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Race Lift / Changing the Minority

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Left: Black and Nerdy.
Right: Just regular nerdy.

Examples of Race Lift where the ethnicity of a character who was a minority being made into a majority.

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    Anime & Manga 
  • The two first CGI Appleseed anime films 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. The new anime series changed him back.
  • Hetalia: Axis Powers:
    • Seychelles is Ambiguously Brown in the manga (with Himaruya being unable to decide just how dark or light her skin is), but the anime gives her the same pale pink skin tone as all the European and Asian characters.
    • Any character in the manga with darker skin was given white skin in the anime (Cuba being the ONE exception). The characters' original skin tones were restored in season 5.
  • Averted originally in the first English dub for Super Dimension Fortress Macross. In Carl Macek's original treatment (preserved in the first issue of what would become the Robotech comic adaptation), Hikaru Ichijyo was to be renamed "Rick Yamada", acknowedging that the character was of Japanese ancestry (although the "Rick" part implies him being a nisei, sansei or yonsei American). When the second dub came around, for whatever reason, the name was changed to the completely Anglo "Rick Hunter", and the trope came into full effect.
  • Armored Trooper VOTOMS has Vanilla Vartla, who has a darker complexion in the original anime and OVAs, but became incredibly light-skinned in color artwork for Minoru Nonaka's manga adaptation of the series.
  • 4Kids Entertainment edited some minor black characters in One Piece into white people, since they were originally drawn in a Sambo caricature style.

  • The Last Supper: Although his appearance is never explicitly described in scripture, it can be assumed from his birthplace that Jesus would be a ethnically Middle Eastern man. Leonardo paints him as a white man with long, light brown hair and a beard, looking more like someone you'd meet in Vinci than in Nazareth.

    Comic Books 
  • 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 white human who was in charge of the project.
  • Very minor example in the "War of the Symbiotes" arc in Ultimate Spider-Man, which adapts the events of the video game into the comic canon. In Venom's game prologue, he drags an unsuspecting jogger behind some bushes and eats her, a scene which made it into the comic. However, the victim is black in the game and white in the comic adaptation.
  • In the comics, Doctor Doom is a Romani orphan from the Balkans, and his experience of anti-Romani racist persecution forms a crucial aspect of his identity and personality. All live-action adaptations so far have simply portrayed him as a white American.
  • Done In-Universe in Angel (IDW). There was a Hollywood movie (Very Loosely Based on a True Story) about The Fall, which had the African American Gunn portrayed by a white actor.
  • The Daredevil villain Lady Bullseye is depicted as Caucasian in Daredevil Noir's Marvel Noir universe. She's Japanese in the mainstream universe.
  • According to The Other Wiki, famous Dick Tracy villain Flattop is often considered to have been a light-skinned black man, making 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. Then we have Flattop's unusually thick lips. So we just might be on to something here....
    • The Staton/Curtis creative team has been clearly depicting Flattop's widow Stiletta Jones as a black woman. That doesn't necessarily mean he was Af-Am, but it shows an awareness that people have wondered about it.
  • 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.
  • 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 fewer colorists even remember to give him his dark skin. For example, a flashback scene in a Green Arrow/Black Canary showed a young Connor with his clearly-black mother, and he was drawn with white skin and no noticeable African features.
    • The Earth 2 version of the character is a white redhead who more resembles Roy Harper than Earth-0 Connor.
  • A probably accidental example happened in a preview for DC Comics' 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.
  • Marie Laveau, a light skinned black woman, has been portrayed as white in many Marvel Comics such as Dracula Lives! and Marvel Team-Up.. Other times they make her a little too dark but at least that could be excused as her (possibly) darker daughter, who took up her name and position.
  • The Post-Crisis version of Ocean Master was half-Inuit, half-Atlantean. The New 52 version was a white-skinned full Atlantean.
  • 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.
  • The comic book adaptation of Patricia Briggs' Moon Called depicts the half-Native American, brown-skinned, black-haired Mercy Thompson as a lily-white redhead. To make it even more bizarre, the comic features Charles (who has the exact same ancestry and coloration) who is drawn with black hair and brown skin.
  • The New 52 is mentioned above, but it features this version; Teen Titans supporting characters Thunder and Lightning, originally Vietnamese-American (born and raised in Vietnam to a Vietnamese mother and an American father), are now Russian-born (and therefore identifiably European). Incidentally, Lightning is now female.
  • Mike McMahon drew Judge Dredd as a black man for a while during his early years. Because the comic was in black and white, nobody noticed and he abandoned the idea after a while. Judge Guthrie is a more straight example, starting off as Ambiguously Brown Depending on the Artist (Carlos Ezquerra drew him as out and out black). In more recent years, he's been unambiguously white ... until the time-travel story "One-Eyed Jacks" introduced seventies African-American detective Eartha Fargo as the grandmother of the man he was cloned from. This still isn't reflected in his appearance, thought.
  • Tintin in The Crab with the Golden Claws, one of the henchmen who were beating up Captain Haddock in the storeroom was originally black, but the English edition made him white. Bizarrely, Captain Haddock still says, "Arrest that negro!"
  • Mici Shabandar, one of the heroes in the somewhat obscure Star Wars (Marvel 1977) story World of Fire, which only exists in black and white. It was originally serialized in Marvel's UK Star Wars magazine, and when Mici made a cover she was depicted with dark skin. A couple of years later, World of Fire was finally published in America, but the entirely new cover art gave Mici light skin.
  • Rose Wilson of Teen Titans and the '90s Deathstroke series was introduced as the illegitimate daughter of Slade Wilson and a Cambodian woman named Lillian Worth. While most artists didn't really reflect Rose's Cambodian heritage as much, she was still meant to be mixed-race, albeit with pure white hair and blue (or green) eyes. In Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths, Rose became a red-haired Caucasian girl (although she was basically an In Name Only incarnation) who had Adeline Kane as her mother). In post-Flashpoint comics continuity, Rose is now also entirely Caucasian with Adeline Kane as her mother, although as said before, since Rose's ethnicity was barely drawn consistently, there is little visual difference and she retains her white hair. The change was undone in DC Rebirth, with Rose once again being of mixed white and Cambodian descent.
  • In the original Squadron Supreme series Redstone was a Native American superhero. In Supreme Power Continuity Reboot he was turned into white superpowered Serial Killer.
  • Another New 52 example; Wonder Woman villain Dr Poison is now a blonde woman from an unspecified East European country. In the original comics she was a Japanese villain during World War II.
  • The tie-in comics to the Young Justice (2010) cartoon significantly lightened Artemis' skin and gave her blue eyes, which makes her look completely white instead of biracial.
  • When introduced in X-Men: Evolution, X-23 was Ambiguously Brown and a brunette. When she was introduced into the comics she was made more similar looking to Wolverine by lightning her skin and giving her black hair.
  • Uhura was inexplicably portrayed as blue-eyed, blonde-haired, and white in the comic strips that came with Peter Pan's Star Trek: The Original Series audio stories. The same comics also portrayed Sulu as a black man. [1]
  • DC Comics' second Sportsmaster was introduced in Manhunter #17 in 1989 as an African-American named Victor Gover, who went on to briefly join the Suicide Squad. In 2007's JSA Classified, Wildcat fights a white, blond-haired Sportsmaster, whose real name is still given as Victor Gover.
  • Jimmy Henton, a friend of Alan Scott's who died in the same incident that led to Scott becoming the Green Lantern, was African American in the Post-Crisis continuity (previous depictions of him had varied outside of his love of plaid), but is a white guy with brown hair in DC Rebirth.
  • For some reason, the Star Trek (IDW) ongoing decided that the unnamed Enterprise crewmember played by white actress Jodi Johnston in Star Trek Into Darkness was the AU counterpart of Zahra from "Operation — Annihilate!", played by African-American actress Maurishka. Despite the fact the comic story based on "Operation — Annihilate!" had already introduced Zahra as looking like Maurishka.
  • In Silver Surfer volume 8 #5, Norrin and Dawn see what is apparently the hottest show on Broadway, a musical about 17th century American history ... in which all the actors are white, apparently for No Celebrities Were Harmed reasons.
  • The Dr. Poison from the Golden Age Wonder Woman stories was Japanese and was succeeded by her granddaughter while the one from Wonder Woman (2011)—the New 52 continuity—is Russian. Wonder Woman (Rebirth) has Poison as Japanese once more, though in the modern age rather than a WWII villian.
  • Wonder Woman (2006): Akila, a dark skinned black haired Amazon who has always had Arab features in the past, is depicted as a blonde white woman. It's unlikely to just be a coloring mistake as her appearance is radically altered.
  • The Tom and Jerry strip in the 1970s British Anthology Comic TV Comic features a white woman in a maid's uniform, referred to only as "Maid", who essentially serves the role of Mammy Two-Legs.

