Race Lift

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Sadly, this would turn out to be only the first of that film's many problems.

Frozone: Wait a second, what's this? Is that me?... I'm white! They made me a white guy?
Mr. Incredible: You're... You're... Black...ish...
Frozone: They made me a white guy!
Mr. Incredible: Well... Maybe the print's faded. You're tan. ...-ish?

Frozone: Wait, wait, wait. Is that supposed to be me? I sound like a, a... A what? A beatnik! Yeah, that's it, I sound like a beatnik!
The Incredibles, talking about a cartoon show starring Frozone and Mr. Incredible.

A Race Lift is what occurs when a character's race or ethnicity is changed in the creation of a derivative work. Sometimes this is a method to try and keep things politically correct. People can't argue racism if you have a Token Minority in the cast, but you usually run into problems when you change a character who is originally a proud minority into a member of the majority group. Generally, it works in one of these ways:

Diversifying a Cast
Supporting characters will be changed into a Token Minority to make a cast more diverse. Happens especially in western franchises invented before the 1960s, where non-Europeans in European and American fiction, for all intents and purposes, either did not exist in fictional form at all, or only existed as racial stereotypes.
Minority to Majority
Main characters may be changed from a minority in the area the production is being made to the majority (for example, characters become Caucasian in the United States and most of Europe, Japanese in Japan, Indian in India, etc.), because otherwise people won't watch. This is especially common in older shows and media, but isn't quite a Discredited Trope yet. For a few examples minority characters in older works often carry with them racist undertones.
Majority to Minority
Less often, a work may be adapted by casting a minority actor that the execs consider "popular with non-minority viewers" when the character wasn't initially a part of any minority group. It doesn't necessarily mean that they are aiming for a Race Lift but when the actor proves to have a Box Office draw, producers may ignore past race depictions.
Minority to Different Minority
Secondary characters may be changed from one minority to another, usually because the adapters consider the fact that they are minorities to be their only distinguishing characteristic (or, less cynically, because the character's original race no longer fits the plot function it was intended to: an explorer's "local guide" may need to change race if the area being explored does, for example).
Race Unknown
The adapters may have been unclear on what race the original character was supposed to be, either because they Did Not Do the Research or because the original work was vague on that point. This is especially common when moving from one medium to another - a novel may not describe a character's race, but you can be sure the author will mention it if the casting doesn't match what they pictured in their head. Similarly, live-action western adaptations of anime suffer from the fact that western audiences unfamiliar with anime art styles often find it hard to believe that a blonde-haired, blue eyed character was, in fact, intended to be Japanese by the original artist.
Reverting Executive Meddling
A character who was a majority in the original may become a minority in an update because the producers think they should have been that race all along and were only cast otherwise due to racism. For example, a Caucasian ninja may become Japanese if there's no good reason for them to be Caucasian other than reluctance to cast non-white actors in the original.
Avoiding Unfortunate Implications
It might be "safer" to turn an unsympathetic character into a majority to avoid presenting a negative image of minorities.
Ability Over Appearance
And very, very rarely, it's because the best man or woman to make the audition just happened to be of a different ethnicity.

Before about 1970, it was common for TV stations in the American South to edit shows featuring non-stereotypical black characters to remove their scenes. In cases where the character couldn't be edited out, the episode or the entire show wouldn't be aired. Producers therefore had an incentive to choose an all-white cast even if the original characters were intended to be minorities. (One of the first shows to attempt to break this barrier was Hogan's Heroes, which made Kinchloe the second-in-command and the camp genius so he couldn't be edited out.)

There's also a (much less common) version specifically for scifi adaptations of historical works, where Africans/Asians/Arabs who were intended to be exotic in the original are changed to something that actually would be exotic for humans in the far future. The usual choice is some odd kind of alien.

Simply because of the need for visual diversity, some actors and actresses get the short end of the deal. People of mixed race are especially prone to this because they don't look enough like one ethnicity or the other. And sometimes people are entirely one ethnicity but have the "appearance" of another. There are Caucasian Hispanics with visibly-fair features (Cameron Diaz, for one; Spaniards as a whole), but that is not what the general American viewer sees as a stereotypical Hispanic (at least according to Hollywood and other mainstream media). There are some black people who appear to be white. There are even some Filipinos and Samoans that appear to be black.

Occasionally this process will only be carried out halfway, with a previously ostensibly white character being retooled as someone with a secretly mixed background. In the United States, it has often been common for an especially daring or renegade character to turn out to have American Indian ancestry, if only to emphasize their "wildness". This is plausible because racial mixing with Indians, while not uncommon, was never as widespread or ubiquitous in the U.S. as it was in Mexico or even Canada, partly because there were far fewer Indian people for breeding material; the result is that many white and black Americans have bloodlines that are so diluted that they can claim to have Indian ancestry without actually looking the part.

In Fantasy stories based on Literature, Comic Books or Manga, many times the name of the ethnicity never comes up because it wouldn't exist in that world. When that happens there can be serious arguments and flame wars over what ethnicity a certain character is, based off of the Fantasy Counterpart Culture that might have been used. Their physical appearance might not have any particularly telling markers and clothing can just be added flavor. So if there is an adaption of that work and fans have their own expectations of a particular ethnicity you can guarantee a flame war.

Whether or not a Race Lift is acceptable or Unfortunate Implications depends heavily on the individual work and the opinions of the individual. Just remember to avoid turning this page into a flame war when adding examples and comments.

If a character in a work changes their race within the storyline, it's Black Like Me.

Often involves an Adaptation Dye Job. See Gender Flip when an adaptation changes a character's gender instead of race. See Divine Race Lift when gods are portrayed as a race different from their traditional representations.

Examples of Race Lift include:

Diversifying a Cast[edit | hide | hide all]

Anime and Manga[edit | hide]

  • While most of Osamu Tezuka's "Star System" rely on Mukokuseki when playing explicitly non-Japanese characters, his recurring schoolboy character Kenichi (or simply Ken) has had two Race Lifts. While usually portrayed as a dark-haired Japanese kid, in a few anime produced by Tezuka's company in the 1980s (most notably the second Astro Boy series), he was redrawn as a brown-haired, blue-eyed Caucasian. This was somewhat reversed in the Metropolis film, but in the 2003 Astroboy anime series he has brown skin.
    • Metropolis has a few more, much weirder examples. Atlas, originally a killer robot from the Astro Boy series is recast as a human, Perro, originally a cyborg created from a dog's brain became a full robot & Dr. Lawton became a cyborg.
  • 4Kids! Entertainment have changed the races of characters from for example black to white in anime such as One Piece when the initial show portrayed some blacks using the Sambo caricature.
  • In Riding Bean, Bean Bandit's partner Rally Vincent is blonde and appears Caucasian. When she became the main character in Gunsmith Cats, she was dark-skinned with black hair, and her father is East-Asian Indian, making Rally biracial with an English mother.
  • In a very subtle and tricky one, the Appleseed 3D animation's secondary protagonist, the full-body cyborg Briareos Hecatonchris is shown in the original manga to be African-American, while in the second Appleseed film he appears to be turned into a generic Japanese-looking Bishonen. Even in the manga you can only tell through some certain artwork pieces Shirow did: Briareos doesn't really have much of a face most of the time.


Comic Books[edit | hide]

  • The Ultimate Marvel incarnation of Nick Fury is black. Or rather, deliberately styled after Samuel L. Jackson. This has led was to lead up to Mr Jackson having a role in the Iron Man movie as the man himself (he allowed the usage, having it written into the deal he would play the part when/if a movie(s) were ever made).
    • Within the series, this has undergone some lampshading with a conversation with Nick being asked who he would like to see in a biopic about himself. The answer? Samuel L. Jackson of course.
    • Similarly, while the Marvel Universe Wasp is white, her Ultimate counterpoint became Asian-American. She even mutters about Lucy Liu being suggested to play her, as they look nothing alike. Later, though, the new artist started drawing her as white in a rather Egregious case of Did Not Do the Research. Alas, it will never be known if she would have stayed Caucasian or not, as soon thereafter she was eaten by the Blob.
  • Related to above, Ultimate Spider-Man features several race-lifts, usually with minor characters but culminating in a completely new person taking over the title for the recently-deceased Peter Parker, half-black, half Hispanic Miles Morales. Unlike most examples of this trope, however, the transition was handled well and the character has been relatively well-received.
    • For example, Ox, a minor Mooks in the mainstream continuity, is a black man in the revamp, and given more of a personality (the other one was known for being a Silent Antagonist). He's even shown to consider reforming at the end of his first arc (but doesn't, in favor of becoming a Goldfish Poop Gang).
  • In 2004 Legion of Super-Heroes reboot, Star Boy was changed from white to black, with this incarnation being used in the short-lived Legion of Super-Heroes cartoon. Sadly, black Star Boy also suffered from having pretty much every defining characteristic of the character stripped from him (right down to having his girlfriend Dream Girl reassigned to be Brainiac 5's love interest).
    • Karate Kid (no connection to the movies) has also been Race Lifted back and forth to and from Asian a couple of times.
  • The publisher of Dilbert (not cartoonist Scott Adams) colorizes the Sunday strips and picks the race of minor characters. This results in Unfortunate Implications as when they made a corrupt security officer black (he's white in later reprintings). Of course, this happens because there isn't anyone in Dilbert who isn't either corrupt, an idiot or severely flawed in some other way.
    • Conscious of this phenomena, Adams was very careful when crafting the Indian character Asok, trying to make it clear that Asok's one flaw was naiveté, hoping that the audience would forgive that flaw given that Asok was an intern. This makes him the least flawed character in the strip aside from the World's Smartest Garbageman
  • In the Multiverse of the DC Universe, there are several worlds where normally-white heroes have their races changed. Earth-D sported an Asian version of The Flash, black versions of Superman and Supergirl, and an Arab Wonder Woman. Earth-23 features a black Superman and Wonder Woman, while another unidentified Earth from Countdown had Korean American reporter Linda Park as her world's Flash.
  • The hardcover edition of Kingdom Come identifies Angela Margolin (white) as the mother of Irey West, the new Kid Flash and daughter of The Flash. When Irey was made canon in the DCU years later, her mother was changed to Linda Park (Korean American), making her half-Asian.
  • In the Batman/Doc Savage crossover, this is done to Doc, who is of mixed-race in this continuity. Rather cleverly, this explains his old school nickname of "The Man of Bronze", as his unique skin tone is now a result of his mixed Caucasian/Asian ancestry.
  • Obscure comic book character Marie Thirteen (the wife of Doctor Thirteen) was pretty consistently portrayed as a blonde white woman in most of her appearances. After several decades in limbo, Doctor Thirteen returned to the DCU with a half-Asian daughter named Traci, with references made to Marie having passed away. This would count as something of an offscreen race lift since Marie was retroactively established as having been an Asian woman.
  • In the DC Comics New 52:
    • Superman villain Morgan Edge is black.
    • More of an Ethnicity lift, but the reboot version of Firehawk is French.
    • Captain Atom antagonist General Eiling is black.
    • Wonder Woman's friend Etta Candy is now a black woman.
    • The Flash's enemy Weather Wizard is now a Latino man from Guatemala.
    • Turbine, the modernized version of the Top, is a black man.
  • An in-universe example took place in an issue of Catwoman where Harley Quinn tried to pitch a movie based off the exploits of the Gotham City Sirens. For the sake of diversity, one of the studio execs suggested making Harley an Asian American teenager for the film, despite the "real" Harley being a white adult with blonde hair and blue eyes.
  • In the "new look" Archie stories, Midge is depicted as being Asian. This at least makes some sort of sense, as the only really consistent things the artists have kept about Midge's appearance over the decades have been "petite" and "black-haired", so making her Asian doesn't alter her look too much. She still keeps her decidedly not-Asian last name of Klump, however.


