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Whitewasher Zach McGowan's Brother Is Not Helping

By Kristy Puchko | Celebrity | May 15, 2017 |

By Kristy Puchko | Celebrity | May 15, 2017 |

Last week we reported Ni’ihau, a new movie about the heroic actions of a Native Hawaiian, is the latest in Hollywood’s love affair with whitewashing. Black Sails’s Zach McGowan will star as Benehakaka Kanahele. And as you probably expected, McGowan has vocal defenders who have tried several weak arguments to justify his casting. Chief among his defenders is his brother, Matt McGowan, who the last few days is making things worse on Twitter.

After retweeting a bunch of celebratory tweets about his brother’s casting in Ni’ihau, Matt seemingly caught wind of the whitewashing accusations. And he responded by inexplicably pointing out that if anybody should whitewash a person of color role, it should be his brother, who’s had plenty of experience!

Also Zach played a Russian. Which isn’t whitewashing, but Matt doesn’t seem to understand that.

Then Matt tried another tactic, pointing out that Zach has Native Hawaiian friends, a variant of the “I can’t be racist; I have a Black friend” defense.

Then he retweeted an interview with Asian-American actor Daniel Wu, where the Into The Badlands star said of the Iron Fist and Ghost In the Shell whitewashing controversies:

“So I know Asian Americans are angry, but they should calm down and choose the correct fight in that case — I agree that Marvel missed the chance of doing something interesting and casting against the race — they could have done that — and that would have given them some credit, but they didn’t, so what are you going to do about it? I think the important thing is that everyone learned a lesson from that — including people that weren’t involved, so I think we just need to move forward, that’s all.”

Notably, Wu doesn’t speak at all about Ni’ihau. But that doesn’t stop McGowan from hashtagging it as if one Asian-American actor rejecting two examples of Asian erasure means that it’s totally never a problem ever. He also ignores Wu’s comments that producers need to “learn” from the uproar of Iron Fist. Making matters ickier, the conservative site PJ Media, which ran this article, uses “SJW” with no irony, and ends it with this gem of personal commentary: “And the truth is that accusations of ‘cultural appropriation’ are as racist as it gets, anyway.”

If accusations of cultural appropriation are as racist as things get for you, you might be a privileged white crybaby.

But Matt wasn’t through yet. He then began taking on all-comers who dared suggest his brother’s taking the role of a Native Hawaiian was less than awesome. He was civil, but clueless.

Hey! That one made Rebecca’s list of bullshit reasons to justify whitewashing.

Then he turned it around, arguing it’s not Zach’s fault for accepting the role. It’s the fault of the more ethnically appropriate choices that they didn’t take it. Note, we have no idea if any of the below were offered the part.

When someone argued that the script was problematic, and so might have turned off Native Hawaiian talent, Matt had a response to that too.

As if anyone expects any docudrama to be 100% true. As if that’s the issue here, and not the Asian erasure that would take a historic moment that involved specifically Native Hawaiians and swaps in a white guy, presumably to make history more palatable to mainstream (white) audiences. On one hand, I admire that Matt engaged so openly in this discussion. On the other, I can’t respect how he refused to actually listen to the complaints, and just kept deflecting with facile arguments and platitudes. Witness Matt missing the point again.

And he’d like you to remember that the real victim here are the filmmakers.

In the midst of all this, Matt was presumably looking for more and more articles that called out Ni’ihau over its whitewashing. Presumably, he found mine. Or else it’s a super weird coincidence that he followed me yesterday.

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Hi, Matt.

Kristy Puchko is the film editor of Pajiba. You can follow her on Twitter.

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