    Fan Works 

  • A frequent occurrence in live-action films based on anime or manga. Because Japan is one of the most homogeneous countries on the planet, the pool of non-Japanese actors to choose from is incredibly small, meaning that foreign characters will usually end up being played by Japanese actors. Examples include:
    • The Death Note Series had to deal with the fact that it's difficult to find non-Japanese actors in Japan, so any significant white characters had to be cast as Japanese instead, or (as in the case of Mello and Matt) Adapted Out entirely. Specifically:
      • Raye Penber in the manga becomes Raye Iwamatsu in the movie.
      • Though L's ethnicity is unclear in the manga, Word of God says he's supposed to be multiracial and mostly white. In the movies he's fully Japanese.
    • The Attack on Titan (2015) movie has an entirely Japanese cast, even though the manga is set in the remains of post-apocalyptic Europe and most of the characters have European names. This actually removes a significant plot point from the manga, as Mikasa was said to be one of the last surviving Asians on the planet. Ironically, however, Mikasa is probably the character kept closest to her original ethnicity, as she's portrayed by half-white, half-Zainichi Korean model Kiko Mizuhara.
    • Fullmetal Alchemist is set in a country with parallels to Nazi Germany, but Fullmetal Alchemist (2017) is made with a domestic cast.
    • The Assassination Classroom movie has Irina, a Serbian assassin in the manga, played by South Korean actress Kang Ji-young.
  • Beau Is Afraid: Beau (and therefore presumably his mother) are both black in the short film (Beau) and the original script. Here, they are white.note 
  • 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. Its film adaptation 21 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".
  • In Arthur C. Clarke's novel 2010: Odyssey Two, the scientist who created the HAL 9000, Dr. Sivasubramanian Chandrasegarampillai — or Dr. Chandra — is from India. In the film version, 2010: The Year We Make Contact, he's Bob Balaban. But still named Dr. Chandra. (Oddly, as the preceding film 2001 had changed HAL's creator's name to "Mr Langley".)
  • Ben Affleck played real-life mixed-race CIA agent Tony Mendez in Argo, his film about the Iranian hostage crisis. A picture of the real Tony Mendez meeting Pres. Carter appears in the credits.
  • Holly Short, described as being "nut brown" and having a "coffee complexion" in the Artemis Fowl books, is played in the film adaptation by a white actress.
  • In the original stage productions of The Cat and the Canary, the housekeeper named Mammy Pleasant was a stereotypical Mammy character, and was usually portrayed by white actresses in blackface, but all film adaptations have changed the character into a white woman.
  • D-Day the Russian Foreign Remake of Commando, have it's entire cast being white due to being filmed in Russia (save for a Japanese henchman who's not in the original). As such, non-white characters from the original film like Cindy, Cooke, Henriques and some of the enemy mooks are all white Russians.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas turns one of the most recognized characters of Middle Eastern folklore (whose Ray Harryhausen-directed adventures were one of the few positive portrayals of Islamic culture ever to have an impact on pop culture) into a Greek sailor interacting with characters from Greek mythology.
  • 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, Podkayne of Mars, Friday, and Tunnel in the Sky.
    • The Japanese-made CG-films change Rico to a somewhat more racially ambiguous appearance, though he looks more South American than Filipino.
    • Heinlein is extremely prone to this trope when he does get adapted, as he rarely includes much physical description of characters (barring busty redheaded women, who occupy his work much like they occupied his love life).
  • 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 2007 TV movie about Marco Polo had the Mongol ruler Kublai Khan being played by the white American Brian Dennehy.
  • 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. Pearl herself approved of the casting.
  • 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 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.
  • 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 the Caucasus) 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.
  • 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 as to not portray a black woman in a negative light, but cornrows?!
  • 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 The 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!".
  • Tekken (2010) :
    • Brazilian Christie is 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.
    • Kazuya Mishima, a full Japanese in the games, is played by Ian Anthony Dale, who is mixed-race (white father and Japanese mother). Kazuya's son, Jin Kazama, is played by Jon Foo, who is similarly mixed-race (Chinese father and white mother). It's worth noting that Heihachi did father a son with a white woman in the games, so Kazuya may be a Composite Character here.note 
  • 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.
  • In Mortal Kombat: The Movie, Raiden is curiously white for a Japanese deity. Likewise, Kano went from half-Japanese to Australian. Trevor Goddard's performance eventually caused Midway to Retcon him into being Australian.
    • The former almost comes off as a Divine Race Lift: Liu Kang's initial reaction to him feels more natural as meaning "one of those white guys with no money or useful skills who move out here looking for enlightenment and have to beg to survive" than "a guy wearing the hat and robes everyone knows are beggar clothes". This would also neatly mirror Liu Kang's introduction to Jonny Cage. That said, it doesn't seem like either the actors or the script played to that interpretation.
  • The film adaptation of Dead or Alive had the Japanese Kasumi and Ayane played by the half-Japanese Devon Aoki and the half-Malaysian 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.