Fanworks[edit | hide]

Film[edit | hide]

  • The Thing's girlfriend, Alicia Masters, in the Fantastic Four was cast as a black character for the movie and the related spinoff animated series (clearly because the FF and their arch-villain are played by white actors). Which, in turn, meant the animated version of the Puppet Master (Alicia's step-father) was black as well.
  • Red, in The Shawshank Redemption, is played by Morgan Freeman; the character is a white man in the novella. In both versions, he tells Andy he got his nickname because he's Irish, but in the movie it's a clever joke. Both start out in 1940s Maine.
  • Freeman's character in Gone Baby Gone was, in the original novel—you guessed it—Irish.
  • Morgan Freeman also plays Colonel "Curtis" in the adaptation of Stephen King's Dreamcatcher, taking the place of the extremely Irish (but with a non-Irish name) Colonel Kurtz from the novel. Maybe the casting people know something we don't.
    • In the novel, "Kurtz" had deliberately changed his name, taking his pseudonym from the novel Heart of Darkness. His birth name was Coonts... which is also not Irish.
  • In the 2006 film Casino Royale and in Quantum of Solace, CIA agent Felix Leiter (a blond Texan in the James Bond novels) was black.
  • Despite being primarily inspired by the classic Marvel continuity, Iron Man, Iron Man 2, Thor, Captain America the First Avenger and The Avengers all have the originally-white Nick Fury played by Samuel L. Jackson. This is understandable though as mentioned above, the Alternate Continuity The Ultimates series portrayed Fury as a black man, which is where the idea for the film casting originated.
    • More than the idea. Jackson playing Fury in any movies was in the contract for letting them make Ultimate Fury look just like him.
  • In Tim Burton's Batman film, Harvey Dent (Two-Face's original identity), who was white in the original comics, was played by Billy Dee Williams (best known as Lando Calrissian).
    • Billy Dee Williams actually pleaded for the role of Harvey Dent knowing that he would become Two-face (the producers didn't know this). Turns out Williams was a Batman fan who had read comics as a kid. However, by the time of Batman Forever, Joel Schumacher had him replaced by Tommy Lee Jones. However, since he was pre-contracted for the movie, he got paid anyway, so no hard feelings, one assumes.
  • Wesley Snipes was cast as Sean Connery's kouhai in the movie adaptation of Rising Sun, which led to a disagreement over which the script writers Michael Crichton (whose novel it was based on) and Michael Backes quit the project.
    • This is noticeable because, especially in the 80s, the Japanese characters were not likely to treat a black man the same as they treat the protagonist of the story.
  • The film version of Sgt Bilko has a black actor play Cpl Henshaw. (Bilko's other sidekick, Cpl Barbella, gets a Gender Flip).
  • According to Sylvia Anderson, one piece of Executive Meddling during the early days of the Thunderbirds movie was "Could the main cast be more ethnically diverse?" Since they're all brothers, the answer was "No."
  • There were complaints about the 2005 film adaptation of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory not diversifying the Golden Ticket winners, instead opting to go with Caucasian characters as in the book. Director Tim Burton explained that since people would have complained if the cast had been diversified (possibly since most of the kids are naughty), they chose to stick with the book's take.
  • In the third Harry Potter film, a black actress was cast as Lavender Brown. Okay, in all honesty the "actress" was just an extra identified as Lavender in the credits. When Lavender appeared again in the sixth movie (with actual lines this time), blonde, caucasian Jessie Cave was cast in an open audition. While one of the novels released after that film did mention that Lavender had the same skintone as white Ron Weasley, there's no indication that the recast was an attempt to "correct" the original casting or even that the producers noticed the one minor mention of that fact.
  • The Twilight movies diversified the entire pure-human cast. In the book, all of them are assumed white and the ones Bella interacts with the most are all blond or brunette white people. The movie makes Angela Hispanic, Eric Asian, and Tyler black.
    • Even more notably, in the movie one of the vampires is black, but in the books it's made perfectly clear that when you become a vampire you become white.
  • The movie adaptation of Harriet the Spy made Janie black, and also made Rachel Hennessey and a family that plays a minor role Asian (the latter was originally VERY stereotypically Italian).
  • Ripcord is played by a black actor in G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra. (The original character and action figure is a red-headed white male.) Exactly why the producers felt it necessary to do this is a bit of mystery. The G.I. Joe franchise is not short of black characters if they felt the cast needed to be more racially diverse (Stalker would have been a logical choice).
  • In the book High Fidelity, we are led to picture Marie De Salle as white after Dick describes her as "kind of Sheryl Crow-ish crossed with a post-Partridge Family pre-L.A. Law Susan Dey kind of thing." In the movie she was played by Lisa Bonet; Dick now describes her as "kind of Sheryl Crow-ish crossed with a post-Partridge Family pre-L.A. Law Susan Dey kind of thing, but, you know, black."
  • An in-universe example: In The Specials, the Minute Man action figure is made black, in the interest of taking a "multi-cultural approach".0
  • In the film version of Mystic River, Sean Devine (Kevin Bacon)'s partner is played by Laurence Fishburne. In the novel, he is Caucasian and supposedly looks a little like Brian Dennehy. However, after casting Fishburne they did not change the character's name: Whitey Powers. Dennis Lehane, author of the original book, admits that the character's name was an Incredibly Lame Pun in the book, but that it actually became funnier when Fishburne was cast.
  • In the remake of Carrie, the character of Sue Snell, who was white in the book and movie, was played by black South African-Canadian actress Kandyse McClure. This seems to have been more a case of colorblind casting than a deliberate Race Lift; her race is never brought up over the course of the film.
  • The Carrie remake wasn't the last time that Kandyse McClure would do a Race Lift on a character from a Stephen King movie remake; in the 2009 remake of Children of the Corn, she played Vicky, who was originally played by the white Linda Hamilton.
  • When The Wild Wild West was adapted to a movie in 1999, Jim West, played by white Robert Conrad in the original TV show, was played by black Will Smith in the movie.
    • This also resulted in many racist remarks, as much of the film takes place in the Southern states shortly after the American Civil War.

Artemus Gordon: (picking out disguises) How about this? You could come as my manservant.

Jim West: (excited stereotype Negro accent) Why, yessuh, Masah Gordon, Why I swears, I'd be delighted, I'll sing, I'll dance for ya sir and I swear, none of the other white folks'll know that (in normal voice) I'd rather shoot myself than play your damn manservant.

  • Joseph's brothers in the film version of Joseph and The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat include two black brothers. Um...sorry 'bout that, Jacob. The two brothers involved were Judah (son of Leah) and Benjamin (son of Rachel). Both women had also, in this version, produced quite Caucasian sons, and the twelve brothers in that cast covered a wide range of apparent ethnicities.
  • Superman's boss Perry White is set to be played by African American actor Laurence Fishburne in Zack Snyder's upcoming Man of Steel movie.
  • The upcoming big budget adaptation of The Great Gatsby has Indian actor Amitabh Bachchan playing Meyer Wolfsheim, who was a white Jew in the original novel.
  • In the movie Aloha, the character of Captain Allison Ng, who is described as a quarter Chinese and a quarter Hawaiian, is played by white actress Emma Stone.
  • In the 2013 movie Star Trek Into Darkness, white actor Benedict Cumberbatch played Khan Noonien Singh—a character described in the script for "Space Seed", the TOS episode in which Khan first appeared, as resembling "Northern India Sikh people" with a trace of other Eastern heritage as well. His heritage is not altered for the film.
  • Cloud Atlas features white actor James D'Arcy as the Archivist—a Korean character in the novel the film was based on.
  • Max Minghella, a British actor of Chinese-European descent, plays Divya Narendra, an Indian-American, in The Social Network.
  • Susan Hayward as Tatar princess Bortai in The Conqueror—a role that she found ridiculous years later, saying (according to The Hollywood Hall of Shame by Harry and Michael Medved), "Me, a red-haired Tartar [sic] princess! It looked like some wild Irishman had stopped off on the road to old Cathay." (The people of Bortai or Börte's tribe live in Mongolia and Inner Mongolia.)

Live-Action TV[edit | hide]

  • Pete Ross in Smallville was changed from white to Black Best Friend. So was poor doomed Dr. Hamilton. Lana Lang, who was a white redhead in the comics, was portrayed on the show by the half-Chinese actress Kristin Kreuk.
    • Roulette is a weird one; in the comics she's a Caucasian who wants to be a Dragon Lady; in Smallville she's really Asian. It's hard to escape the suspicion that the writers just didn't get the joke...
    • The Martian Manhunter's "John Jones" identity was made into an African-American.
      • In canon J'onn himself is green, so it's not terribly surprising that he might choose an alias with a darker skin tone.
    • Plastique is a white Canadian in the comic books. In the show she was played by the half-black, half-white Jessica Parker Kennedy.
  • The 2000s Battlestar Galactica changed Boomer, who had been played in the original by black actor Herb Jefferson Jr., into Korean-Canadian actress Grace Park (also a Gender Flip). As Boomer is a Manchurian Agent Cylon in the new series, this one also counts as a Species Lift.
    • Not to mention that the same series recast Commander Adama, originally played by white Canadian Lorne Greene, as half-Hispanic with Edward James Olmos in the role. Or Colonel Tigh, who in the original series was black, played by Canadian actor Michael Hogan, who is Caucasian -- and, like Boomer, Tigh is a Cylon.
  • The 2007 BBC adaptation of Oliver Twist features Sophie Okonedo as Nancy.
    • And the BBC adaptation of Little Dorrit features Freema Agyeman as Tattycoram, only described in the book as "a handsome girl with lustrous dark hair and eyes, and very neatly dressed".
  • In the proposed Toon Makers Live Action Adaptation of Sailor Moon, the all-Asian cast was to be changed to include a black character. Most of the others became white, so this hits the second version of the Race Lift as well.
  • The King Arthur BBC series Merlin has cast multiracial actress Angel Coulby as Guinevere (or Gwen as she is initially known). Perhaps to make the casting more plausible, the traditional background of Guinevere (as the daughter of a king) is dropped in favour of making her a commoner and a servant.
  • The BBC Robin Hood series has a black Friar Tuck. And he's not the easy-going tubbo associated with the name, either.
  • In the books True Blood is based on, the character Tara is white (she's described as having olive skin and a pageboy haircut). Really the only thing the TV Tara has in common with the original is her name and her friendship with the main character.
  • In L.J. Smith's The Vampire Diaries books, Bonnie was a petite redhead of Scottish descent. In the CW show she's played by a black actress.
    • In the show, her character has a corresponding downward bump of personality and involvement, now an airhead there to egg on the romance and give exposition-style psychic predictions as opposed to being practically more of a main character than the love interest, and hugely involved in the plot.
    • Elena, from the same series, to a lesser degree. The books describe her as your typical blue-eyed blond, but the actress who plays her is a tan, brown-eyed brunette. This may be more of an Adaptation Dye Job, though.
  • The English language LazyTown turned the Icelandic Latibær plays' red-headed hellion Halla and pale computer Geek Goggi into Asian (and slightly less wild) Trixie and black (and possibly more computer-obsessed) Pixel. The mayor's skin also darkened several shades, but given he's closely related to a character who stayed white, and not very dark (and a puppet, so actor race gives no clues), it's unclear if he too had his race changed, or if he's just meant to be tanned.
    • In the original play, Goggi was a white baldling wearing green glasses and pyjamas!
    • And Sportacus was an Elf, so it's a species-lift as well.
  • In the Gossip Girl novels, Kati and Isabel are both white. The actresses who play them are Chinese and black, respectively.
  • The unaired pilot for the proposed 2004 Dark Shadows revival had longtime character Dr. Julia Hoffman played by Asian American actress Kelly Hu.
  • In the CBBC series Leonardo, one of teen Leonardo da Vinci's friends is a streetwise black kid called Mac. Short for Machiavelli.
  • The 2011 Wonder Woman pilot had Etta Candy, Diana's blonde and blue-eyed best friend from the comics, played by African American actress Traci Thoms.
    • Carried over into the New 52, see above.
  • On Game of Thrones, Xaro Xhoan Daxos is played by Nonso Anozie, a Black British actor. In the books, Xaro is a native Qartheen "Milk Man", who are described as being incredibly pale. He described himself as being from the Summer Isles, where the other Black characters in the series are from. He is the first such character seen on the series. Xaro's name even fits the naming conventions of Summer Isles characters. In his first appearance, Xaro seemed more enigmatic than his book counterpart, who was more of a Smug Snake. Other non-white characters can be seen in the background scenes in Qarth, possibly indicating that the city is a more cosmopolitan setting in the series.


Theater[edit | hide]

  • An interesting example in the Paper Mill Playhouse production of Stephen Schwartz's musical Children of Eden: Adam was white and Eve was black, apparently also allowing them to have children of different skintones. However, this also had possible, unintended Unfortunate Implications (see that trope entry).
  • In The Nineties version of Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella that had Brandy as Cinderella, a Filipino actor plays the prince, black actress Whoopi Goldberg plays his mother the queen and Canadian Victor Garber plays his father the king.
  • The musical version of Jekyll and Hyde almost always casts Utterson as a black man.
  • Aside from race-specific roles and shows like Aida or Miss Saigon, Broadway's casting is remarkably color-blind. Black/non-white actors have had major roles in nearly every Broadway show around. For example, Chicago (Velma/Billy Flynn), Les Misérables (Javert, Mme Thenardier, Fantine, Cosette, Eponine), Wicked (Fiyiero), Beauty and The Beast (Belle), Miss Saigon (John) and most notably Robert Gulliame as the titular Phantom of the Opera. Even applies when such casting would be implausible—like a black/Asian Eponine playing the daughter of the white Thenardiers in Les Misérables. There have even been some cases where a white actress has played Young Eponine or Young Cosette and a non-white actress has played the older versions of those characters, or vice versa.
    • Elphaba from "Wicked" can be played by any actress, no matter her race, considering that she has to be painted green anyway. Actually, Glinda is the only character from Wicked explicitly required by the plot to be white. Not that it stopped Japan...
  • Miss Saigon's Ellen (the American wife of Chris) was always played by a white actress, especially a blonde or redhead. However, towards the end of the show's Broadway run, Ellen was cast with an Asian actress, which added a new dimension to the show. Rather than moving on with his life, as Chris insisted that he had, it now seemed very likely that Chris only married Ellen because she reminded him of his lost love Kim.
  • A 1994 production of Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice by noted director Peter Sellars (not to be confused with the film actor) implied the location to be multi-racial Venice Beach, California. A clip of Shylock's speech is available on YouTube.
    • Shylock and his compatriots were played by Black actors.
    • Portia and her retinue were actresses of Asian ancestry.
    • the titular merchant was Latino.
    • The only significant characters played by Anglo actors were the clown Gobbo and his son (played by a pre-stardom Philip Seymour Hoffman).
  • Collins, from Rent, was intended to be a "kind of Tom Waits" character, but the playwright changed his mind once Jesse L.Martin auditioned. Similarly, at least half the cast ended up being played by non-white actors; this has varied from production to production.
  • Theatrical productions of A Christmas Carol, although all the characters are originally white Englishpeople, occasionally use color-blind casting; e.g. ACT's 2011 run featured a black actor as the Ghost of Christmas Present and a Vietnamese actress as Belle and Fred's wife. Another year, Fred was black, and in 2009, Fan and Belinda Cratchit were played by an Arab/middle-eastern child actress.


