Correction: An earlier version of this story credited Azie Dungey with starting #NotYourTigerLily. It originated with Johnnie Jae, Executive Managing Editor of “Native Max” magazine. This post has been updated to reflect this.
Some people are really not pleased about actress Rooney Mara being cast as Tiger Lily, so much so that it has sparked a growing online petition telling Warner Bros. to “stop casting White actors to play people of color!”
After news broke that Mara, who is white, would be playing Tiger Lily, who is Native, in “Pan,” the internet seemed to issue a collective “Huh?” Now there are numbers behind it: more than 5,000 people have signed the Care2 petition protesting Mara’s casting.
Upon the announcement that Mara was joining the film, Variety reported that “The world being created is multi-racial/international – and a very different character than previously imagined.” So far, that world includes Mara, Hugh Jackman (Blackbeard), Garrett Hedlund (Hook), and the boy New York magazine called a “blue eyed nobody,” Levi Miller (Pan), who was cast in an open call.
“This casting choice is particularly shameful for a children’s movie,” the petition said. “Telling children their role models must all be white is unacceptable.” There are Native American actresses working in Hollywood, though none with as high a profile as Mara’s. Indian Country Today Media Network was quick to name Q’orianka Kilcher. Mizuo Peck, best known for her role as Sacajawea in the “Night at the Museum” movies, is also said to have Native ancestry.
Comedian and former “Daily Show” correspondent Wyatt Cenac pilloried Hollywood’s diversity problems in a set for “John Oliver’s New York Stand-Up Show.” He relayed the story of an Indian woman who wanted to be an extra in the “Hobbit” movies (she was turned away from an open casting call for being “too brown”):
She showed up to the casting call, and they turned her away. And they said, “No, you can’t be in this movie because you are too brown to be a hobbit.”
Now I’m going to repeat that for you: Somebody told a real-life woman that her skin was too brown to play an imaginary creature. That basically, in the whole fictional world of “Lord of the Rings” and “The Hobbit,” where you have dragons and trolls and talking trees, where you draw the line, where imagination is tapped out — no more room — is for a brown hobbit.