  • 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' character is white in the books. The murderer is changed from Japanese to white.
  • The Dark Knight Trilogy:
    • The real Ra's al Ghul, of Chinese and/or Arab descent in the comics, is played by Irishman Liam Neeson.
    • In The Dark Knight Rises, Big Bad Bane, half-British and half-Hispanicnote  in the comics, is played by Brit Tom Hardy. Hardy's features and accent are ambiguous and distorted, so his race could go any which way. Except as it turns out, he's from a Chinese/Arab prison instead of a South American one, and the protector of fellow villain Talia Al Ghul/Miranda Tate, daughter of Ra's. Interestingly, Talia is only a downplayed example; her actress Marion Cotillard has some amount of Kabyle (North African) ancestry.
  • Bane was played by white wrestler Robert Swenson in Batman & Robin, but as a stereotypical Dumb Muscle character (with green skin). The less said about it, the better.
  • Blonde haired, blue eyed actress Teresa Palmer was going to play Talia in the cancelled Justice League: Mortal film even though she's described in the script as being "exotic" and "from some other country, some other world, maybe".
  • 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.
  • In this short film, a real-life Asian murderer is turned into a white guy. His victims remain Asian.
  • Susan Hayward, who was very beautiful and very very white, playing Mongolian princess Bortai, queen to Genghis Khan, in The Conqueror. (The male actors, including John Wayne as Genghis, used Yellowface. Your mileage may vary on which is worse.)
  • In Iron Man 3, the Mandarin, who is half-English and half-Chinese in the comics, is played by Ben Kingsley, who is half-English and half-Gujurati Indian. It's revealed that Kingsley's Mandarin is actually just Trevor Slattery, a British actor playing a decoy for Aldrich Killian. While Killian proclaims that he's the real Mandarin, suggesting the MCU Mandarin is white, All Hail the King and Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings reveal that Killian himself based "the Mandarin" on Xu Wenwu, the "real Mandarin" and the leader of the Ten Rings, who averts the trope by virtue of being played by Tony Leung Chiu-wai. Firepower (who went by his real name, Jack Taggert) also went from being African-American to Caucasian.
  • In The Host (2008) Melanie Stryder is described as having tanned skin and is part Latina on her mother's side; in the Movie she is played by Irish actress Saoirse Ronan.
  • In Star Trek Into Darkness, Benedict Cumberbatch's character is revealed to be Khan, who was an Indian Sikh (albeit played by a Latino) in the original series. Needless to say this has caused a bit of a stir, such as in the Sikh community who saw it as an actor from their community being cheated to have such a plump role. A tie-in comic reveals that literal whitewashing turned Khan from an Indian boy into a Caucasian man.
  • In the live action film adaptation of Fist of the North Star, Kenshiro and possibly Shin as well since that is also an Asian name despite the fact that in the anime he was depicted as a blond bishonen type. Malcolm McDowell being cast as wise old martial arts master Ryuken was very odd indeed.
  • This was one of the more derided aspects of the movie adaptation of Jack Kerouac's The Subterraneans. Since the novel was a roman a clef about Kerouac's relationship with the African-American Alene Lee, changing her character to a French girl played by Leslie Caron took away most of the point.
  • It was initially suggested that the Caucasian Eric Sacks from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014), was a new incarnation of The Shredder/Oroku Saki. However, this proves to have been a Red Herring, as Sacks is seen speaking to a man shrouded in shadows, evidently Oroku Saki himself, about developing a new suit of armor for him. Interestingly, Sacks is the Shredder in the 3DS version of the movie, as well as earlier comments by Fincher himself, leading some to speculate that Sacks was originally Shredder but was changed to avoid any further fan backlash.
  • Edge of Tomorrow, which stars Tom Cruise as "Bill Cage", is based on a Japanese Light Novel called All You Need Is Kill, where Cruise's counterpart is named Keiji Kiriya.
  • The Darker and Edgier Peter Pan prequel Pan has an Irish-American actress Rooney Mara playing Tiger Lily, who was a Native American in the original story and most of the subsequent adaptations. This has become a subject of controversy.
  • In the book The House of the Spirits, the novel centers around a Latin-American family through four generations. By the time the movie was made, the Trueba family were played by white actors Meryl Streep, Jeremy Irons, Glenn Close and Winona Ryder.
  • Sunspot is Afro-Brazilian in the X-Men comics but is played by a white Mexican in X-Men: Days of Future Past.
  • Rose Hathaway from Vampire Academy is half-Turkish, but played by the decidedly white Zoey Deutch in The Movie.
  • Exodus: Gods and Kings came under fire for casting white folks as the Egyptian and Israelite lead characters, including Christian Bale as Moses and Joel Edgerton as Ramses II. For added Unfortunate Implications, servants, assassins, workers and so on are portrayed by actors of colour. However, as of 2016 it was discovered that Ramses was fair-skinned.
  • The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (2005) movie portrays Trillian (real name Trisha MacMillan) as pale skinned and blue-eyed. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Trilogy describes her thus:
    Trillian was a girl that Zaphod had picked up recently whilst visiting a planet, just for fun, incognito. She was slim, darkish, humanoid, with long waves of black hair, a full mouth, an odd little nob of a nose and ridiculously brown eyes. With her red head scarf knotted in that particular way and her long flowing silky brown dress she looked vaguely Arab.
  • Controversy erupted over Marvel's planned film adaptation of Runaways after the casting call revealed that the studio was not actively seeking Asian actresses for the role of Nico Minoru (who is Japanese-American in the comics). Marvel subsequently claimed the whole thing was a misunderstanding, and rewrote the casting call to specify an Asian actress.