Video Games[edit | hide]

  • The original Persona localization did this to an entire cast of Japanese teenagers. One of them was changed into a jive-talking black kid to add a Token Minority, and some of the tanner students had whiter skin and several had hair color changes. The main character has a completely different face, hairdo, and hair style. The PSP port and localization has been a more faithful adaptation, leaving these out.
  • Two of the bosses in Pokémon Battle Revolution were changed from Japanese to black. This was because the Japanese version didn't have different skin tone options for the characters, and they wanted to show them off.
  • Birdie from Street Fighter Alpha—he originally appeared in the very first Street Fighter game as white, but when his character underwent a complete visual overhaul, he became black. One of his victory quotes is a Lampshade Hanging: "You mean before? I was pale because I was sick!"
  • In Mortal Kombat, the character of Jade has been portrayed as every race under the sun. In her original MK II & Ultimate MK 3 appearances, she and Jax were the token black characters. On the port for MK II to the Sega Genesis and the Amiga, she became white (this might have something to do with the fact that, skin tone augmentation aside, she was portrayed by the same actress as Mileena and Kitana). However, in Annihilation she was played by the pale, asian Irina Pantaeva (who is ethnically Mongolian). Over time, her appearance has shifted to just being Ambiguously Brown.
  • The European release of the third Style Savvy game turned several characters from Asian to black. This was done extremely lazily, and many customers who were siblings are now clearly of different ethnicity (its not even a one off mistake and happens plenty). Worse, it was completely unnecessary too, as the game already had 1/10th of the cast possess dark skin.

Western Animation[edit | hide]

  • In The Spectacular Spider-Man did this to a large portion of the cast. Liz Allan is now Hispanic, as is her brother (stepbrother in the comics) Mark. Likewise, police officer Jean DeWolffe is Ambiguously Brown (Native American according to Word of God). Ned Leeds and Kenny "King Kong" McFarland also go from white to Asian (with names changed to Ned Lee and Kenny "King" Kong), while Raymond and Miles Warren are both Indian. Debra Whitman and Roderick Kingsley, all white in the comics, are now black.
    • Of course, if it seems like the writers are doing this arbitrarily, consider this: other than Robbie, you'll be hard pressed to name a single non-white person in comicverse-Spidey's good-sized supporting cast.
    • Fancy Dan may seem like this, but his design in this show is inspired by the Ultimate incarnation of the character, the one who really was the result of a race lift relative to his 616 counterpart.
  • Superman the Animated Series has Angela Chen, who is essentially an Asian Expy of the comic book character Cat Grant. Her abrasive personality, role as the Daily Planet's gossip columnist and rivalry with Lois Lane are all directly lifted from Grant.
  • X-Men: Evolution does this more than once, with originally blonde and very white Amanda Sefton becoming possibly Middle Eastern (or a brown-skinned ethnicity, anyway; it isn't apparent from dialogue or appearance, though she doesn't look quite like the series' black characters) for the series. The Lift is extended to her parents, naturally.
    • Also, Magma goes from white to Brazilian (in the comics, she was disguised as a Brazilian when she was first seen, but proved to be a blonde from a Romanesque society hidden in a remote area of Brazil). Which doesn't really make much sense, since 50% of Brazil's population is white. The southern states have large amounts of blondes.
    • Amanda Sefton in the comics is a Roma. A pale, blonde Roma. Her mother, Margali, has a more "traditional" Roma appearance, but there are blond Roma.
  • Lady Jaye was white in the original G.I. Joe cartoon. In G.I. Joe: Renegades, she has since become a Latina.
    • Also Ripcord, following in the movie and IDW comic's footsteps, is now black.
  • The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes, The Superhero Squad Show, Iron Man: Armored Adventures, Wolverine and the X-Men, and of course Ultimate Spider-Man all use the Ultimate version of Nick Fury.
    • Earth's Mightiest Heroes splits the difference, making him a black man with hair more like the original Fury.
    • Additionally, it has Kang's lover Ravonna changed from a white woman with red hair to an Ambiguously Brown woman with jet black hair. Maria Hill also becomes ambiguously brown, with her first name and skin tone implying Latina heritage. (Her name was always Maria. She just looks like more of a Maria in this series.)
  • Young Justice does this with Artemis and her mother Paula, both of whom were blue-eyed white women in the original comics. Here, Paula is Vietnamese, while Artemis is biracial. Artemis keeps her blonde hair from the comics, but is given brown eyes, darker skin and Asian facial features to highlight her mixed heritage.
    • Variant with Aqualad: the original holder of the title from the comics, Garth, is white, but hasn't been Aqualad for a long time anyway. In this continuity they created a new character, Kaldur'ahm, whose father, Black Manta is African-American.
    • Martian Manhunter might count as well. In the comics his human guise is usually a white man; in the show he adopts the appearance of a black man, though it probably is a Shout-Out to his Smallville appearance.
  • The Batman reimagined Lex Luthor's female bodyguard Mercy Graves as an Asian woman. The Chinese American police officer Ellen Yin was also a race-swapped (not to mention Adaptational Attractiveness younger and prettier) version of Ellen Yindel, the female police commissioner from The Dark Knight Returns.
  • The Royal Flush Gang that appeared in the 80's Superfriends cartoon had Ten changed from a grown white woman to a black teenager.
  • Like in the aforementioned Smallville and Young Justice, Justice League Doom made the Martian Manhunter's "John Jones" identity African-American. Like Nick Fury, this version seems to be catching on to the point that the original comics character is becoming the black sheep. Only time will tell if being a shapeshifter, the Manhunter in the comics will have something happen that requires him to need to change his disguise, and choose one that looks a lot like Phil Morris.


Minority to Majority[edit | hide]

Anime and Manga[edit | hide]

  • The two latest Appleseed anime have Briareos as a white man before his conversion into a cyborg (especially obvious in Ex Machina with Tereus, Bri's clone). The manga's supplemental materials showed him as a black man.
    • Based on his skin tone and facial structure, it's debatable whether movie Briareos was technically "white" before becoming a cyborg, though he certainly wasn't black.
  • Toon Makers' proposed version of Sailor Moon; see above.
  • In the first Fullmetal Alchemist anime, Rose has dark skin, whereas the newer TV series gave lighter complexions to her and the other residents of Liore. Then again, the first one might've been a racelift, too. Then again, it's kind of hard to tell if the first anime was a racelift to begin with, since the original manga was in black & white & used screentones very sparingly at the beginning.
    • In the first anime, Liore was believed to be a desert town, when it was actually somewhere in the mountains. This can be explained why the residents of Liore no longer have darker skin.
    • The manga has her with no shadowing like the dark skinned characters so it's presumed she is of the lighter complexion, much to the dismay of fans of the first series.
  • The Death Note adaptation changes Rodd Loss from black to white.
  • In Axis Powers Hetalia, Spain is originally dark tan, but has much paler skin in the anime. Seychelles gets the same treatment in her first appearance in the anime.


Comics[edit | hide]

  • In the comic book that inspired the movie Spawn, the titular protagonist, his best friend, his former wife and her daughter, and the assassin who killed him were all black. The studio, afraid of having too many black leads, made the best friend white. The assassin was also changed from a black man to a white woman, but this change seems to have been driven by a falling out between Spawn's creator and the creator of the original assassin, rather than Executive Meddling.
    • The comic version had a Race Lift as a minor plot element. Spawn could change his appearance into a normal man—a white man with blonde hair and blue eyes. But not into a black man. Since he couldn't be a black man, he voluntarily decided to remain at his default appearance—a decayed corpse.
      • In fact, the scene was how the revelation was made in the comics. Al and Wanda were only shown originally in Al's dreams, with great care taken to not show any real hints of ethnicity. When Spawn first tries to use his powers to make himself look human, you see the white face, then the next page suddenly has Al saying "What the hell is this? I'm a BLACK man, damnit!" Only afterwards do we actually get to see Wanda and Al's true faces.
  • Around the time Ultimate X-Men was starting up, Mark Millar introduced the Ultimate version of Kestrel, real name John Wraith, who had ties to the Weapon X project. However, his real name and having a connection to to Weapon X are the only thing he has in common with the classic version, as Millar made Wraith, an African-American mutant with teleporting powers who was a test subject of Weapon X in the classic Marvel universe into a Caucasian human who was in charge of the project.
  • In Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, April O'Neil's race seems to vacillate in early Eastman & Laird issues, even from page to page, but she was pretty definitively non-white and Baxter Stockman was unquestionably African-American. This was ... not retained in most adaptations.
    • This could be forgiven with April O'Neil (as the above says, her race wasn't consistent, and the 80s cartoon adaptation makes her Irish in appearance, to go with her surname), but Baxter Stockman comes off like Political Correctness Gone Mad. While Stockman is very much a bad guy who was black, Eastman & Laird had him be a thin, evil geek and April's boss in a time when black characters, even positive ones, were typically either athletes or overweight.
  • According to The Other Wiki, famous Dick Tracy villain Flattop is often considered to have been a light-skinned black man, making pretty much every appearance of him in any given adaptation this.
    • Well, Flattop's last name is "Jones", which is more disproportionate among African-Americans than European-Americans. And since most "mob" characters (in Dick Tracy and elsewhere) tend to be either Italian or Irish, the name "Jones" would otherwise stand out pretty glaringly. And then, of course, we have Flattop's unusually thick lips. So we just might be on to something here....
  • When the comic book Model By Day, featuring a black protagonist, was made into a television movie, Dutch actress Famke Janssen was cast in the lead.
  • Happened without adaptation in Judge Dredd: Carlos Ezquerra originally drew Dredd as part-Hispanic, but subsequent artists drew him as a very white man.
  • Similar to the Spawn example above was a minor 80s character named Mister Bones. While the name is a dead giveaway to anyone familiar with its origin, Bones' soft tissues are invisible, making him look like an ambulatory skeleton. On the rare occasions he wears make-up to "pass", however, people are typically surprised to find out that he's black. One character even taunts him with the notion that Bones forgets this himself, which turns out to be a Berserk Button -- Bones remembers, and it logically pisses him off that people treat him differently after they find out that he's not white.
  • When he was first introduced, Connor Hawke, the second Green Arrow, was initially drawn in a way that highlighted his heritage. Born to a white father and a mixed race (half African American, half Korean) mother, Connor had an Asian-looking face, with dark skin, a broad nose and lips (from his African side) and finally blonde hair and green eyes (from his father's side). Today, very few artists draw him with Asian or African features, and even fewer colorists even remember to give him his dark skin. For example, a flashback scene in a recent issue showed a young Connor with his clearly-black mother, and he was drawn with white skin and no noticeable African features.
  • A probably accidental example happened in a preview for DC Comic's Flashpoint event, where the biracial Jenni Ognats, aka XS, was drawn as white with blond hair and with an incorrect costume. Someone at DC evidently noticed and this was corrected in the version of the same page that appeared in an online version of USA Today.
  • In a Belgian comic named Billy the Cat, a black friend of the title character (who couldn't pronounce the letter "r" in the original French) is made into a white boy in the TV series based on the comic. Interesting enough, in the Dutch translation, the black boy had no trouble at all, pronouncing the "r", making that a partial race lift.
  • Marie Laveau, a light skinned black woman, has been portrayed as white in many Marvel comics. Other times they make her a little too dark but at least that could be excused as her darker daughter, who took up her name and position.
  • An issue of The Flash featured a film about the hero being produced. The Flash's Asian American girlfriend Linda Park was reimagined as the blonde "Linda Parker," a change which understandably enraged the real Linda.


