Race Swap: Authentic inclusion or tokenism—in the name of diversity
2024, Snow White is now “less white”
Disney’s live-action remake of Snow White will feature a Latina actor in the lead role, departing from the original character’s appearance.
Instead of the iconic dwarfs, the remake will introduce a new group of characters called “magical creatures,” which includes various characters, some of whom are no longer dwarves.
The original Snow White from the German fairy tale is described as having skin as “white as snow,” hair as black as ebony, and lips as red as blood, which inspired her name “Snow White.”
2024, Lilo and Stitch’s lighter skin tone
The role of Lilo in the upcoming 2024 live-action Lilo and Stitch film will be played by Hawaiian actress Maia Kealoha. Fans say her persona strongly resembles the animated character.
Lilo and Stitch have darker skin tones because they are portrayed as Native Hawaiians in the animated movie.
However, Sydney Agudong, who plays Lilo’s older sister, Nani, has lighter skin. It has led to accusations of whitewashing and homogenization of Disney’s canon.
2023, Disney, the hallmark of race swapping
Disney’s commitment to gender equality is now in full swing. Initially, Disney removed gender pronouns in welcoming guests to the park in 2021. In the same year, the company initiated race-swapping beloved children’s characters.
Instead of creating new characters, Disney turned the original “Little Mermaid,” created by Danish author Hans Christian Andersen, into a black mermaid in 2023.
Peter Pan’s Tinker Bell, “Beauty and the Beast’s” Belle and Snow White into a “black-ish” ethnicity followed the recasting of the author-intended “white characters” into another race to promote equality and diversity.
2023, Numenorean descent Aragorn of Lord of the Rings turns black
Aragorn (Elessar Telcontar, is a character from J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy. In the books, he is described as a man of Númenorean descent. In the movie, Aragorn was portrayed by a Danish-American actor.
In Tolkien’s original story, the Númenorean was known for its strength, longevity, and fair complexion because of its angelic roots.
In 2023, a LOTR collaboration and reboot would feature Aragorn as black and even female, but it is yet to be confirmed officially.
2023, Netflix’s Cleopatra is a black queen
Netflix filmed a documentary, “Queen Cleopatra,” that depicts her as a black woman. Former Egyptian Antiquities Minister Zahi Hawass described it as “falsifying facts.”
Scholars have concluded that Cleopatra was large of Macedonian Greek ancestry, being the last active “Hellenistic ruler” (Greek) of the Macedonian-led Ptolemaic Kingdom of Egypt.
The Netflix documentary tanked, and Pinkett-Smith blamed “white supremacy” for the abysmal reception.
Jada Pinkett Smith, wife of Will Smith, who referred to Jada’s adulterous open relationship as “entanglement,” directed the docufilm.
Remaking Queen Cleopatra
In 2025, Gal Gadot (Wonder Woman) took the role of Queen Cleopatra, produced by Atlas Entertainment. It aims to correct the faulty historical narrative of Netflix’s Black Cleopatra.
However, it also sparked controversy due to Gadot’s Israeli heritage amid tension over the land dispute between Egypt and Israel.
2022, Netflix’s Bridgerton: The Ultimate race swapping series
In 2022, Netflix’s Bridgerton attempted to show diversity by including black characters as well as Indians and Chinese high society. However, it is not an accurate representation.
After being criticized and labeled tokenism, the author Julia Quinn admitted it’s “fantasy.” [Guardian]
2021, AMC’s Ann Boleyn is black
The 2021 AMC series “Ann Boleyn” faced controversy and backlash when it was announced that Jodie Turner-Smith, a Black actress, would be playing the role of the historical figure, who was white.
Some critics and viewers argued that the casting was historically inaccurate and a form of “race-bending” that took away opportunities from white actors.
However, others defended the decision, arguing that it was a refreshing and necessary reimagining of a well-known story and that historically, Black people were present in 16th-century England.
2021, Amazon’s Cinderella’s godmother is a trans woman
Despite breaking stereotypes, such as race-swapping the fairy godmother with a transgender black woman, the film still faced backlash.
Critics see it as an ideological push, and breaking the fairy godmother’s character this way was offensive.
A review of the recent Cinderella movie suggests it promotes harmful ideologies. For example, it focuses on individual success and material wealth as measures of a woman’s worth. It also undermines traditional feminine qualities.
In addition, it promotes a harmful message of self-obsession and shallow empowerment, emphasizing individual success and material wealth as measures of a woman’s worth, undermining traditional feminine qualities.
Although it’s a “woke Cinderella,” complemented by trans and rainbow colors, ironically, it reinforces harmful gender stereotypes by portraying Cinderella’s stepmother and stepsisters as caricatures of femininity.
2017, BBC’s Roman Britain diversity agenda
In 2017, commentator Paul Joseph Watson mocked “Story of Britain,” an animated short by BBC, for portraying Roman Britain with a high-ranking black military officer.
But then, it was Watson who faced backlash and not BBC.
As it turned out, historical evidence supports the existence of Nubian, Ethiopian, and Black Syrian Roman soldiers.
The BBC has been accused of advancing a “woke liberal agenda,” with some suggesting that the animated depiction of multiculturalism, while based on historical facts, may also be used to promote the particular ideological agenda for which the BBC has become known.
2015, Hamilton Play’s Black Washington, Jefferson, and Burr
Lin-Manuel Miranda intentionally cast diverse actors in Hamilton to reflect contemporary America, highlight the immigrant experience, and reimagine history with inclusivity and multiculturalism.
Alexander Hamilton is a founding historical figure of America, and others included in the fictional play.
George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Aaron Burr were white Americans but portrayed by actors of African descent.
2011, Once Upon a Time: Early “race swapping”
Once Upon a Time is an ABC television series that rewrites beloved classic fairytale characters like Snow White, Belle, Prince Charming, the evil Queen, Captain Hook, Peter Pan, and Tinker Bell, among many others, reimagined in a modern twist.
In popular media, ‘Once Upon a Time’ is an early example of race-swapping. It cast Black actors to portray Cinderella and Sir Lancelot, initially written as white characters.
1997, Cinderella Musical
In 1997, the musical adaptation of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella was perhaps Walt Disney’s first attempt to introduce woke characters for young viewers to imbibe.
The company introduced a mirror cast, with notable changes: Prince Charming was Asian—despite having a black mother and white father, and talented singer Brandy, who was black, portrayed Cinderella herself, along with the legendary Whitney Houston, the godmother.
The adaptation received positive reviews, primarily attributed to the exceptional performances by the cast, known for their acting and singing abilities.
No one suspected it was the beginning of a woke culture that would bear fruit in 2023 when tokenism appears to be a critical part of Disney productions.