebook post, writing, “When you have a book like American Gods, one of the things that was most important to me was casting the characters the same racial mix they are in the book. I was really impressed with the Fremantle team, and the showrunners, who were equally as dedicated to that idea. I’m proud of them all.”

Personally, I can’t wait to see American Gods on Starz when it airs in 2017 and hope that Movie News Guide and other websites have learned to at least look at the pictures in their own articles.

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Genevieve LeBlanc
Genevieve LeBlanc 126 posts

Genevieve LeBlanc is a contributing writer for and lives in snowy Canada.

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