May 15th, 2012
05:36 PM ET

Aasif Mandvi talks Hollywood 'whitewashing'

Sacha Baron Cohen's new role as a fictional Middle Eastern tyrant in his movie "The Dictator" is causing plenty of controversy.

Commentators like Dean Obeidallah have criticized the actor, who is not of Middle Eastern descent, for portraying an Arab man, especially since the character is intended to reflect stereotypes.

Actor and comedian Aasif Mandvi of "The Daily Show" talked to CNN's Suzanne Malveaux about what he sees as Hollywood's "whitewashing," or casting white actors in ethnic roles. In the video above, Mandvi gives his take on why he thinks "whitewashing" persists, even in an ever-growing multicultural society.

What do you think? Is Mandvi right? Leave your comments below.

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Filed under: Celebrities • movies

soundoff (15 Responses)
  1. Demarco Mike Calaizzo

    Hollywood is our Best hope.

    May 17, 2012 at 10:13 am | Report abuse |
  2. Michael Calaizzo

    Hollywood does more good than all the other Industry combined.

    May 17, 2012 at 10:12 am | Report abuse |
  3. Aang

    I agree with Aasif, but ironically he was in the movie "The Last Airbender" which had the most white-washing than any other movie to date!

    May 16, 2012 at 12:41 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Klifferd

    If you are blind to white washing you are a closing your eyes.

    Keanu as Buddha.
    John wayne playing a ghengis khan.!

    It happens albeit way less today. Ad when browns are in a role it's usually to fill a stereotype anyways. like outsourced.

    Karl penn rocks. He played a stoner regular dude and his ethnicity wasn't important.

    May 16, 2012 at 8:47 am | Report abuse |
  5. jb2817

    If we whitewashed the sept 11 highjackers the towers would still be standing. Because no white person would believe in that gutter religion called islam

    May 16, 2012 at 7:22 am | Report abuse |
  6. Jason

    Hes mad he didn't get the role...

    May 16, 2012 at 3:17 am | Report abuse |
  7. kenburch

    Here's the thing though-Sacha Baron Cohen is of Mizrahi Jewish descen(the MIzrahi are Jews from North Africa, other Arab countriesand Iran, and are essentially Arabs or Persians who are culturally Jewish(Sacha Baron Cohen's OWN family emigrated to Britain from Iraq in the 1940's). Therefore, Sacha Baron Cohen IS of "Middle Eastern" descent.

    May 16, 2012 at 2:59 am | Report abuse |
  8. Coolerboy

    Gee, let's have a real Arab portray himself as a Middle Eastern dictator or terrorist. Yeah "no whitewashing" there. How about stereotyping? So it's an absurd complaint if you asked me. If you have real Arabs, they will be slammed for stereotyping. The whole point of Cohen's comedies is to be politically INCORRECT.

    May 15, 2012 at 11:02 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Skeptic

    Who cares? It's a stupid movie. Stupider than Borat. Send Sasha a message: do not go to see his movie. Best way to let him know he SUCKS.

    May 15, 2012 at 9:24 pm | Report abuse |
  10. John

    Okay, Aasif, then why didn't you come up with this idea and play the part yourself? Surprised you're crying about this; I thought you were both smarter, more evolved, and had a better sense of humor.

    May 15, 2012 at 8:20 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Hymack

    I totally agree with Aasif...sick and tired of Arab stereotypes ALWAYS being refreshing it would be to actually see REAL Arabs on screen. The day an Arab plays the part of a Jew, I'll be the first one here writing (like folks above), " "hey, its only acting for c sake".

    May 15, 2012 at 7:06 pm | Report abuse |
  12. LC

    Ppl complained when they found out depp was going to play tonto. It's just acting for c sake.

    May 15, 2012 at 6:33 pm | Report abuse |
  13. belief

    i second that

    May 15, 2012 at 6:32 pm | Report abuse |
  14. T.rex

    Give me a break... if that guy wants to make a movie about a comedic terrorist, starring an actual Arab, nobody is stopping him. I love these backseat quarterbacks who only pipe up once someone else took the initiative to create something first.

    May 15, 2012 at 6:23 pm | Report abuse |
  15. tribefan695

    Wasn't The Hunger Games an example of Hollywood averting whitewashing? Significant characters like Cinna and Rue were played by Blacks.

    As for The Dictator, it's a project that was shepherded by Sacha Baron Cohen. The character was never going to be portrayed by anyone but himself, as his comic persona is integral to the film's appeal. Whitewashing is still certainly a problem in some respects today but I don't think these two films are anywhere near the best examples.

    May 15, 2012 at 5:55 pm | Report abuse |

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