  • When white, American actress Scarlett Johansson was announced as playing Japanese cyborg Motoko Kusanagi in Ghost in the Shell (2017), fan reactions were split between outrage against and defensive of the choice. Out of acknowledgment of this trope, Paramount planned to digitally edit Johansson in post-production to appear Japanese... but scrapped the idea amidst accusations of "yellowface". Notably, the Japanese fandom seemed indifferent, and publisher Sam Yoshiba thought Scarlett Johansson was a good fit, and even said he and others "never imagined it would be a Japanese actress in the first place." In stark contrast, many Japanese Americans have criticized the film approach to race as "gross" and "cringe-worthy".
    • The movie itself had a huge plot twist where there's an in-universe race lift on the Major: She's really Japanese and her real name is indeed Mokoto Kusanagi. However, Hanka Industries took advantage of her accident to modify her body and her identity against her will and named her "Mira Killian". When the Major learned the truth about this, she's definitely furious. This has been condemned as further whitewashing since white actors are playing Japanese characters.
  • 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, though he could also simply be a dark-complexioned British man for all he knows.
  • 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 Martian:
    • Mackenzie Davis playing scientist Mindy Park, whose race was never explicitly stated but most readers thought was Korean-American, which raised a few complaints that the casting agency were suffering from Default Setting Syndrome.
    • Indian-American NASA administrator Venkhat Kapoor became biracial Vincent Kapoor (Indian father, African-American mother) played by black actor Chiwetel Ejiofor, a last-minute change made after Irrfan Khan had to pull out due to a scheduling contract.
  • Marvel Studios cast the white Tilda Swinton to play the Asian Ancient One in Doctor Strange (2016), hoping to avoid the Magical Asian stereotypenote . The gesture backfired badly, as both fans and critics accused Marvel of racism for "whitewashing" the role.
  • Russian-born Swiss-American actor Yul Brynner was cast as King Mongkut of Siam in The King and I. Though at least he did have some Asian ancestry.
  • Joseph Wiseman playing half-Chinese, half German mad scientist Dr No in the film of the same name.
  • White British actor Alec Guinness as Prince Faisal in Lawrence of Arabia.
  • In The Social Network Indian-American Divya Narendra is played by Italian actor Max Minghella.
  • Many films covering the events of The Bible cast white actors in the role of middle-eastern characters, including:
  • In Warm Bodies Lio Tipton plays the character Nora who was half-Ethiopian in the book.
  • Apache casts Burt Lancaster as the last surviving Apache of his tribe.
  • In Wonder Woman (2017), Dr Maru/Dr Poison is Spanish. Since the film is set in World War I rather than World War II, a Japanese scientist working with the Germans wouldn't make any sense.
  • The DVD of The Incredibles features the the short "Mr. Incredible and Pals" that consists of a low-budget cartoon made in the 1950s about the characters, with them doing commentary. One of Frozone's biggest complaints is that he appears to have been changed from black to white (or "tan-ish"). Mr. Incredible suggests, rather halfheartedly, that the print faded.
  • Retroactively done with Rachel in Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials. In The Scorch Trials, she was a Posthumous Character and never got a physical description, but she appears in a brief scene in the film as a white girl with straight hair. Two years after the film was released, The Fever Code — a prequel to The Maze Runner books — came out, revealing Rachel to have dark skin and tightly curled hair.
  • The quarter-Asian Biologist and half-Native American Psychologist in The Southern Reach Trilogy are played by the white Natalie Portman and Jennifer Jason Leigh respectively in Annihilation (2018). This is apparently because their ethnic backgrounds weren't discussed until later in the series, and Alex Garland only read the first book before making the movie.
  • The wrestling Bio Pic Fighting with My Family features A.J. Lee submitting a blonde woman at WrestleMania XXX to retain her Diva's Championship for the final time before losing it to protagonist Paige the very next night. In the actual event, AJ submitted Naomi, who is African-American.
  • The Postman: In the book, Abby was mixed race, with Asian ancestry. Here she's white.
  • Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li has a protagonist who is intended to be very much Chinese. The actress playing her, Kristin Kreuk, is about 1/8 Chinese, and you'd probably never guess from looking at her that she wasn't white. This gets particularly funny because the actress who plays her as a child is clearly Chinese, so she manages to completely change ethnicity as she gets older.
  • Done In-Universe in Tropic Thunder: The fictional film Tropic Thunder is based on a fictional biography where one of the main characters (Staff Sergeant Lincoln Osiris) was a black man. When this biography was to be filmed, the studio decided the film needed more star power and cast Academy Award-winning (white australian) actor Kirk Lazarus in the role. This is later lampshaded by the film's only black actor, who got cast in a supporting role instead.
    Alpa: And why am I in this movie? Maybe because I just knew I had to represent, because they had one good part in it for a black man and they gave it to Crocodile Dundee!
  • 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.
  • Angelina Jolie plays Fox in Wanted, a character visually modeled after Halle Berry.
  • When a Live-Action Adaptation of the indie comic book The Weapon was announced in 2009, the casting choice for the hero of the book, Tommy Zhou, was... David Henrie. Yes, Wizards of Waverly Place David Henrie. However, this adaptation appears to have stalled in Development Hell.

