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John Oliver’s ‘Last Week Tonight’ highlights the absurdity of Hollywood whitewashing

Moses (Christian Bale, right) confronts Ramses (Joel Edgerton) in “Exodus: Gods and Kings.” The movie has been criticized for putting white actors in roles that could be played by actors of color. (Kerry Brown/Twentieth Century Fox Film)

On Sunday, John Oliver’s HBO show “Last Week Tonight” called Hollywood out for its many, many instances of casting white actors in roles portraying people of color.

The Oscars, which will air Sunday, Feb. 28 on ABC, have been criticized for overlooking black actors. Oliver’s segment — part of the show’s “How is this still a thing” video series — declared that “the nominees are whiter than a Yeti in a snowstorm fighting Tilda Swinton.”

(Note: the video contains some harsh language.)

The show noted that “even when there are roles for non-white actors, they still sometimes get played by white people.” A series of films set in ancient Egypt and Emma Stone’s controversial casting as a part Native Hawaiian, part Chinese character in “Aloha” are recent examples. The segment also spotlights questionable roles in older films, such as Natalie Wood portraying the Puerto Rican Maria in “West Side Story,” and Mickey Rooney as a bucktoothed Japanese man in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.”

100 times a white actor played someone who wasn’t white

The segment ends with a particularly egregious example — Tom Cruise as “The Last Samurai.” This guy is the last Samurai?,” the narrator asks over a montage of some of Cruise’s most memorable roles, including his pantsless dance scene in “Risky Business.” “This guy? This guy is the last Samurai? F— you.”

This post has been  updated since it was first published.