Natalie Portman and Jennifer Leigh were unaware their characters in Annihilation were whitewashed

Natalie Portman and Jennifer Leigh have landed themselves in a potful of criticism after it was discovered that they were whitewashing characters in their upcoming movie, Annihilation. The actresses play an ex-military biologist and a government psychologist respectively. Their characters had been recruited to be a part of a top-secret mission to a zone where strange phenomena start occurring. 

It was discovered in the sequel of the novel Annihilation that Natalie and Jennifer's characters are women of color. Natalie's character is described to be Asian while Jennifer's character is described as half Native American.

Natalie Portman did not know she was misrepresenting her character. (Getty)

In an interview with Yahoo Entertainment, both actresses noted that women of color are often underrepresented in Hollywood. Natalie told Yahoo "Well, that does sound problematic, but I’m hearing it here first."

Jennifer said: “It’s probably a valid criticism. I didn’t know that.”

“It’s probably a valid criticism. I didn’t know that” said Jennifer Leigh. (Getty Images)

Hollywood has a long history with whitewashing women of color. The industry is notorious for casting white actors in roles created for or based on people of color. However, with the movie Annihilation, the case is very different. The movie is based on the popular book written by Jeff VanderMeer. The book has been written in a style that does not reveal much about its characters. Often referred to as 'the biologist' or 'the psychologist' in the first book, the identifying details of the characters were not revealed till the sequel was released. 

Director Alex Garland spoke to Yahoo Entertainment in December and said that he had reimagined the book. “I thought, I’m not going to re-read the book; I’m going to adapt it like a dream of the book.”

Put simply, Alex took inspiration from the book, and with Jeff VanderMeer's blessing, took an alternate approach to the movie. If the movie is simply an inspired version of the book, then does the backlash count a fair? We'll find out when Annihilation hits theatres on 22 February.

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Aaliya Bilal


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