Film[edit | hide]

  • The live-action The Last Airbender (adapted from Avatar: The Last Airbender) has three main characters, Aang, Katara and Sokka [dead link], who in the original cartoon series who do not fit into any specific real-world race. They are played by white actors with brown hair. The villainous Fire Nation is filled with Middle Eastern and Indian actors. The Monk Gyatso, basically the fantasy Expy of the Dalai Lama, is black. The various race lifts and Unfortunate Implications of the Fire Nation led to some healthy Internet Backdraft by fans of the show. The filmmakers defended their casting choices by stating that they chose actors based on performance rather than race.
  • Ming the Merciless, a Fu Manchu-style Yellow Peril villain in the original Flash Gordon comics and serials, was played by Max von Sydow in the 1980 movie, although he was still obviously meant to be Asian (or rather a Human Alien with a European-looking daughter). They attempted to distance Ming from his roots by casting the white, non-mustachioed, full-haired John Ralston in the 2007 TV series. It really doesn't work.
  • Robert A. Heinlein had Juan "Johnnie" Rico in Starship Troopers being a Filipino. Paul Verhoeven turned him into pretty white boy Caspar Van Dien, with the same ironic sensibility that made him cast actors pushing 30 as the supposedly high school age leads. There was all of one line mentioning his race, so book covers and adaptations- including anime adaptation by Sunrise- nearly always get it wrong. Heinlein liked making minority characters with all of one line mentioning their race in general, including The Cat Who Walks Through Walls, The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress, Friday, and Tunnel in the Sky.
  • The African-American hero of David Gerrold's Dingilliad trilogy is depicted on all three covers as a blond Caucasian. This also happened with the principal guest character in at least one edition of Gerrold's Star Trek novel The Galactic Whirlpool.
  • Steven Spielberg's Animated Adaptation, Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas, turns one of the most recognized characters of Arabian folklore, whose Ray Harryhausen-directed adventures were one of the few positive portrayals of Islamic culture ever to have an impact on pop culture, and makes him a Greek sailor interacting with characters from Greek mythology.
  • The book Bringing Down the House is about how the mostly Asian-American MIT Blackjack Team counted cards to rack in big cash at casinos. Of course, its film adaptation |Twenty One couldn't have minority leads, so producers made four of the team members white and cast only two Asians in the least important team roles, which was heavily criticized for racism. The real MIT blackjack team actually brought in a white girl as an attempt to make the team more "diverse".
  • Brit Johnson, a famous black scout in the old west was in many Westerns in the 40s and 50s... played exclusively by white men. Many of "hanging judge" Parker's "catchers" were black (often with some Cherokee blood too), including the most famous. One movie version gave him a black bailiff, that was as close as Hollywood got.
  • The long-stalled film adaptation of Neon Genesis Evangelion would reportedly have the mostly-Japanese cast of the original series changed to white people. For instance, official concept art had Asuka Soryu and Misato Katsuragi changed to "Kate Rose" and "Susan Whitnall" respectively.
  • In A Mighty Heart, Angelina Jolie plays the role of real-life Afro-Chinese-Cuban/Dutch-Jew reporter Mariane Pearl. The casting was criticized in some circles, though the character's race wasn't changed for the film and Jolie's skin tone actually does resemble the real person.
  • Angelina Jolie plays Fox in Wanted, a character visually modeled after Halle Berry.
  • The Dragonball Evolution movie got a lot of flak by casting white Justin Chatwin as Goku, with fans claiming that Goku is supposed to be Asian. Most defenders noted that race in Dragonball is more along the lines of human/demon/alien (and Goku is an alien). Bulma is played by the white Emmy Rossum, and James Marsters' Piccolo is under so much makeup it doesn't really matter. Besides that, pretty much all of entire supporting characters (Master Roshi, Chi Chi, Yamcha, Mai, Grandpa Gohan) are played by Asian actors.
  • 13, the English-language remake of French thriller 13 Tzameti changes the location from France to England and changes the main character from an ethnic minority for his homeland (Georgian) to a standard Englishman. This is a rare case of a Caucasian character (from Caucasia) being changed to a Caucasian (white) character.
  • When the movie Pay It Forward was adapted from the book of the same name, the hideously scarred black teacher Reuben St. Clair becomes hideously scarred white teacher Eugene Simonet (played by Kevin Spacey). They couldn't get Denzel Washington for the part, so they had to change the character.
  • In the recent movie adaptation of The Colour of Magic/The Light Fantastic. the character of Twoflower, who hails from the Discworld's Far East analogue country, played by American actor Sean Astin. This may have been an effort to avoid "Asian tourist" stereotypes and instead stick with the safer American tourist stereotype.
  • The Western Ulzana's Raid originally intended a Native American scout, Ke-Ni-Tay, to be the main character, albeit played by a "blacked-up" Jorge Luke. In a case of Executive Meddling, a white scout played by Burt Lanchaster became the lead and Ke-Ni-Tay was grudgingly reduced to a support character.
  • A Live Action Adaptation of the indie comic book The Weapon has recently been announced, and the hero of the book named Tommy Zhou has been cast. The actor they chose? David Henrie. Yes, Wizards of Waverly Place David Henrie.
  • In Arthur C. Clarke's novel 2010, the scientist responsible for the HAL 9000, Dr. Sivasubramanian Chandrasegarampillai—or Dr. Chandra—is from India. In the film version, he's Bob Balaban. But still named Dr. Chandra.
  • The movie version of A Beautiful Mind turns John Nash's wife, a Hispanic woman (albeit quite pale) named Alicia, into an Anglo woman named Alice played by Jennifer Connolly.
  • The movie Stuck was based on the horrific incident of Chante Mallard hitting a homeless man with her car, and leaving him to die trapped in her windshield. The movie casts white Mena Suvari as Chante, despite Chante being African-American. What's worse is that they give her cornrows in order portray her better. You could say that this is a case of Political Correctness Gone Mad as to not portray a black woman in a negative light, but cornrows?!
  • In the film version of George R. R. Martin's short story "Nightflyers", Melantha Jhirl (renamed Miranda in the film), who is described as having coal-black skin, is played by Catherine Mary Stewart.
  • All of Disney's Witch Mountain movies demonstrate a rather subtle form of this trope. In the original novel Escape to Witch Mountain by Alexander Key, Tony and Tia are described as appearing Latin or Mediterranean, with olive skin, dark eyes and dark hair. However, in all of the films Disney has made using this property, the aliens (children and adults alike) have been turned into blonde, blue-eyed Aryan stereotypes.
  • Averted with Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle. Director Danny Leiner was well aware of Hollywood's tendency to shy away from Asian leads and originally feared that "Harold and Kumar" would turn into "Joe and Dave Go To McDonald's".
  • While the American version of The Grudge is still set in Tokyo, it changes most of the main characters into white people.
  • The live-action King of Fighters movie isn't very good for a whole host of reasons, but one of the most jarring issues is that Kyo Kusanagi - the most popular character in the series in Japan - is played by a guy who is as white as the driven snow. His father - explicitly his biological father - is played by a Japanese guy. It's made even worse by the fact that all the flashbacks have the character being played by a young Asian boy. A half-hearted attempt is made to explain this with Iori insulting Kyo as a "half-breed", which The Spoony Experiment mocked with "yeah, half white and the other half white!".
  • The film adaptation of The Hunger Games has some possible examples.
    • In the books, Katniss's race is never made explicit. She has "olive" skin, and her mother and sister are fair-skinned, blonde-haired and blue-eyed. In the film, she's played by Jennifer Lawrence, who does not have what would be considered "olive" skin. Several international covers, including the original UK version, show an apparently Caucasian girl.
      • Gale also gets this treatment.
    • Cinna's race is also never made explicit, though he has green eyes, a trait most often found in Europe but also found in North Africa. He's played by the mixed-race Lenny Kravitz, who has brown eyes.
  • The live-action Tekken film had Brazilian Christie played by white Kelly Overton. When she was cast, cue dozens of internet arguments claiming that Christie was really black, Hispanic or even Asian ethnicity. In what may count as an inversion, the Irish Anna Williams was played by a Spanish actress but Anna's background is never stated.
  • The film Extraordinary Measures stars Harrison Ford as Dr. Robert Stonehill, who cured Pompe disease. The scientist who actually cured the disease was Dr. Yuan-Tsong Chen. The real Dr. Chen did not wish to be fictionalized, but that still doesn't explain why they needed to change the character's race.
  • Ben Affleck will play the real life mixed-race CIA agent Tony Mendez in his film about the Iranian hostage crisis.
  • In Mortal Kombat Rayden is curiously white for an Asian deity. Likewise, Kano went from half-Japanese to Australian background. Trevor Goddard's performance eventually caused Midway to Retcon him into being Australian.
    • It's helpful to remember that Rayden is a god, not a human, and thus is not bound by cosmetic appearances. And since in the film he is the mentor to a team that is two-thirds white, it is understandable that in-universe Rayden would look like Christopher Lambert.
    • Interestingly, Trevor Goddard is actually English, and spent most of his career claiming to have Australian ancestry and putting on a (poor) imitation accent in the belief that this would land him more roles. To this troper Kano's admitedly hard-to-place voice sounds more east-end gangster than Australian. This means that video game Kano's subsequent race lift was pretty baseless.
  • The film adaptation of Dead or Alive had the Japanese Kasumi and Ayane played by the half-Japanese Devon Aoki and the white Natassia Malthe respectively. Strangely, this applied only to them: Ryu Hayabusa and Hayate were played by the half-Japanese half-Chinese Kane Kosugi and the Taiwanese Collin Chou.
    • Malthe is in fact half-Malaysian. It's just very hard to tell, especially with her very European-sounding name.
  • Hachi: A Dog's Story is an American remake of Hachikō Monogatari, in turn based on the story of the real Akita dog named Hachiko. The movie is moved from 1920's Japan to 2000's America—with the Japanese dog being left in an American train station as a puppy—and the role of Hidesaburō Ueno, the dog's original owner played by Richard Gere, who is given the new name of Parker Wilson. In fact the only things Japanese at all in the movie are Hachikō, whose name was shorted to "Hachi", and one of Parker's co-workers, Ken. They do however, in a closing title, mention all the true—and Japanese—details of the story.
  • In the film adaption of Spawn in 1997, the man Al Simmons'(Spawn) wife remarried was changed from a black man to a white man. Apparently it was felt that there were far too many African Americans in the original comic, and on screen it would turn the film into a "black movie".
  • In Rising Sun, Wesley Snipes's character is white in the books. The murderer is changed from Japanese to white.
  • In The Dark Knight Rises, Big Bad Bane, half-British and half-Hispanic [1] in the comics, is played by Brit Tom Hardy. Hardy's features and accent are ambiguous and distorted, and some his actions take place in South America, so his race could go any which way, if it becomes an issue at all.
  • In the process of adapting 30 Days of Night, not only were the paunchy, late-thirties, happily married main couple made buff, mid-twenties, and sexily divorced; the Native American Eben Olemaun became the white Eben Oleson.

Literature[edit | hide]

  • In an example of fantastic race-lift, Drizzt Do'Urden in R.A. Salvatore's Dark Elf novels is a drow elf, which as the term "dark elf" would imply, has dark gray or black skin. However, for the longest time his "official" depiction in the cover art showed him to be as pale-skinned as any surface elf. This has been fixed in later covers.
  • Executives wanted to cast white leads for a film adaptation of Anansi Boys, completely ignoring the fact that the Anansi myths originated in Africa. Fortunately, Neil Gaiman shot them down.
  • Every adaptation of the Earthsea series has changed the black and copper-skinned principal characters into light-skinned people. Especially grating, as in the original, the white-skinned Kargs were mostly villains. The author is pissed off about it.
    • It is rather weird that, even though Goro Miyazaki could color his characters however he liked in his Anime adaptation, they still wound up looking as pale as any other Studio Ghibli characters.
    • The Sci-Fi Channel version, however, had Arha/Tenar of the white-skinned people (who, yes, is a villain in the book till she learns better) played by the multiracial Kristin Kreuk.
    • And on top of that, kept Danny Glover as the guy who teaches the main character about magic. So even in a world where the vast majority of the population should be black, there has to be a Magical Negro.
    • Not just the adaptations, but also the book covers for a long time. I'm sure there are still people who have no idea Sparrowhawk/Ged is supposed to have reddish brown skin.
    • Ursula LeGuin states she goes out of her way to incorporate non-white characters in her books; her reasoning being the majority of people in the real world aren't white. It looks like the two film adaptations of The Lathe of Heaven understood this, at least.
    • This is yet another cause of Contemptible Covers. The protagonist of one novel was black, and yet it had a white girl on the cover until it was changed. As featured in le Guin's Slate article above, fiction covers featuring non-whites "don't sell".
  • The American cover of Justine Larbalestier's book Liar caused a controversy. The heroine is a black teenage girl with short hair...and a long-haired white girl is on the cover. This certainly confused the American readers, and the publisher's response was decidedly...lacking. They claimed that a book with a black girl on it would not sell to white readers. The publishing company finally replaced it with what looks to be either a really light Black girl or a biracial girl. The company had this to say:

"We regret that our original creative direction for Liar -- which was intended to symbolically reflect the narrator's complex psychological makeup -- has been interpreted by some as a calculated decision to mask the character's ethnicity."