  • 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, that all the main characters except Rosie's mother are explicitly stated to be black, and that at least one character's Afro-Caribbean heritage is a plot point. Fortunately, Neil Gaiman shot them down.
  • The Dragon's Tooth by N.D. Wilson is about two siblings with a white father and a mother who belongs to a fantastic race from South America. Several fans pointed out that the first edition cover portrays the protagonist as pale-skinned, even though he's explicitly stated to be very dark-skinned in the book. Later editions show him and his sister as silhouettes.
  • The American cover of Justine Larbalestier's book Liar caused a controversy. The heroine is a biracial 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. They also tried to claim that since the book was first-person and the character was, after all, a liar, maybe she was really white, regardless of Larbalestier's opinion. 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."
  • 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.
  • In another instance of a fanastic race lift: the demons from Mercedes Lackey's The 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 (2008) 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.
  • The Black hero of David Gerrold's Dingilliad trilogy is depicted on all three covers as a blond white man. This also happened with the principal guest character in at least one edition of Gerrold's Star Trek novel The Galactic Whirlpool.
  • Maurissa Meyer has said that the title character of Cinder was modeled after Japanese actress Mew Azama, and that she would like her to be played by Shay Mitchell (who is of Filipino descent) in a hypothetical film adaptation. Despite this, the TV ad for the book depicts Cinder as a WASPy white girl with light hair and eyes.
  • Jules Verne originally intended to reveal Captain Nemo to be a displaced Polish nobleman 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 in "The Mysterious Island".
    • The movies just make him white. The 1972 French TV series (also released as a movie in 1973) "The Mysterious Island" starring Omar Sharif and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (the original comic, and the film version thereof) are among the few adaptations that kept the 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).
    • 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 Hunger Games: There are a couple of comments in the first chapter that hint that Katniss is mixed-race, as well as a description saying she has straight black hair and olive skin. One of the UK covers for the first book showed her as a rather pink looking girl with brown curled hair.
  • The Oompa-Loompas in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, by way of Orwellian Retcon. In the original edition, they were African pygmies imported by Wonka to work in his factory. After numerous people, including Roald Dahl's editor, pointed out the Unfortunate Implications of Wonka as a slave owner, Dahl ended up changing the Oompa-Loompas to miniature white hippies from the fictitious country of Loompaland.
  • When the original volumes for Nancy Drew and The Hardy Boys were revised in the 1950s and 1960s, the new writers went out of their way to remove racial and ethnic stereotypes present in the original versions from the 1930s and 1940s. However, instead of simply removing the stereotypes, almost every minority character was changed into another white one. At the time, this was seen as the politically correct thing to do, but now has Unfortunate Implications, as fans familiar with both versions accuse the revised editions of "whitewashing" these stories, among other problems.
  • In-universe with Sweet Diamond Dust. Don Hermenegildo is writing up a biography of Don Ubaldino De lla Valle. He describes Don Julio Font (Ubaldino's father) as a Spaniard with green eyes and fair skin, not like the black man he is. His race is in fact an Open Secret.
  • Barely averted by the cover of The Shadow Speaker by Nnedi Okorafor, a work of Afrofuturism which only avoided being released with a white woman on the cover because the author had, in her own words, "a sh*t fit". This was one of many issues Okorafor had with that publisher.

