Tim Burton’s newest feature film Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children provides the audience a story about a young boy named Jake, who is the main character, on an adventure to go back to his old roots in a home ran by Miss Peregrine herself to provide shelter and train children with special abilities. Now this may sound interesting to you, as it is certainly a different aspect of a children’s film and the film’s premise has potential. However, there is one main problem with it: the lack of diversity within its cast.
This may not come as a shock to us expecting more from Hollywood, as nowadays, most films are whitewashed. It’s like we see it as a feature that Hollywood itself has ingrained into their casting of new films that are adapted from comic books, novels or cartoon films; they never seem to see that yes, people of colour do exist, and yes, there are characters of colour too! Originally characters of colour being changed into a white character diminishes that character’s importance to people of colour who looked up to them – a main example is Tiger Lily from Peter Pan, a Native-American character being played by a white actress, Rooney Mara. While she may regret her decision, it just adds to the mess that Hollywood has already made with previous whitewashed roles.
Tim Burton, on the other hand, provides the world a special case – he thinks that his reasoning behind the lack of diversity in his recent films is justifiable. Interesting. The public has just started to realise that he never really casts people of colour in his feature films alone, as it’s always predominantly white or just Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter as the main actors with a few white people as their supporting actors.
Just recently, Rachel Simon of Bustle interviewed Tim Burton regarding the lack of diversity within most, if not, all of his films. He states:
“Nowadays, people are talking about it more,” he says regarding film diversity. But “things either call for things, or they don’t. I remember back when I was a child watching The Brady Bunch and they started to get all politically correct. Like, OK, let’s have an Asian child and a black. I used to get more offended by that than just… I grew up watching blaxploitation movies, right? And I said, that’s great. I didn’t go like, OK, there should be more white people in these movies.”
One of the most powerful Hollywood directors in our generation thinks that just because he watched blaxploitation films and didn’t complain about the lack of white people featured in them, people of colour shouldn’t complain about the lack of their representation in his films; a version of a well-known phrase: “Well, I talk to black people – I’m not racist”.
To me, he’s disregarding the existence of the people of colour who watch his films, who support his projects, and those who support him as a whole – as if people of colour’s very existence and presence in his films are not always necessary. That’s a problem.