    • The fact that the girl on the final cover looks biracial isn't a bad thing, as the character she represents is biracial.
  • On the first paperback edition of Octavia Butler's Dawn: the cover is a detailed and accurate depiction of a scene from the book, with a character who's described as platinum blonde drawn that way... but the African-American protagonist, whose race is important to the story, is drawn very, very white.
  • Several editions of C. J. Cherryh's The Paladin, including the current Baen Books paperback, depict the heroine and her mentor in the cover art as very white despite the Fantasy Counterpart Culture being very obviously Asian (mostly Chinese, with some Japanese elements).
  • The cover of Patricia A. McKillip's Alphabet of Thorn greatly lightened a dark-skinned character.
  • The protagonist of Jay Lake's Green is supposed to be South Asian; not so on the cover.
  • In the Artemis Fowl books, Holly Short and Elves in general are described as brown-skinned and, except for the pointy ears, able to pass as short humans, but the graphic novels give her skin as fair as Artemis's, and some of the other elves seem to be pale green. (Sprites and Goblins have green skin, but not Elves—see above about passing as short humans.) She's also fallen victim to Covers Always Lie Race Lift in the newest American cover designs and in every translation that didn't use relettered versions of the classic English Language covers (on which characters, if shown at all, were silhouettes).
  • The cover of Harpy Thyme by Piers Anthony shows a sweet, beautiful winged girl who is obviously supposed to be the protagonist, Gloha Goblin-Harpy. The girl on the cover has a peaches-and-cream complexion and blond hair. Gloha is dark-skinned with blue-black hair. Since the details of her appearance aren't described until a fair way through the book, readers who took the cover at face value may find themselves flipping to the cover, reading the description again, and thinking "Wait, who the hell is this chick on the cover?"
  • The cover of Zombie Lover is just as bad, with Breanna of the Black Wave (whose blackness is referred to repeatedly throughout the book) appearing as extremely fair-skinned. At least they got her black hair right.
  • In The Count of Monte Cristo, while in prison, Dantes famously meets Faria, an Italian priest who is the Trope Codifier for The Old Convict. Faria was a real person, but was actually Goan Indian (and culturally Portuguese). The major commonality between the real guy and the fictional character is that both were well-read priests and both were imprisoned in the Chateau d'If, but other than that, the fictional Faria is quite different than the real one.
  • Despite the casting of Ralph Fiennes and Laurence Olivier (and others) in various film adaptations of Wuthering Heights, Heathcliff is of uncertain racial origins. His race is never specified (he is only described as being "as dark as if 'it' came from the devil" and as a "gipsy brat").Some critics have speculated that he might be part Black or part Asiatic Indian (Of course, making him the only non-white character in a film these days would have Unfortunate Implications, since Heathcliff is kind of the Big Bad of the story. But it's still in the book.)
  • In another instance of a fanastic race lift: the demons from Mercedes Lackey's Obsidian Trilogy are described as having red skin. The cover for the second book, To Light A Candle, which features one of the demons on the cover, shows her with mostly white skin that darkens to red between her elbow and hand and has some red around her face and neck.
  • Yelena from the Poison/Magic/Fire Study books is explicitly described as having light brown skin and black hair, becuase this is exceptional in northern Ixia, whereas when she goes south to Sitia there are many people with the same and darker skin tones. However, on every cover of the book, Yelena is portrayed as a pale-skinned , usually with light brown hair. On occasion, her skin might shown as a light tanned colour.
  • The novelization of The Incredible Hulk identified the young computer geek Banner bribes with a pizza as Amadeus Cho. Unfortunately, Cho is Korean American in the comics, while the computer geek in the film is extremely white. Possibly a case of Did Not Do Research.


Live-Action TV[edit | hide]

  • Bonanza and Gunsmoke showed the American West as peopled mainly by whites, with a few stereotypical American Indians, Chinese, and Mexicans as local color. (In reality, Anglo whites made up a small minority of the residents of both territories at the times the shows were set.) Neither show depicted the massive migration of freedmen to the West that happened during the time these shows were set; in the first six years of its run, Bonanza never showed a black character despite Virginia City being a popular destination for freedmen. Pernell Roberts left the show in part because he disapproved of the whitewashing.
    • A Bonanza episode featured William Marshall as Thomas Bowers (an actual historical figure). It dealt with racial exclusion, the Fugitive Slave Act, and featured black Virginia City residents. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0529554/
  • There are several documentaries whitewashing non-white conquerors, the worst easily being one about Attila the Hun... with an all-Scottish cast.
    • The opposite happens to Hannibal, who seems to be in the middle of a competition to make him as dark and West-African looking as possible in television despite being part of a Mid-eastern ethnic group established in Tunis. His blonde wife Himilce will simply be ignored.
  • In the television miniseries adaptation of Samurai Girl, several roles which were Asian in the books were played by white actors.
    • At least the main characters were still Asian.
  • The American adaptation of Red Dwarf intended to change both Lister's and the Cat's race from black to white, among other things. However, the adaptation never got past a pilot.
    • Not entirely accurate. While Lister's actor was a white guy who was also good looking and well poised (thus eliminating the show's entire premise that the last human alive was a complete bum), the Cat was played by a black man. A second pilot did indeed recast the Cat as a white woman but at this point they were desperately throwing out ideas to keep the show from sinking. It didn't work.
  • In the episode "Mountain of Youth" of MacGyver, which takes place in an ostensibly Asian country, most, if not all, of the Asians are played by Caucasoid people.
  • The TV movie about Marco Polo had the Mongol ruler Kublai Khan being played by Brian Dennehy.
  • One Life To Live's Blair Daimler was originally played by an Asian actress, and her heritage was incorporated into the show—when a character was traveling to Japan, she offered to go with him because her Japanese language skills would be useful. Blair fled town in early 1993... and returned at the end of the year being played by a blond-haired, blue-eyed actress with a Southern accent. Needless to say, no mention of her previous ethnicity was ever mentioned, except for a hilarious incident where the blond Blair flashed back to the ASIAN Blair exchanging vows with Asa; when it cut back to the blond Blair, she looked very confused and even whipped out a pocket mirror to double-check what she looked like.
  • In The Vampire Diaries books, the two male vampire characters are Italian, and in flashbacks described specifically as having 'dark good looks'. The actors both whiter than white in the new show.
  • The 1997 made-for-TV movie Bad To The Bone was all about a promiscuous teenage girl and her weak-willed younger brother who hatched a plot to murder the girl's boyfriend so that they could take over his fancy nightclub - after having previously bumped off their mother so they wouldn't have to wait too long for an inheritance. The movie was based on a real-life incident, and the sister, brother, and mother were all Korean-Americans. The people casting the film awarded these roles to three white actors (including Buffy the Vampire Slayer actress Kristy Swanson as the bad girl and Party of Five star Jeremy London as her brother) and gave their characters a very Anglo-Saxon name - which is very strange in context, because one (albeit minor) reason the girl wanted her mother dead is because the mother disapproved of mixed ethnic marriages and would not allow her to choose a non-Korean type (in this case, an Irish-American) as her love interest (and in the movie, the boyfriend is played by Baywatch star David Chokachi - who, despite the Japanese-sounding last name, is Polish-American, so the racial angle was sidestepped there, too). The change was probably made in order to avoid damaging the reputation of the Korean-American community, which is after all a minority. Frankly, though, you'll be ashamed to be in the same species as these two murderous brats.
  • In World War II, half-Chinese half-Anglo-Australian Billy Sing was Australia's deadliest sniper with 201 confirmed kills which estimates often place much higher, and was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal. The Legend of Billy Sing miniseries had director Geoff Davis cast his Caucasian son, Josh Davis, in the role. He also cast fair-haired Caucasian Tony Bonner as the father, who was a ethnic-Chinese fellow from China in Real Life.


Music[edit | hide]

  • In the past, white American musicians have covered songs in genres popularized by African-Americans, often enjoying much more success than the original performers. "Blue-Eyed Soul" is a term specifically devoted to white performers singing soul music, whether or not they're covering black musicians.
    • Pat Boone did covers of black musicians such as Fats Domino and Little Richard. He usually put the songs through Bowdlerization to make them fit for mainstream consumption.
    • Dominic La Rocca, the first Jazz musician to get his songs recorded, insisted his whole life that whites had invented Jazz and that blacks were only imitating them.
    • Elvis Presley gained perhaps the most fame for singing African-American music. While some people claim he "stole" all his music, Presley actually had a great respect for the original artists and their musical traditions.
    • This whole phenomenon was discussed in Hairspray, when Velma angrily confronts Maybelle for having her girls sing the same song on the show as her white cast.

Maybelle: But they wrote it.


Religion/Mythology[edit | hide]

  • Andromeda from Classical Mythology, Perseus's girlfriend, was princess of Ethiopia. Ovid, in Ars Amatoria, talks about her dark skin. But about any adaptation, from Renaissance paintings to modern movies, makes her white.
    • The Soviet Cartoon is a notable exception, perhaps even a bit overdone.
  • This is Older Than Feudalism; Jesus of Nazareth was once commonly depicted in western art as having fair skin and blond hair. The hair colour has changed to dark, but he's still depicted as fair. The historical figure would have most likely had dark hair and eyes and an olive complexion, looking like the Jewish rabbi from AD 29 that he was.
    • This Race Lift extended to other members of the Holy Family and to some degree became Word of Dante; there was an account of a Marian apparition—possibly that of the Virgin of Guadalupe—in which the witness of the vision was rebuked by a priest at least in part because he described her as having dark skin.
    • Most of the older Christian denominations tends to depict the Holy Family as whatever race lives in the neighborhood: Ethiopian Christians tend to depict the entire Biblical cast as black, and Nestorian churches in China and Central Asia show them as Asian.
      • Which got lampshaded in the song "Everyone's A Little Bit Racist" in Avenue Q. (Though Princeton used the argument "Jesus was Jewish.")
      • Also lampshaded in the movie Saved when the students create an enormous wooden image of Jesus and wheelchair-bound Roland protests "I still don't think he's supposed to be white", to which his Holier Than Thou sister replies "Of COURSE Jesus was white! God, sometimes I think my brother's retarded, too."
      • Spoofed in a MADTV skit that shows a right-wing country music star performing a song entitled "Jesus Was Never a Jew." After finishing the song, she declares that if he had been, his name would have been "Jesus Christowitz."
    • In this same box we could put the panoply of Biblical scenes in art where all the characters (1st-century A.D. or several-century B.C. Middle Eastern Hebrews) are depicted as well-to-do Dutch or Italian merchants.
      • Averted by Rembrandt, who frequented the Jewish quarter of Amsterdam for models for his Old Testament scenes.


Tabletop Games[edit | hide]

  • Written descriptions of dwarves in Dungeons & Dragons usually say they're ruddy to deeply-tanned in complexion (How a race that mostly lives underground is "tanned" is anyone's guess), yet the artwork almost always ignores this and makes them look Northern European.
    • The dwarves were forged from the stone and earth by Moradin the Soul Forger, the ruddy hue is a left over trait from that process, though some varieties have lost their original complexion over time by separating themselves from the deep earth. It's most visible amongst the Gold dwarves who rarely leave the underground compared to the more common dwarves who come and go and interact more often with surfacers. Though as with any magical race, trying to bring science into it generally won't work.


Theater[edit | hide]

  • In order to fulfill a lifelong dream of his, Patrick Stewart once financed a production of Shakespeare's Othello in which he played the (traditionally dark-skinned) title character. To maintain the spirit of the original, every other role in the show was played by a black actor. This production is commonly called the "Photonegative Othello", and it was staged at the Shakespeare Theatre in Washington D.C. in 1997.
  • Not necessarily minority into Caucasian, but any production of West Side Story tends to be flexible with the ethnicity of performers portraying the explicitly Hispanic Sharks and their girlfriends, often due to actor availability. This can get very confusing in the opening scenes if the respective street gangs aren't given a clear costumed identity.
  • Tropes Are Not Bad: This was averted in the Laurence Olivier production of Othello with blackface. It doesn't work.
  • George and Ira Gershwin's estate insists all productions of Porgy & Bess must have an all-black cast, as stipulated in their wills, undoubtedly because of this trope. This has made casting productions in some parts of the world difficult or impossible. In addition, many African-American scholars and actors are critical of the opera's portrayal of black Americans.
  • Fiyero, a dark skinned and tattooed prince from the Wicked book series, is often depicted as tattoo-less and white in the plays.
  • Pacific Overtures is traditionally performed with an all-asian cast. When the English National Opera did it, however, they ignored this.


Video Games[edit | hide]

  • Another rare game example, and an online game at that: Air Rivals. Michel Sevastienne Atelier, the game's Gentle Giant Scary Black Man is now...less black, IN JAPAN!
  • Guild Wars: There are a surprising amount of light skinned player characters from the Nightfall campaign, despite the fact that most NPC's in the campaign are dark skinned. (Not a perfect example, but seems to sort of fit.)
    • In the original game, Kryta was a "foreign" country filled with dark-skinned people, while Ascalon was the "home" country filled with very Caucasian-looking white people. Fast forward to Guild Wars 2, set 250 years later: Ascalon has long since been destroyed, and Kryta is the new "home" country. Guess which skin colour is suddenly the most common in Kryta?
  • The North American version of Shutokou Battle 0, Tokyo Xtreme Racer Zero, renames many opponents from Japanese names to Western names. The result? Hundreds of apparently-Western street racers in Tokyo's street racing scene. The sequel, Shutokou Battle 01 / Tokyo Xtreme Racer 3, on the other hand, averts this and goes back to Japanese names (with the exception of a team formed out of U.S. Navy troops based in Yokohama).
  • For the North American release of Disaster Report, an earthquake-survival game, the main cast are all given blonde hair and American names. Their in-game models were not changed at all, however, so you're playing a game full of Japanese people with American names and accents struggling to escape a Japanese city.
  • The Master System version of Quartet only kept two of the original four characters: Edgar and Mary. In the original arcade game, Mary had distinctively Asian features (pale skin and black hair) with wide anime-esque eyes, but in the Master System version she was turned into a brown-haired Caucasian with smaller eyes. In the Japanese Mark III version, titled Double Target, she looks just like she did in the arcade game. Edgar's skin tone was also lightened a bit, although this was likely the result of color limitations.
  • Unfortunately, the most popular mod for Dragon Age 2 seems to be one that turns dark-skinned, dark-haired Isabela into a the most Caucasian image you can find - very white-skinned, blonde, and blue-eyed. Aside from the fact that Isabela is a sailor/pirate so her skin should at least be tanned if she were white, she comes from the country of Rivain, whose population are of the dark-skinned/dark-haired variety.


