Rooney Mara Cast As Tiger Lily — I Can’t Wait To Hear What Percentage Cherokee She Is

Rooney Mara attending premiere of Her December 2013If you’ve read anything by me before, you know I’m gonna have something to say about Rooney Mara being cast as the character of Tiger Lily in the upcoming remake of Peter Pan – an origin story called Pan.

In fact, you might even be tired of hearing from me at this point, but I’m gonna keep on writing these response pieces, at least until white directors, producers, and actors can stop appropriating the very small percentage of parts that are specifically written and intended for people of color. Whenever that may be. (Sigh.)

But the ironic thing about this casting in particular is even in the announcement, Variety anticipated our concerns, and they’ve prepared a statement explaining that the reason they’ve cast a white person. Oh goody. Can’t wait to read it. Fingers crossed that it includes some kind of excuse about Rooney being part-Cherokee or something and that making it okay, ala Johnny Depp in The Lone Ranger.

“The world being created is multi-racial/international — and a very different character than previously imagined.”

Oh okay, sure. Interesting. I’m actually totally fine with that, because I’m assuming it means we’re de-emphasizing race in general for this story. Which is great because the character of Tiger Lily is traditionally presented as a stereotype, most recently by none other than Ireland Baldwin. So bottom line, I can’t wait to get a look at the rest of the cast and see how ethnically diverse it is! I’m sure that whatever roles have been cast so far will present a range of ethnicities that will make Shonda Rimes and I happier than a glass of red wine and a smart cream suit.

Let’s see here…other actors already cast include…Garrett Hedlund and Hugh Jackman. Two decidedly white dudes. Facepalm. True, they’ve barely put a dent in casting, and we’re still a ways out, but do me a favor for a second — name me as many traditionally Native American characters as you can think of. (And it can’t be Tiger Lily or Tonto, because both of those have already been mentioned in this post.) And once you’ve finished that, quick! Name me a well-known Native American actor or actress!

I don’t know how you did with that, but I didn’t do so great, myself. It’s such a narrow field in both cases that it can’t really afford any further narrowing by Hollywood. Rooney’s a talented woman, but it’s a cop out to call this a ‘reimagining’ of the story if all you’re doing is changing her race to white and placing the story in World War II era.

But don’t worry guys — while we wait to see if that’s how it turns out, you can console yourself with the knowledge that they looked at Lupita Nyong’o and Adele Exarchopoulos for the role as well.

…congratulations?

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    • elle

      Ugh, I read about this yesterday. SMDH, picking such a Lily white actress to play a role of an indigenous person. So that means everybody is going to be white since if she’s white the chief cant be. I can’t believe I’m about to praise Twilight but at least they had actual indigenous/POC playing the Native Americans on the reservation. And Adam Beach and Steve Reevis aren’t super famous but they are native American actors you would recognize. And Benjamin Bratts actually is as well. His father is a native American. I think people tend to think that he’s Latino.

      • elle

        Ok I was curious so I googled. Apparently his mother IS Peruvian sl he is half Latino….

      • Alexis Rhiannon

        You did better than I — I have zero problem and lots of embarrassment admitting that.

      • Lena A. Santos

        Because Peruvian and Native American are the same thing….

      • elle

        Yes but he is still half native American. Which, IMO, counts a lot more than the vague 1/16 everyone seems to spout off. Or the even vaguer “some”.

      • Alexis Rhiannon

        No, I think she meant that Benjamin Bratt’s father is Native American and that his mother is Peruvian. She was addressing her previous statement about everyone thinking Benjamin is Latino..

      • bee

        Benjamin’s father is white. His mother is a Native Latino.

      • Alexis Rhiannon

        You get mad points for ‘lily-white’.

    • Jessieface

      is this revenge casting for Annie-gate? I

      • Alexis Rhiannon

        I KNOW.

      • Alexis Rhiannon

        THEY KNOW WHAT THEY DID.