    Live-Action TV 
  • 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.
  • Arrow:
    • Sin was changed from an Asian child to a white teenager.
    • Brick was changed from an African-American to a white Englishman.
  • 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 - and bilingual ones at that. 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 (let alone a non-Asian, which made the mother all the more furious upon learning that her prospective son-in-law was of Irish descent) 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 of mixed Finnish and Iraqi Turkmen descent note , 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.
  • Battlestar Galactica: Colonel Tigh was black in the original series; in the reboot, they made him white.
  • The short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald Bernice Bobs Her Hair is about a mixed race girl with prominent Native American ancestry. The story has been adapted twice for television, and both versions cast white actresses as Bernice - Julie Harris and Shelley Duvall.
  • 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 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 later 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. [2]
  • The Boys (2019): In the comic book, The Deep was black, but here he's white.
  • Angel from Buffy the Vampire Slayer was originally conceived as Hispanic (making his name typical), but the role ended up going to white actor David Boreanaz who was cast mainly for his looks.
  • Paul Mooney joked about this in a segment on Chappelle's Show, citing the high number of Hollywood movies that either had whitewashed protagonists or white savior protagonists, in particular bringing up The Mexican starring Brad Pitt, and The Last Samurai starring Tom Cruise. He jokingly claimed that the way this trend was going, Hollywood was likely to produce his movie The Last Nigga On Earth...and cast Tom Hanks as the title character..
  • In Death Note, Halle Lidner is Japanese-American rather than Caucasian. Also, L is once again Japanese rather than biracial.
  • Discworld: In the Sky TV 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 live-action Doctor Strange pilot from the 70's had the Ancient One, a Magical Asian, replaced by a British Canon Foreigner named Thomas Lindmer (played by Sir John Mills). It's rumored that the change was influenced by the then-recent success of Star Wars, with the producers wanting the mentor role to fit the mold of Sir Alec Guinness' Obi-Wan Kenobi.
  • Doctor Who: The script for "The Ark in Space" specified that Vira and Noah were black (Robert Holmes had wanted Vira in particular to appear Haitian, as her job on the Ark was to resurrect people in deathlike states). The director decided to cast two white actors in the role. The fandom generally praises the performances (especially Noah's, who famously manages to turn obvious bubblewrap into stomach-churning Nightmare Fuel), but Classic Who's track record with non-white characters is poor, and it would have been great to see two strong and respectful Rounded Character roles go to non-white actors. It also doesn't help that the Doctor still has a line addressing Vira and Noah's race, which comes across as bizarre in the production as it is.
  • The television miniseries Earthsea, very loosely based on Ursula K. Le Guin's novels A Wizard of Earthsea and The Tombs of Atuan, whitewashes the entire cast (they're all brown or black) except for Ogion, who is brown in the novel and Danny Glover in the miniseries, and Arha/Tenar, who is white-skinned in the novel and played by the multiracial Kristin Kreuk in the miniseries.
  • Fate: The Winx Saga, the Live-Action Adaptation of Winx Club:
    • Musa, who was coded in the original cartoon as East Asian, is played by Elisha Applebaum, who is whitenote .
    • Flora, who was coded in the original cartoon as Latina, is replaced by Terra, played by white actress Eliot Salt.
  • The 90's live-action Generation X TV movie had Jubilee played by a white actress, even though she's Chinese-American in the comic books.
  • As noted above, in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Trilogy, Trillian is described as "vaguely Arabic". In the series, she's played by blonde American Sandra Dickinson. According to Douglas Adams, they were just delighted that they'd found an actress who could do something with the part, which he didn't think he'd written very well.
  • 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 son (who is of course white), Josh Davis, in the role. He also cast fair-haired white guy Tony Bonner as the father, who was an ethnic Chinese fellow from China in Real Life.
  • The L Word: In-Universe, Bette's annoyed that the actress to play the character who's based on her in Lez Girls is white, not biracial like her.
  • MacGyver: In "Mountain of Youth", which takes place in an ostensibly Asian country, most, if not all, of the Asians are played by white folks.
  • One Life to Live's Blair Daimler was originally played by Asian actress Mia Korf, 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 blond-haired, blue-eyed Kassie DePaiva 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 whipped out a pocket mirror to double-check what she looked like.
  • The Outer Limits (1995): In "Think Like a Dinosaur", Kamala Shastri is Caucasian. In the 1995 short story of the same name by James Patrick Kelly on which it is based, Kamala is of Indian descent (as her name indicates) as her father was born in Thana, near Bombay.
  • The American adaptation of Red Dwarf intended to change Lister from black to white, among other things. However, the adaptation never got past a pilot. A second pilot recast the Cat as a white woman (in the first pilot he was played by a black man whom Robert Llewellyn described as basically an American Danny John-Jules) but at this point they were desperately throwing out ideas to keep the show from sinking. It didn't work.
  • In the television miniseries adaptation of Samurai Girl, several roles which were Asian in the books were played by white actors. However, the main characters were still Asian.
  • The Shannara Chronicles: In the books Eretria's described as "dusky", from a people based on the Roma. Here, she's played by a White Spanish actress.
  • Rodney McKay was not originally intended to become a regular cast member on Stargate Atlantis. Instead, they planned to create a new black scientist character, Dr. Benjamin Ingram. However, someone decided that the McKay character was interesting enough to add to the show, with some slight modifications to his extremely abrasive personality. Unlike most examples, this is not a result of trying to whiten a cast, as the show started with 1/2 of Sheppard's team played by mixed race actors who looked black. The character of Ronon starting in Season 2 appears to maintain the team's diversity as he is Ambiguously Brown, though Jason Momoa is Caucasian and Hawaiian.
  • The Twilight Zone (1985): In "Wong's Lost and Found Emporium", the elderly man who lost the respect of his children is white. In the short story by William F. Wu, he is Chinese-American.
  • In The Vampire Diaries books, Stefan and Damon Salvatore are Italian, and in flashbacks described specifically as having 'dark good looks'. The TV series changed the backstory of the two vampire brothers to be Italian-American, and are both played by brown-haired white Americans.
  • In The Walking Dead, The Governor (and his brother in the expanded universe) is half-Irish-American, with his mother being a Hispanic woman of unknown origin. The television show combines them as a white man.
  • An egregious example with The Young and the Restless. The mistress of an ostensibly Happily Married man was initially played by an African-American actress. Halfway through her run, she was recast with a white one—who ironically strongly resembled her thanks to similar skin tones and hair texture—but the character was still regarded as African-American.
  • Parodied in the the "Iconic: The Ziwe Story" sketch from the Ziwe episode "Whitewashing", in which the very white Laura Benanti is cast as the Nigerian Ziwe (or, as Laura pronounces it, "Zeewee") in a biopic about Ziwe's experiences as a Black woman in the entertainment industry. Oh, and the equally white Cole Escola plays Oprah Winfrey, naturally.