Western Animation[edit | hide]

  • Perhaps for fear of the series' only black character being villainous not going over too well, the old Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series made Baxter Stockman white. (At first. Then it made him a giant fly monster.) He's restored to being black in the 2000s series, though he eventually becomes more silver than black due to losing body parts.
    • Apparently still wanting to keep a single black character who is also unflinchingly villainous, Shredder is black. However, due to being light skinned and wearing a helmet and facemask almost constantly, this is only apparent in a handful of episodes.
      • Although voiced by a black actor, Shredder is Japanese though it may not be apparent.
    • It's not certain what race April O'Neil is in the original comic series, but it's definitely not white. (The character portrait drawn by the original creators for the roleplaying game is clearly black.)
  • Smithers was black when he first appeared in The Simpsons, but had changed to white (well, yellow) by the next week. The creators say his colour in the first episode was just a mistake.
  • When Tom and Jerry Tales came out in 2006, much of the cast from the original MGM shorts was brought back too. This included, though in a new Caucasian form, Mammy Two-Shoes (Mrs. Two-Shoes in the show). Mammy is a controversial character these days because she portrays several black stereotypes that were widespread in the 1940's, so the decision to make her white was probably to dodge controversy and remain politically correct.
    • The Bowdlerized versions of the cartoon that are often aired today also make Mammy white, and recast her voice. This likely happened before the movie.
  • A vocal example can be found in The Amazing Chan and The Chan Clan; while it was notable for being the first to have an actor of Asian descent portray Charlie Chan, all of the children except Henry (Robert Ito) and Alan (Brian Tochi) had their voices redubbed with American actors, as the producers thought the original actors' Chinese dialects were too thick for American audiences to understand.
  • A somewhat minor example can be found in Batman the Brave And The Bold. In the comics, Bruce Wayne has a child, Damian, with Talia al-Ghul, who had an Asian mother and a racially ambiguous father. In the cartoon, Damian's mother was changed to Selina Kyle, and Damian looks white. (Talia, notably, is only a teenager in this continuity, but to the show's credit they are the first adaptation to give her quasi Asian facial features.) Damian's race in this show is arguably a moot point anyway, since he only exists in Alfred's book.
  • Expanding upon this, despite having an Asian mother and usually being drawn to look "exotic" in the comics, Talia has always been voiced by white actresses, and looked very white in her appearances in the 90's Batman show. The Brave and the Bold seems to have an odd compromise: She has Asian facial features and dark hair and eyes, but has pale, almost grayish skin, and is voiced by a white actress using a British accent.
    • This extends to her father, Ra's Al-Ghul, as well. Despite being described in the comics as hailing from some unidentified country in Asia, he has always been depicted with either green or blue eyes and in the '90s animated series was voiced by British actor David Warner. Furthering the confusion, Ra's is also hinted to be at least culturally Muslim (he does not drink alcohol, just like Bruce Wayne, which may be one reason for Ra's's constant admiration of Batman) and Talia (at least in her earliest appearances in each medium) is given character traits that are quite Old World and exotic, often meek and submissive to her father (though she can be an Action Girl when she has to be) and speaking in stilted (though otherwise impeccable) English; in addition, she also has earmarks of The Chief's Daughter.
  • An interesting and entirely unintentional example of this exists in the 90's Superman show. The show did an episode about Kyle Rayner, the then-lead character in the Green Lantern series in the 90's, but for pacing reasons, gave him the origin of the original 50's Green Lantern, Hal Jordan. To further the homage, the creators gave him Hal's costume and physical appearance, even making Kyle's trademark black hair brownish-blonde. Years later in the comics, it was established that Kyle's biological father was a Mexican American CIA agent, thus making Kyle half Mexican by extension. While the cartoon was obviously done years before this retcon, it's still somewhat funny, as it is hard to look at the Kyle shown in the cartoon and think anything other than "white guy".
  • Ben 10 featured a villainess named Charmcaster who was Ambiguously Brown. In the sequel, Ben 10 Alien Force, she has pale white skin instead.


Real Life[edit | hide]

  • Real-life examples of this being attempted include Alexandre Dumas Sr. and Aleksandr Pushkin. Dumas once replied to a man who insulted him about his mixed-race: "My father was a mulatto, my grandfather was a Negro, and my great grandfather a monkey. You see, Sir, my family starts where yours ends."
  • Siddhārtha Gautama also seems to get similar treatment. His features more often than not distinctly Chinese or Indian depending on who are the Buddhist practitioners.
    • For the record, the man who would one day be known as the Buddha started out as an Indo-Aryan prince whose ancestors had lived somewhere between the Black and Caspian Seas, in what is now the Eastern European country of Ukraine. Being royalty, the Gautama family would not have mixed with native Indians - so a recent reconstruction of Siddhartha's most likely physical appearance gives us a young man with a Roman nose and long, wavy, relatively fair-colored hair, making him look more like Alexander the Great than any latter-day depiction of the Buddha.
  • There's still ongoing debate as to whether or not the ancient Egyptians (most especially their royalty) were closer to Africans or Europeans in heritage. This sometimes results in Egyptians often being depicted as strictly European, or strictly African. (Accurately speaking, they were very close to today's Arabs in terms of spoken language, if not necessarily physical appearance.)
    • At least where Egyptian royalty was concerned, it would very much depend on which dynasty you're talking about.
    • The Prince of Egypt realistically portrays Ancient Egyptians.
    • The ancient Egyptians portrayed themselves as dark (albeit with a considerable amount of gender difference, as female Egyptians were usually depicted as being much fairer than the males), but distinctively lighter than black Africans. See here.
      • There is still controversy over such pictures, however, since it's possible the Egyptians portrayed themselves in such a manner to differentiate themselves from the rival Nubians.
    • Many physical anthropological studies on ancient Egyptian remains, especially those from Egypt's predynastic period (i.e. before Narmer unified the country in 3100 BC) have found an affinity with tropical Africans (see here).
    • Amusingly, this is often expressed as a "Cleopatra was Black" meme, even though Cleopatra was part of a dynasty made up of non-native Macedonian (Greek) conquerors and would have been Macedonian herself.
  • The Shoujo Manga Bronze Angel, which is based loosely on Pushkin's life. There the famous poet, who was at most a little more tan than other Russians, is depicted as deeply brown-skinned. Could be some kind of Japanese color symbolism, though.
  • When the Allies recaptured Paris in World War Two, they needed the Free French to occupy it. Unfortunately, most of the Free French soldiers were from France's colonial empire: Vietnamese, Arabs, Africans, Polynesians, etc. Charles de Gaulle "knew" the Parisians would Freak-Out if they saw an army like this liberating them, so he ordered what was called "The Whitening"—only the white troops would enter the city.
    • It gets worse. Removing the non-white soldiers severely depleted the numbers of the various regiments ceremoniously entering the city. Foreigners were dressed up in French uniforms to march in their place, mostly Spaniards. Only when there weren't enough Spaniards for all the French armored units did they resort to allowing some of the lighter-skinned Arabs and North Americans to march.
  • Crazy Horse fits this trope. Some believe he was full-blooded, while others believe he was half white.
  • And of course, we have the scandal over L'Oreal's lightening the already relatively fair-skinned Beyonce Knowles' skin colour. Needless to say, the public was not amused.
  • When the Transcontinental Railroad was finished, the final photo of the celebration showed only white people even though the railroad was built by a heavily Chinese workforce.
  • And of course, [insert Michael Jackson Joke here]


Majority to Minority[edit | hide]

Anime and Manga[edit | hide]

  • Marvel Anime: X-Men reimagines Dr. Moira Mactaggert as Dr. Yui Sasaki, with her country of origin changed from Scotland to Japan. Her physical appearance, backstory, characterization and relationship with Professor Xavier all remain intact however. Her formerly-white son Kevin is also changed to a Japanese boy named Takeo. Of course, part of it is that fans would not want Moira to turn out to have done what we find out Sasaki did.
  • Ganota no Onna is a bizarre comedy that takes the cast of Mobile Suit Gundam and reimagines them as part of a Japanese corporate struggle in the present day. The heroine, Utsuki Ganota, is a race-swapped and Gender Flipped version of Char Aznable, the Caucasian antagonist of the original series. Other characters who are both race-swapped and gender-flipped are Sayla Mass ("Seiya Ganota") and Bright Noa ("Noa Furuido").


Comic Books[edit | hide]

  • DC Comics has a history hitting lower-tier superheroes with a weird combination of this and Legacy Character. Examples include Azrael (killed, replaced by a Black Vikings man); The Question (died of cancer, replaced by Hispanic lesbian); Doctor Fate (ascended to another plane of existence, replaced by a Jew); Batgirl (crippled, replaced by an Asian girl), Mr Terrific (killed, replaced by a black man); The Atom (transferred to alternate universe, replaced by Asian man), Doctor Mid-Nite (died, replaced by black woman); Batwoman (retconned away, revived as lesbian Jew); etc, etc. See Affirmative Action Legacy.
  • There is a trio of obscure female Batman villains from back in the 1960's named Tiger Moth, Silken Spider, and Dragon Fly. In their first (and for several decades, ONLY) appearance, all three women were white. When they finally reappeared 40 years later during the 2008 Resurrection of Ra's Al Ghul storyline, Silken Spider was now shown to be black, while Dragon Fly was Asian American.
  • The all-ages Thor: The Mighty Avenger series portrayed the Norse God Heimdall as a black man in order to correspond with the popular live-action film Thor film, which had Afro-British actor Idris Elba cast as the character in question.
  • A Retcon change more than anything, but Lian Harper originally had curly, red hair and looked more like her dad. She was later changed to having straight black hair and looking more Asian, which seems more accurate considering her mom is the half-Asian villainess Cheshire.

Fan Fiction[edit | hide]


Film[edit | hide]

