Culture&Arts

Natalie Portman Responds to 'Annihilation' Whitewashing Claims

Natalie Portman Responds to 'Annihilation' Whitewashing Claims

Sonny Skyhawk, founder of American Indians in Film and Television, echoed Badreshia's sentiments, describing whitewashing in Hollywood as a game of "Whack-A-Mole".

Portman learned at the pic's junket, as revealed in a Yahoo! interview, that her character was originally of Asian descent in the book. The character played by Leigh, Dr. Ventress, is a half-white, half-Native American woman in the book. In the first book, the characters are only referred to by their professions. While sitting down with Yahoo!

Annihilation centers on Lena (Portman), a biologist and expedition leader who ventures with a team into a secret environmental disaster area where events went sideways for her husband. "Well, that does sound problematic", responded Portman, while Leigh called it "probably a valid criticism".

"We need more representation of Asians on film, of Hispanics on film, of blacks on film, women and particularly women of color, Native Americans - I mean, we just don't have enough representation", Natalie continued. That just wouldn't be like me.

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While I am glad that Garland used VanderMeer's vague descriptions in the novel as a way to not automatically make every character white, the reality is that he also missed an opportunity to give a lead role to an Asian actress and an American Indian actress. "I hope that begins to change because I think everyone is becoming more conscious of it". Without the intent to spoil himself by delving into the two sequels to "Annihilation", Garland allows his perspective of the book to be more flexible.

Garland, who directed and adapted the film, also addressed the issue in a statement to Deadline. "I thought, I'm not going to re-read the book; I'm going to adapt it like a dream of the book". We can't pat ourselves on the back for having diverse casts if, in the process, we are also stripping away representation.

As a middle-aged white man, I can believe I might at times be guilty of unconscious racism, in the way that potentially we all are. "That, to me, will always be the movie - the five of us in a tent together, just messing around", she said. It's rounded out by Gina Rodriguez, Tessa Thompson, Oscar Isaac, David Gyasi, Sonoya Mizuno, and Benedict Wong. However, in the original novels by Jeff VanderMeer, the biologist (the characters don't have names in the books) is described as being Asian. "I think had he known about those things, it might be a different cast".

Thompson agreed, noting that behind the scenes, Annihilation was a joy to work on since she was surrounded by women. "When you're one of two women on set or the only woman on set, sometimes what happens is that you're otherized", she said. When you smash one, another pops up to take its place. "In this case there was no other". It's easy to look at films like Ghost in the Shell and Batman Begins to figure that white people shouldn't be playing certain characters, especially if they're named Motoko Kusanagi and Ra's Al Ghul.