  • 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. It has been claimed that Elvis cried when he realised his skin colour meant people would rather listen to him than Fats Domino.
    • Harry Belafonte was deliberately airbrushed to look whiter in photos so that he would be popular in the US. Also, his versions of calypso songs were produced in an easy listening manner as was popular with white listeners at the time. Belafonte chose to take these compromises because he wanted to raise awareness of Caribbean music in a culture that was often hostile towards it.
    • "Blue-eyed soul" came into prominence in the early 1970s, starting with the band Rare Earth, a predominantly white band signed to Motown Records who performed very Motown-esque songs. It's had varying degrees of success ever since, ranging from Dan Hartman (whom most people were surprised to find out was actually white) to Hall & Oates (who are really well respected in the black community) to Simply Red's Mick Hucknall (the less said the better).
    • 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.

    Mythology and Religion 
  • Andromeda from Classical Mythology, Perseus's girlfriend, was princess of Ethiopia. Ovid, in Ars Amatoria, talks about her dark skin. But just about any adaptation, from Renaissance paintings to modern movies, makes her white. A most amusing (or jarring) example is Aethiopica, a romance novel about Ethiopia, which seemed to forget Andromeda was Ethiopian herself.
    • The 1973 Soviet cartoon is a notable exception, perhaps even a bit overdone.
  • 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."

  • In Data East's Star Trek pinball, Lt. Uhura is noticeably lightened to the point where she looks like someone with a mild tan.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • During the mid to late 1970s there was a white Marie Laveau running through the NWA territories.
  • A really odd case occurred in TNA. Anyone who was enough of a comic book nerd to known about minor Blade villain Suicide's real name would likely think the pro wrestler of the same name was just a case of coincidences. But then created the Suicide gimmick to promote their new video game and gave it to Daniels, Suicide being the black comic book character's "super" identity. The fact that Daniels himself is such a comic book enthusiast (and creator) exposes it as deliberate.

    Tabletop Games 
  • 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.
  • Chandra Nalaar from Magic: The Gathering is from a plane themed after India, and both her parents are notably southeast-asian, but you'd be forgiven if you didn't know that from her artwork, considering that she looks entirely caucasian.

  • 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.
  • Somewhat similar: any production of West Side Story tends to be flexible with the ethnicity of performers portraying the explicitly Latino 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 ochre skinned and tattooed prince from the Wicked book series, is often depicted as tattoo-less and white in the play. Although the lack of tattoos are mostly due to it being very difficult to do well as stage make-up, Fiyero's ethnicity is never actually mentioned, he is simply referred to being dark, or ochre in colour, which could mean yellow-brown (Olive) skin, right through to reddish-brown skin. In fact changing Fiyero's ethnicity helped erase Gregory Maguire's racist character portrayals, all of the POC in his books either die (Fiyero, Sarima, Manek, Irji, Sarima's Sisters, Nor, Nastotya) or end up having extremely difficult lives, like Nor who was turned into a sex slave and was abused so much that she sewed her vagina shut. That said, POC actors have played the role onstage too.
  • Pacific Overtures is traditionally performed with an all-asian cast. When the English National Opera did it, however, they ignored this.
  • When the La Jolla Playhouse produced a musical version of Hans Christian Andersen's The Nightingale in 2012, they cast nearly all parts with non-Asians even though the original story took place in China. It caused a bit of a controversy.
  • In RENT, Angel is traditionally a Latino, and Collins an Afro-American, but the 5th Avenue Theater's production made both characters white. Mimi, a Latina, is often played by a non-Latina black or white actress. There have also been productions where Angel is African-American.
  • In the 2014 musical adaptation of The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Clopin Trouillefou, the "King of the Gypsies", is played by Erik Liberman, who is white, though the character is still supposed to be Romani.
  • In A Very Potter Musical, Cho Chang (who is Asian in the books) is played by a white woman with a Southern US accent. Lampshaded in the show by Ginny being Innocently Insensitive and assuming Lavender Brown (played by an Asian woman) is Cho based on the name. Ron calls out his "racist sister" for this.
  • Almost all 2.5D stage plays in Japan have an all-Japanese cast, even when the characters are all or mostly European. Some series, such as Haikyuu!! and Ivesta have cast non-Japanese actors as characters of their races, but unless those actors are going to play Japanese characters often as well, it would be difficult for them to build up the sort of fanbase 2.5D runs on. This is true for Japanese and Korean stage productions in general, though — several prominent musical stars have credits made up mostly of famous European historical figures and literary characters like Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Victor Frankenstein.

  • Marlon Wayans was cast as Robin in the Tim Burton Batman movies. Although the character was cut early on, a toy of Robin was still released in the Batman Returns toyline. While the figure was painted as a Caucasian, the sculpt (particularly of the hair) was distinctly African-American.

    Video Games 
  • Online game 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 European-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, Kaido Battle: Nikko, Haruna, Rokko, Hakone / Tokyo Xtreme Racer: Drift, on the other hand, averts this and goes back to Japanese names.
  • 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 — complete with at least one visible Japanese-style restroom.
  • Quartet was a Sega arcade game released in 1986 notable for being one of the earliest four-player party games. One of the main characters, Mary, a distinctively Asian female with straight black hair and anime-esque eyes. While Mary retained her Asian features in the Japanese Sega Master System port (titled Double Target), in the American and European ones she was redesigned to look more Caucasian (i.e. wavy brown hair, full lips and smaller blue eyes). Meanwhile, player 2 character Edgar's skin tone was considerably lightened and his African features were removed in the Master System version, turning him from black to Ambiguously Brown.
  • The original Persona localization did this to a cast of Japanese teenagers. The characters were given American names 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.
  • M. Bison/General Vega made his first appearance in Street Fighter II as a dictator from Thailand who looked very appropriately Asian in his character portrait. In every subsequent appearance, including the game's numerous prequels, he instead looks white. Given his in-story desire to transfer his conciousness into different bodies, this at least has a built-in Hand Wave.
  • Master Miller, FOX HOUND's drill instructor in the Metal Gear series, had a distinctively Asian appearance in his debut in the MSX2 version of Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake. When he "returned" in Metal Gear Solid, he was turned into a blond haired and fair-skinned man with a Japanese heritage making it easier for Liquid Snake to impersonate Miller by simply giving himself a ponytail and sunglasses.
  • In the PC version of the first Far Cry game, your Mission Control is a black scientist named Doyle. In the console version of the game, Far Cry Instincts, Doyle is a white CIA agent. Granted, other than sharing the same name, the two are completely different characters.
  • The protagonist of Condemned: Criminal Origins went from being Ambiguously Brown to a very Grunge white guy in the second game.
  • Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey doesn't change the Player Character's appearance, though he's noted to be an American in the North American version rather than Japanese. Since Shin Megami Tensei games are meant to put the player in the shoes of the protagonist of whatever game they're playing, it makes sense.