  • The 1998 film adaptation of Doctor Dolittle cast Eddie Murphy in the originally white title role. Of course, the movie didn't have anything to do with the books anyway, save for featuring a doctor named Dolittle who talks to animals.
  • Will Smith's appealing personality (and ability to record hit songs) has led to a career of being inserted into Race Lifts, such as Men in Black (Agent J was white in the comics upon which the movie is based, and either Christian Slater or Chris O'Donnell was the original choice to play Will's character); Wild Wild West, in which he plays Jim West, an army captain (though no version of The Wild Wild West cared about that kind of thing). It could also be argued that his character's creation and insertion into the movie I Robot was also something of a Race Lift, at least in spirit if not in practice—considering nothing like the events of movie even happened in the book.
    • A movie adaptation of I Am Legend actually takes it a step further. In Richard Matheson's original story, Robert Neville is White; in the film, he is played by Will Smith.
  • Guess Who ('s Coming to Dinner) and The Honeymooners are both race-switching remakes.
  • Ford Prefect in the The Hitchhikers Guide to The Galaxy movie was played by Mos Def. Most of the other major characters were played by Americans, which was rather jarring to many who'd expected British actors as in the radio and TV versions, but most of the other characters were aliens anyway, and Word of God stated that Arthur Dent is the only necessarily British character in the story. (Also, Trillian - the only other major Earth character - was played by a British actress on radio but by an American in the TV version.)
  • Eddie Murphy also starred in the remake of The Nutty Professor, which also changed the premise from being Applied Phlebotinum making a nerd cool into making an extremely fat nerd thin (and cool).
  • Kenneth Branagh's film of Much Ado About Nothing cast Denzel Washington as Prince Don Pedro of Aragon. Amusingly, his villainous half-brother was played by Keanu Reeves.
    • Branagh's film version of As You Like It also featured two black actors (David Oyelowo and Adrian Lester) as Orlando and Oliver De Boys. This is probably still some of his least eccentric Shakespeare casting.
    • He also cast Carmen Ejogo and Adrian Lester in his version of Loves Labours Lost.
  • The novel The Pelican Brief had the character of Gray Grantham as (a) white, and (b) eventually getting involved with Darby Shaw. In the movie, Gray was played by Denzel Washington, and he doesn't get involved with Julia Roberts. Julia Roberts, in an interview, said she was totally on board with making out with Denzel at any time, and it was a case of Executive Meddling.
  • The long rumored, much troubled Dallas movie reboot was going to see Jennifer Lopez play Sue Ellen Ewing, but she ended up quitting the production (currently Julie Benz is the leading candidate for the part).
  • An in-film example: the movie Watermelon Man. It started with Godfrey Cambridge in whiteface as your average bigoted white guy, but due to some unspecified event, he wakes up black and sees just how much shit black people went through at that time from people like the aforementioned bigoted white guy.
  • Another in-film example: in Tropic Thunder, the white character actor dons blackface and stereotypical mannerisms to become a black sergeant.
    • He also uses his method acting to portray an East Asian of indeterminate ethnicity briefly (using a hat and robes to cover hide his skin color. Well, his skin color at the time).
    • In fact, the inability of Kirk Lazarus (the white Australian actor who plays both roles mentioned above) to get a firm sense of who he really is becomes a Running Gag throughout the film. He seems to realize that he's not black, making casual references to his status as an actor and his past roles, but does so in a stereotypical "ghetto" accent, as he refuses to break character at any time during production. In addition, and while speaking in that same accent, Lazarus steadfastly refuses to exercise N-Word Privileges and won't let anyone else do so, either - even if they really are black. ("For 400 years, that word has kept us [emphasis added] down.") He eventually cannot keep up the charade any longer, and in a climactic scene strips off his curly black wig and starts to rub off some of his brown makeup, vocally imitating various past movie characters before finally returning to his everyday Australian accent.
  • The part of Lincoln Rhyme was played by Denzel Washington in the film version of The Bone Collector, despite the fact that in the books Rhyme being Caucasian is referenced several times.
  • In the Stephen King short novel 1408, Gerald Olin is a white middle aged British man. In the film adaptation, he is played by Samuel L. Jackson, who is not.
  • Kane and Lynch movie will star Jamie Foxx as the latter, who was Caucasian in the games.
  • Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging, the film adaptation of the Confessions of Georgia Nicolson series, cast an Indian girl as Ellen (described as blonde in the books). This is probably because the character was originally a Composite Character that did not appear in the books, but re-dubbed as Ellen after protests from fans.
  • CIA agent Felix Leiter, from the James Bond films, is usually white. However, he's been portrayed by African-American actors in three films: Bernie Casey in Never Say Never Again, Jeffrey Wright in Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace.
  • In the comic book movie version of Daredevil, the normally white mobster, Kingpin/Wilson Fisk is played by African-American actor Michael Clarke Duncan, since the studio couldn't find anyone who was white, of sufficient size, and could actually act.
    • Despite the change in skin color, most agreed that he was the right choice. He was still big, scary and intimidating like in the comics, and Duncan even gained weight in order to better look the part.
  • In the movie version of The Mighty Thor, Idris Elba of The Wire was cast as the Norse god Heimdall. The fanbase was largely divided on the casting choice, while some white supremacy groups threatened to boycott the movie because of this. Additionally, Asgard itself is portrayed as having various other non-white citizens present in crowd scenes. Interestingly enough, it was directed by Kenneth Branagh, who directed the above-mentioned Much Ado About Nothing.
    • Though the film makes it clear that the Asgardians aren't Norse Gods, but rather extradimensional beings who primitive Scandanavians mistook for Gods after witnessing a war between the Asgardians and the Frost Giants. This makes the idea of having ethnically-diverse Gods far more plausible.
    • Also, Stan Lee (who created the character) and Walt Simonson (an author who had a lengthy and highly-regarded run on Thor) both praised Elba's performance, as did a number of film critics. Given how successful the movie was both critically and financially, it's safe to say the racial controversy was overblown from the start.
    • Additionally, SHIELD agent Jasper Sitwell was played by a Mexican-American actor.
  • This happened to Grover Underwood in the film adaptation of Percy Jackson and The Olympians. The books actually described him as pale, but in the movie he was black.
  • The Disney version of The Hunchback of Notre Dame apparently changed Esmeralda from a Caucasian woman raised by Gypsies to a full-blooded Gypsy woman. With Green Eyes.
  • The Muppets' version of The Wizard of Oz not only changed Dorothy from being an 11-year old white girl to a young black woman, they also made her dream of becoming a singer. This is, ironically, one of the most faithful adaptations of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz to date.
  • In the movie adaptation of Girl, Interrupted Valerie is played by Whoopi Goldberg. In the book (and therefore in Real Life, as the book is a memoir), she is white.
  • In the movie adaptation of Matilda, Lavender is black; in the book she is white.
  • In William Shakespeares Romeo and Juliet, everyone except Romeo and Juliet is portrayed as either being black or Latino.
  • In The Searchers novel Martin was originally fully white but was made into 1/8 Cherokee in the film to give Ethan a bit of Character Development
  • In this short film, a real-life Asian murderer is turned into a white guy. His victims remain Asian.
  • The white character Domino was turned black for the second Deadpool movie. This resulted in death when the lack of black female motorcycle stunt drivers forced the production to hire a motorcycle racer with no stunt driving experience. After several concerns by stunt directors over the danger posed by her clear lack of needed skills, she died in a crash during a stunt that would have been easy for an actual stunt driver.

Literature[edit | hide]

  • Jules Verne originally intended Captain Nemo to be a displaced Polish noble with a grudge against Russia, but the fact that this would hurt his Russian book sales persuaded him to change him to a displaced Indian prince with a grudge against the British.
    • Of course, the movies just make him white. League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (the original comic, and the film version thereof) is the only adaptation that kept the whole Indian prince thing.
    • There is the anime Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water, where Nemo has a dark skin tone, though here he is actually Atlantean rather than Indian, with both alien (the royal family—Nemo and his kids) and earthling (Electra and the rest of the crew of the Nautilus, as well as Gorgon and his followers) Atlanteans having skin tone dark enough to pass as Indian or even African (his daughter Nadia originally thought that she was actually from Africa before she discovered her true origins).
    • Note that the whole point of Nemo's portrayal in the original 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea is that nearly everything about him—accent, appearance, etc. -- is highly ambiguous. The Reveal that he's supposed to be Indian only occurs in The Mysterious Island, a somewhat less well-received sequel. Verne clearly wrote the 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea with the Polish origin in mind and there are actually several moments that make the Hindu origin seem out-of-place (would a Hindu really cry out to "Almighty God" in English in his moment of deepest anguish?) though these can be explained as Nemo being fanatically devoted to concealing his true identity and origin at all times.
  • The character of Conn MacCleary in the novels by Sapir and Murphy is a red haired Irishman, but in the movie Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins, he is played by J.A. Preston, a black man. Funny thing is, they didn't even change his name...
    • It's not uncommon for black people to have Irish names.


Live-Action TV[edit | hide]

  • The twins in the T* witches books are white, but the Disney Channel Original Movie cast the biracial twins Tia and Tamera Mowry of Sister, Sister fame. This may be mere pragmatic casting: If you need identical twins, there's only a few with proven acting experience, moreso if you need a certain age (or at least look like it, and the Mowrys were already friendly with Disney.
  • In the Adam West Batman series, not only did Catwoman get Other Darrined, she received a Race Lift in the process. No one (except the audience) seemed to notice that Catwoman suddenly changed from being the very white Julie Newmar to the not-so white Eartha Kitt, and got about a foot shorter in the process.
  • Salli Richardson-Whitfield has stated in interviews that the original script for Eureka called for her character, Alison Blake, to be a blonde, blue-eyed white woman.
  • The Gruen Transfer featured an ad to appeal to rich parents to give their children Race Lifts.
  • Happens to two characters in Legend of the Seeker. In the book series it's based on, Chase is Caucasian, while he's a Maori in the show. And General Trimack, a full-blooded D'Haran[2] who is noted in every appearance for his fiery red hair, is made black.
    • Of course, the fans of the book care more about such things as Kahlan's eyes being blue instead of green (the show just has to rub it in, though, with every Confession shot focusing on her eyes) and Darken Rahl not having white hair (they did give his father Panis Rahl white hair in the flashbacks, though), even though Craig Parker previously played the blond Haldir in Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers.
  • In the TV adaptation of Girls In Love by Jacqueline Wilson, Caucasian Magda is played by a black actress.
  • In the television series based on the Pretty Little Liars books, white Emily is changed to an Ambiguously Brown character(played by Shay Mitchell, who is white/Filipino). This is especially obvious because Emily's parents in the books were racists.
  • The short lived 2005 revival of Kojak inexplicably took the classic white character and cast Ving Rhames in the roll. The series seemed more like Shaft than Kojak.
  • The television adaptation of The Middleman starred Cuban Natalie Morales playing Wendy Watson who had originally been a fair-skinned redhead.
  • "The Blind Banker", the second episode of BBC's Sherlock, used Chinese Yellow Peril gangsters as the villains. In the original story the episode was based on, the villains were American gangsters from Chicago.
  • In Game of Thrones, pirate Salladhor Saan and merchant prince Xaro Xhoan Daxos are changed into emigrants from the Summer Isles and cast with actors of African descent. This was probably done to make them more visibly foreign and to diversify the cast. In the books, both characters come from cultures with light skin.


Stand-Up Comedy[edit | hide]

  • Frequently done for humorous effect by Flip Wilson during his years as a stand-up comedian. For example, in one routine that can be heard on his 1960s-vintage album Cowboys and Colored People, everyone involved with Columbus' discovery of America went from 15th-century Spanish to mid-20th Century Black Americans:

Queen Isabelle was there, she'd had a few. "Chris gon' find Ray Charles!"


Western Animation[edit | hide]

  • The PBS Kids series The Cat in the Hat Knows a Lot About That! is based on a series of books known as The Cat in the Hat's Learning Library. In the books, the male child character was white, but he has been changed to black for the TV series. Additionally, the new books being released under the banner of The Cat in the Hat Knows a Lot About That depict him as black.


Other[edit | hide]

  • The latest edition of the Parker Brothers Clue board-game depicts Mr Green as a suave looking black guy, rather than the white and dumpy Reverend Green of yester-year.

Minority to Different Minority[edit | hide]

Anime And Manga[edit | hide]

  • In Dragon Ball: The Path to Power, some of the characters have went through race lift. Major Metallitron is now black and Staff Officer Black who was black now appears to be Native American.


Film[edit | hide]

  • The French film The Crimson Rivers (Les rivières pourpres) changed the Moroccan-French detective from the novel to an Armenian-French detective played by white actor Vincent Cassell. Cassell claims this was because he was talking with the director which Arab- or black French actor could best portray the role, and upon hearing the description of the character, insisted that he had to play it. The character was made Armenian to maintain the backstory of a marginalized minority "from the streets".
  • In the comics, Thor supporting character the Hogun the Grim is generally drawn as decidedly non-Nordic, and the only thing revealed about his origin is that he's not an Aesir like his fellow Asgardian warriors. Therefore, why not cast an Asian actor to portray him in the movie?
    • For the past years, the comic Hogun has been drawn as kinda Mongolian.
  • Elodie Yung has been cast as Jinx in the second live-action G.I. Joe film. Jinx is normally portrayed as a full-blooded Japanese woman while Yung is half-Cambodian and half-French. Still Asian of course, but her Caucasian features are very obvious.
  • Ben Kingsley has purportedly been cast as the Mandarin in Iron Man 3. The Mandarin, as his name implies, is a Chinese Yellow Peril villain, while Kingsley is half-white and half-Indian. Rumor has it the character's race was changed to make him less offensive to Asian audiences.


Literature[edit | hide]

  • In-universe example: In Sewer, Gas & Electric, set Twenty Minutes Into the Future after a racist-engineered plague wiped out nearly everyone of black African descent, Australian aborigines find plenty of work in Hollywood filling black roles in period pieces. One elderly aboriginal woman makes a career of playing Rosa Parks in commemorative ceremonies.
  • Practically every recent adaptation of the story of Aladdin depicts him as Middle Eastern, even though he's Chinese in the Thousand and One Nights version, due to the fact that the original author and his contemporaries had no real idea what Chinese people looked or acted like besides vague accounts.


Web Original[edit | hide]

"Who do they want before they want an Asian?
A Persian, or a Cajun, or an Indian,
or an American-Indian, played by a Mexican..."


Race Unknown[edit | hide]

Comics[edit | hide]

  • Judge Dredd was initially drawn with large lips to keep his race ambiguous. This resulted in different artists drawing him as either white or black in early issues. Since these issues were black and white, nobody noticed. After the series began appearing in color, Dredd was consistently drawn as a white man.


Film[edit | hide]

  • Oliver Stone's World Trade Center includes, among other real life people, a minor character based mostly off a real man who happened to be black. Unfortunately, when they were doing research, no one in the production thought to check this man's race, and they cast a white actor. After the movie came out they were informed about it, and Stone apologized.
  • While Goku is almost certainly supposed to be Asian in appearance, he - like most anime characters - looks far more Caucasian to American audiences who are unfamiliar with anime/manga artistic conventions, and his race isn't made clear in the cartoons most American children would have seen (in fact, he isn't even actually human). Therefore, casting a Causcasian actor for the American live-action Dragon Ball Z movie may have been less about making the character "more acceptable" to American children and more about just not confusing them.


