Picking an actor to play the film version of a much loved literary figure is hard work. Finding the perfect match isn’t solely about matching a book, but matching the zeitgeist a wildly popular book creates. Generally speaking, though, to clearly buck the physical description of a character is to enter dangerous waters, particularly in light of last year’s whitewashing scandal.
Although it may sound like little more than a cheap paint job, whitewashing is a real—and insidious—problem in the publishing world. Driven by the perception that covers with black, Hispanic, or Asian (read: non-white) faces don’t sell books, several publishers, most notably Bloomsbury USA, have released covers with white models representing non-white protagonists. Worse, the majority of the whitewashed covers are on young adult books, targeting a demographic already sensitive to issues of identity and belonging.