  • This is a plot point in the And Shine Heaven Now story arc "Shine or Die". Time Travel abuse causes the accidental death of Integra's Indian grandfather, turning her from a badass Bifauxnen half-Indian half-English woman to an airheaded girly WASP. Then the universe succumbs to a Reality-Breaking Paradox.
  • Parodied in cool and new web comic. When Germy (the token black friend) becomes Hecka Jef's sprite, his skin turns red. When Femorafreack sees him, he comes to a stunning conclusion.
    oh no. ! it llooks new friend germy got.... redwashed

    Web Original 
  • "Make Them American, Even if They're Not" is #3 of Cracked's 6 Tricks Movies Use to Make Sure You Root for the Right Guy.
  • Parodied in the video Noah, le biopic by French comedic duo Palmashow. A producer is presenting his newest movie, a biopic based on French tennisman Yannick Noah, who is mixed race with a Cameroonian father and a French white mother, but is played in the movie by the very white Guillaume Canet. The producer at first tries to defend the casting choice by claiming that he doesn't see the problem when the actor is talented, before admitting that no one would watch a movie with an unknown actor and there just are not enough non-white famous actors. When the show host replies that it might precisely have been the occasion to bring a new actor to the spotlight, the producer just stops answering.
  • In response to the rabidness and toxicity of the Steven Universe fandom (mostly on Tumblr), 4chan created a Tumblr account named "Steven Universe Edits" and posted fanarts of whitewashed version of the show's characters on there. The purpose of this was to piss the rabid fans off as much as possible. And pissed off the fans were, just like Anonymous had anticipated.

    Western Animation 
  • Toon Makers’ Sailor Moon's pitchreel for their version of Sailor Moon would've had the show set in America, with Sailor Moon and Sailor Mercury depicted as white. Sailor Jupiter and Sailor Venus would've also have had their races changed; see below.
  • 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. In the 2012 series, he's black and becomes a giant fly monster.
  • 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. To prevent an outcry, Mammy Two-Shoes—a broad, fairly racist caricature of a Black American servant in the mid-20th century—was changed to the white Mrs. Two-Shoes
    • The Bowdlerized versions of the cartoon that are often aired today also make Mammy white, and recast her voice (The Turner versions keep the original Mammy but redub her voice to remove the stereotypical jargon). 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.
  • 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 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.
  • The Dragon Lady Jezebel Jade became a red-haired Caucasian woman in the first Jonny Quest telefilm, "Jonny's Golden Quest". Subsequent writers of the franchise proceeded to ignore this, however, since this Jade had married Race and they couldn't buy that she'd settle down that easily.
  • In-universe example in Bojack Horseman. A movie is made based off the lives of the cast, and Diane Nguyen (who is Vietnamese-American) ends up being played by the white, blond Naomi Watts. Given the meta nature of the humor, this was likely deliberate commentary on the issue of whitewashing in Hollywood. In a more bizarre version of this trope, Mr. Peanutbutter (a dog) is played by Bojack (a horse) while Bojack himself is played by Wallace Shawn wearing a prop horse head.
  • Wolverine and the X-Men (2009) has two examples: Forge, canonically Cheyenne in the comics, is light brown in his first few appearances but fades to the same color as the white characters later on (he keeps his fringed boots, though).
  • Luna from Scooby-Doo! and the Witch's Ghost is Ambiguously Brown. Between that film and Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated she was portrayed as White. Mystery Inc undid the race lift and returned her to being a dark-skinned redhead.
  • DuckTales (1987): In the episode "Master of the Djinni," Scrooge and Glomgold are sent to the past where they meet Shahrazad, who is a blonde, white duck, whereas the other characters are Arabian-looking.
  • Almost happened during the production of Jorel's Brother. In the series' early lineup, one of the main characters was a black housemaid, who was inspired by a housemaid who worked at the show's creator's house. That iteration of the character made it as far as the show's pilot, but then the executives demanded her to be altered to a white woman, since having the only black character being the housemaid could potentially be interpreted as a racial stereotype, even if inspired on real people. However, they decided that a housemaid character as a whole, regardless of race, wouldn't be really appropriate for a children's show, so they replaced her with an octopus babysitter.
  • Hazbin Hotel: St. Peter in The Bible is a Middle-Eastern man. In this show, he's Caucasian.

    Real Life 
  • Real-life examples of this being attempted include Alexandre Dumas Sr. and Alexander Pushkin. Dumas once replied to a man who insulted him about his mixed-race: "My father was a mulatto, my grandfather was a Negro,note  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, but the iconic image of the Buddha seated in his meditative pose seems to be present the world over. Nobody knows what the Buddha looked like, since early Buddhist art forbade iconographic depictions of the Buddha. The Greco-Indian Gandhara school of art began to model the Buddha's image in part on images of Apollo seen in Greek temples, with the very peculiar result that an Indian prince landed up being modeled after a Greek God. Exactly what the Buddha looked like is anyone's guess.
  • Generally, Hollywood has traditionally cast Whites as members of the Egyptian Royalty, which is a zigzag of this due to their having always been Egyptians of various skin and hair colors, even Ramses II was fair skinned. Depictions of Cleopatra as dark-skinned are the inverse of this trope, as the Greek invasion had happened several generations ago.
  • Crazy Horse fits this trope. Some believe he was full-blooded, while others believe he was half white.
  • The scandal over L'Oreal's lightening the already relatively fair-skinned Beyoncé's 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.
  • In 2009, Microsoft poorly photoshopped a black guy into a white guy for the Polish version of their website.