    • Sri

      I like how “multi-racial” and “international” is translated into whitewashed so far. And by like, I mean that it kind of makes me want to tear my hair out. Because so much of the cast is still undecided, there’s still time to actually make it multi-racial. Hopefully, they don’t do that by just making all of the pirate extras PoC. That seems to be the running solution to a lack of diversity- make PoC background characters for decoration.

      Tiger Lily is so horribly problematic as a character that I would almost rather they cut her out. Her character has been fucked up so many times and done well so rarely that I don’t have faith in anyone’s ability to write it in a racially sensitive way. Every time I see the cartoon version of Peter Pan, all I can think about is “no wonder my grandpa left his family and pretended to be a white guy. This shit was seen as funny and cute when he was already grown and having kids.”

      Well, people last week wanted revenge for the Annie casting. I wonder how many of them will show up and tell us not to be upset about this because it’s “fair”…

      ETA: Jessieface- we had the same thought while I was in the middle of my rant, I see.

      • Alexis Rhiannon

        Absolutely agree that it’s a problematic character. It needs to be addressed in some way for sure, but whitewashing is the opposite of the answer.

      • Sri

        Oh, absolutely. I was more wondering whether I would rather have a Tiger Lily played by a Native American actress but written in a racist way or no Tiger Lily at all. Whitewashed Tiger Lily is pretty much the worst it can get, unless they also put Rooney Mara in red face, which would be the absolute worst, but I don’t think they could be that clueless, right? Of course, that Tonto happened, so I guess anything is possible.

    • Benita

      Tiger Lily has always been problematic for so many reasons. Why was a Native American presenting character in a fictional fantasy world written by a Scottish man? It’s disappointing that instead of reworking the character with a real Native American in the role, they went the cowardly route with a white actress. I will blow a gasket if they put her in a headdress.

    • JLH1986

      I am waiting for the racial outrage for the white woman playing a traditionally Native American (fictional role) a la Annie. Me thinks I’ll be waiting until it snows in hell.

    • Kathy

      When the ticket-buyers (intended audience) are white then the casting is mostly white. I’m sorry that this is how the world works but I can’t do anything to change it. I can only explain it to you guys, and maybe you won’t be so outraged about it. Personally I like Rooney Mara and I think she’s a capable actress.

      • Alexis Rhiannon

        “I’m sorry that this is how the world works but I can’t do anything to change it.”

        I’m bummed to hear that’s how you feel, but I don’t share that opinion. I think there IS something I can do to change it, which is to write about it. Even if that’s optimistic, I’m not gonna stop shedding light on this situation.

      • FemelleChevalier

        I personally don’t get this reasoning. Maybe in a homogenous country, this thinking is reasonable. But America isn’t all white: there are a LOT of different ethnicities.

        Also (for a point of reference), Japan, Korea, China, etcetera makes it a point to cast the right nationality if the script/story needs it. They won’t let their own play a, let’s say, white character. That’s inappropriate.

    • Devlin

      I’m not quite sure I understand why Lupita Nyong’o or Adele Exarchopolis would be any better than Rooney Mara?. The character is Native American?…then the character should be played by a Native American actress.

      How about Irene Bedard?…Irene voiced Pochahontas, played Mary Crow Dog in Lakota Woman (about the seige at Wounded Knee in 1973). Bedard is of Inupiat, Inuit and Metis ancestry. Or, the actress in Terrence Malick’s The New World (and for the life of me I can’t remember her name…ughhh!) but the film came out in 2005, and Colin Farrell was in it….makes a lot more sense than either Nyong’o or Exarchopolis.

      • FemelleChevalier

        She’s saying that by trying to be politically correct in choosing another actress that isn’t white, execs are still miscasting the role instead of giving it to an appropriate actress — which is inherently hard because the are few choices.

      • bee

        Since when is Adele Exarchopoulos not white?

      • Alexis Rhiannon

        Perhaps she meant American.