Religion and Mythology[edit | hide]

  • Jesus Christ is mostly portrayed as a white European though many believe he would be darker-skinned as he was from the Middle East. Jesus has been given different races depending on the congregation, including African and Asian.


Miscellaneous or Mixed Race Examples[edit | hide]

Film[edit | hide]

  • Spike Lee tried to call Clint Eastwood out on this, accusing him of not casting any black Marines in Flags of Our Fathers. Irritated, Eastwood responded that his film was about the Marines who raised the flag on Iwo Jima in World War II, and none of them was black. The only black US soldiers on Iwo Jima were in support units (which the film shows briefly). Eastwood also replied that a film like Bird (his 1988 film on jazz legend Charlie Parker) where 90% of the characters are black, he cast 90% black actors.
  • Actor Vin Diesel had difficulty getting roles at the beginning of his career due to his very mixed ethnic background. His semi-autobiographical short film Multi-Facial is about this problem. He doesn't seem to have a problem getting cast anymore.
  • The Scooby Doo made-for-tv movie Scooby-Doo: The Mystery Begins has an actress named Hayley Kiyoko, who is obviously Japanese, playing Velma Dinkley. Ironically, she does look the part with the glasses and hair.
  • In the film adaptation of Avatar: The Last Airbender, all the Fire Nation people (who were East Asian in the show) are Indian. And while most of the Inuit-inspired Water Tribesmen were properly cast, Katara and Sokka, two major characters, were white. This did not escape the internet's notice.
  • The British film Death at a Funeral was remade as an American movie with mostly black actors.
  • Suomen Marsalkka was a film so low budget it was filmed in hot Kenya with local and very black actors. The problem? The title is Finnish for The Marshal of Finland, a very cold, very white, country, and the film is allegedly about Finnish national hero Carl Gustaf Emil Mannerheim. To add insult to injury everyone is dressed in modern German uniforms (Likely a cost cutting measure. German uniform surplus is the cheapest surplus in good condition). The movie is widely reviled in Finland.


Literature[edit | hide]

  • The Japanese covers to Star Wars Expanded Universe novels tend to draw the EU original casts with Asian features. While this isn't much of a problem for characters like Joru(u)s C'baoth or Talon Karrde, who merely clash with other artists that vary wildly anyways. What makes this weird is this includes Jacen and (especially) Jaina Solo even though their parents are drawn like fairly accurate depictions of Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher on the same covers.

Live-Action TV[edit | hide]

  • Star Trek: The Original Series in the early stages were planning on having Spock have the ears and red skin, to further his alien presence. But this was a time when most households did not have color television sets, so his red skin would instead appear to be black. With all the other issues surrounding the show and Executive Meddling, they decided it would avoid a lot of headaches and especially avoid problems with the show airing in the South.
    • Fan favorite Star Trek villain Khan Noonien Singh is an Indian Sikh. He is played by the overtly Mexican Ricardo Montalban.
  • An interesting example from Star Trek: The Next Generation, where an episode with racist undertones would have benefited from a face-lift: In "Code of Honor", the aliens of the week are a group of black people—no elaborate makeup. Now, there's anything wrong with an alien race of black people; what's alarmingly racist is that in the episode's depiction of them, they "are also descended directly from a 1940s pulp novel set in deepest, darkest Africa", as Wil Wheaton describes in a review of the episode. Wheaton goes onto describe how it was the episode's director who had the bright idea of casting and portraying the aliens in this manner (the script over suggesting a Scary Black Man or two as guards, but nothing about the accents). The director was eventually fired for his poor choices and for being a major Jerkass to the cast during shooting.
  • One of the Type 4 examples is offered by Grey's Anatomy. Creator Shonda Rhimes deliberately did not assign races to any of her characters, allowing for "color-blind casting" in which the best actors to get the roles no matter what their ethnicity.
  • A rare double Race Lift (crossed with Suddenly Ethnicity) is executed in Saved by the Bell and its spinoff, Saved by the Bell: The College Years. Originally, the character of Slater was intended to be Anglo, but then Latino actor Mario Lopez was cast in the role. His ethnicity was never referred to in the first series, but in The College Years Slater's father appeared and confessed that he changed his name (from Sanchez) to pass as Anglo and get into West Point.
    • Also, the character of Lisa Turtle (played by African American actress Lark Voorhies) was originally written as a white Jewish girl.
  • The 100 is interesting in that this happens In-Universe in Season 6. The Primes keep themselves living forever by putting their minds into different host bodies, but there aren’t a lot of bodies to choose from. For this reason, a number of the Primes change race over their lifetime, such as Simone being black when we see her but white originally.

Theater[edit | hide]

  • An unusual example is the Broadway musical The Wiz, an adaptation of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. It was originally written for and performed by an all-black cast, and this holds for the film adaptation and many subsequent stagings. However, probably because race isn't an issue in the story itself, it's not uncommon to see it mounted with color blind casting, particularly in school productions.
  • The play Golden Boy (in which the protagonist was an Italian-American) was musicalized as a star vehicle for Sammy Davis, Jr.
  • When Pearl Bailey assumed the role of Dolly in Hello, Dolly!, black actors and actresses filled the supporting cast.
  • There's a lot of debate over what the title character in Othello is supposed to look like. Does he look like a light-skinned North African, as the Moors historically appeared, or is he supposed to look like the more dark-skinned Africans that were brought to Europe as slaves? The characters frequently call him "black", but "black" to a Englishman of Shakespeare's time was a much more inclusive term. Ultimately the part is usually played by dark-skinned actors of African descent, or white actors in Blackface attempting to appear as such. In one instance, Patrick Stewart financed and starred in a production of the play where he played Othello, and all the other roles were filled by black actors.


Web Original[edit | hide]

  • In Cracked.com:
  • Mashable used an image of YouTube shooting suspect Nasim Aghdam "whitened up" to the level where in other circumstances this paint job could get her a role as Snow White… and with bright green eyes (seriously). Since other media used unedited version of the same photo, this was immediately obvious, and after an ensuing tweetstorm Mashable itself quickly made news. [1]

Western Animation[edit | hide]

  • Many viewers of the DCAU probably thought this happened to Lex Luthor of Superman: The Animated Series. That he was voiced by Clancy Brown (who is white, but his voice gives a Scary Black Man vibe) probably aided in this perception. His skin tone is identical to Superman (although not always consistent), but he was often framed in shadow (giving a darker appearance) and had fuller lips because he's meant to look like Telly Savalas, who's Greek.
    • The reason he's so dark is that the show had two basic skin palettes for white characters; one for females, which defaulted as light pink, and one for males, which was supposed to be only a shade or two away from the female mix, but ended up with a lot more red than planned, making most of the show's male characters look deeply tanned. By the time the producers became aware of it, it was too late to do anything about it and they just said "screw it" and stuck with that coloring.
      • This becomes absurdly noted, of all places, in Histeria!: In the "Lewis and Clark" sketch, William Clark is deliberately drawn to look like Superman, and looks even redder than Sacajawea.
    • By Justice League, the same incarnation of Luthor was drawn noticeably whiter.
  • Teen Titans' Jinx: she's Indian (i.e., from India) in the comics, while on the show she was considerably whiter (and we mean white) than her comic counterpart.
    • Not to mention, in the cartoon she has a head full of bright pink hair—in the comics, she's bald from leukemia.
    • Actually, in a really strange way (and Depending on the Artist for both the comic and cartoon it seems), Jinx can be darker than her comic counter-part since her skin isn't so much white as it a slate gray.
    • It's probably easier to say that this Jinx is an In Name Only adaptation anyway; her powers and costume are also radically different. (Though she's still quite popular.)
  • Earl from Beavis and Butthead had this within the course of a single series. He was quite inconsistently colored in early episodes, switching between white and black skintones, sometimes within a single episode, before they finally settled on a pale caucasion-looking coloration, probably for fears of being seen as a racist caricature (this is the guy who infamously got into a shootout during class, then had the gun calmly confiscated by Mr. Van Dreissen). However, he does still have some slightly African-looking features, particularly the shape of his nose, and a very deep, black-ish sounding voice. It's possible he's mixed, which would be consistent with his earlier coloring weirdness as the skin color of biracial people in Real Life can vary wildly depending on sun exposure and other factors.


Real Life[edit | hide]

  • There are some who object to the casting of Johnny Depp as Tonto in the upcoming Lone Ranger movie. While Depp is of Native descent, the majority of his roles have been of white (or racially ambiguous) characters. (For the record, Depp is less than 1/8th Indian, which for many Native Americans just makes you white with an interesting backstory.)
  • Chinese/European Actress Kristin Kreuk has, oddly, been an example of both the first and second versions of the trope. She's too Asian for the part of the white-bread, small town, traditionally redhead Kansas girl Lana Lang in Smallville, and not Chinese enough for the part of Chun-Li in Street Fighter the Legend of Chun Li. Not that there's anything wrong with Kristin Kreuk - there just aren't a lot of parts made specifically for Dutch/Chinese raised in Canada.
    • A young Chun Li was played by a fully Asian girl before growing up to be Kristin Kreuk. That's right, Chun Li was Race Lifted within the movie.
    • Kreuk's participation in an Earthsea adaptation was also criticized by the author of the books it was based on. Ironically enough, she was one of only two non-white actors in the main cast (Danny Glover as Ogion being the other), while simultaneously being the only member of the main cast who should have been white/Caucasian (everyone else in the books are Ambiguously Brown and look basically like Native Americans, whilst Kreuk's character Tenar comes from a culture that looks vaguely Scandanavian)
  • Movie stars Jessica Alba and Dwayne "the Rock" Johnson were both often subject to ethnically interesting casting choices, due to their mixed heritages.
    • The Rock often played simply "black" roles in spite of his fairly obvious maternal Polynesian/Samoan heritage in addition to his father being a Black Nova Scotian. He frequently even has to have his tribal Samoan tattoos covered with makeup in obligatory shirtless scenes to avoid confusion when playing "black" characters.
    • Alba, more oddly, also played a character with a black father and a white mother in the So Bad It's Good dance flick Honey, despite her Danish, French Canadian, Spanish and Native American mixed heritage containing no known trace of African. Conversely, her "inscrutable ethnicity" has also seen her get cast as the WASPy blondes Sue Storm and Nancy Callahan in Fantastic Four and Sin City respectively, a half-English/Iban (Asian) woman in The Sleeping Dictionary, and, in Dark Angel played the genetically-engineered (and thus possibly mixed race by definition) X5-452, who chooses to adopt the Hispanic name of Max Guevara, presumably because she thinks it would be the most believable option. Go figure.
      • An episode of Family Guy made a joke about this, where a character's inner monologue ponders the Rock's ethnicity with much uncertainty before segueing onto Jessica Alba, wondering about her race, and declaring "Man, I could plow that for a month..."
  • John Howard Griffin took pills to make himself look black for a few months, during which time he got kicked around in the Deep South. And then he wrote Black Like Me about it. James Whitmore played Griffin in a film adaptation.
  • Many medieval illustrators depicted famous historical figures as white instead of "less popular" ethnicities such as African and Arab. In The Renaissance, fashions changed and painters were more eager to depict "exotic" people realistically. Compare this 1493 picture of Aesop (who was said to be of African origin in late Antiquity) to this one from 17th century painter Velázquez.
  • The New York Fire Dept. caught flack for trying to Race Lift a statue of three firefighters raising a flag among the wreckage of the World Trade Center after 9/11. The real guys were white, the statue depicted a white guy, a black guy, and a Latino.
    • A similar memorial honoring Vietnam War veterans had been cast some years before, with the exact same stock characters.
  • Michael Jackson was often accused of having used plastic surgery to trying to make himself look Caucasian.
    • He just bleached his skin to even out blotches caused by vitiligo. Or so he claimed. There's plenty of proof online that he had vitiligo. Of course, vitiligo doesn't narrow your nose, give you a cleft chin, or raise your eyebrows.
  • The treatment of Tiger Woods. His famous self-designation of "Cablinasian" refers to his Dutch, Black, American indian, Chinese and Thai heritage, but apparently some people still follow the "one drop rule" in regards to "blackness", to the point of chastising him as much for having affairs exclusively with white women as for having the affairs at all.
  • Despite common popular belief, "Latino" and "Hispanic" isn't a race as much as it is an identity, and most of the time it's a combination of races. The average Latino is around half white/half native [dead link] but it isn't uncommon to find White, Black and Asian Latin Americans. The aforementioned Jessica Alba was astonished to find she is 13% Native American, 87% European.
  • Ladies, gentlemen and other curious creatures, observe a photo of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory crew: one, two. Or, on FotoForensics: one, two. Aside of the one glaringly obvious difference, compare apparent skin tones in the crowd. That's the change (as you can see in metadata) between 11 February 2016 (original date) and 15 March 2016. Not insisting on any specific conclusions, but the next time someone tries to use NASA in Appeal to Authority rhetoric, you have a memorable example to recall.
  1. British father and Santa Priscan mother, born and raised in a high-security prison in Santa Prisca, a Spanish-colonized Caribbean island. The trait is important to the character but not established in his first appearance.
  2. Full blooded D'harans typically being white with blond hair and blue eyes