Race Swap: Diversity or Tokenism?


Race Swap: Authentic inclusion or tokenism—in the name of diversity

2024, Lilo and Stitch

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 Hawaiian 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, Aragorn of Lord of the Rings

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 Queen Cleopatra

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.


Netflix’s Cleopatra trailer faced criticism within a week of its release, resulting in Netflix disabling comments due to public pressure. Comics show black Cleopatra alongside a red-haired depiction of her from a villa in Herculaneum, believed to be Cleopatra VII based on her royal diadem, facial features, and hairstyle adorned with pearl-studded hairpins.

2022, Netflix’s Bridgerton

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

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, there were Black people present in 16th-century England.

Ann Boleyn becomes a black character as she struggles to secure a future for her daughter and challenge the powerful patriarchy.

2021, Amazon’s Cinderella

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

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

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, along with 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

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.

Once Upon a Time is considered an early example of race-swapping in popular media. It cast Black actors to portray Cinderella and Sir Lancelot, who was originally written as white characters.

Sir Lancelot is a legendary knight known for his chivalry and romantic relationship with Queen Guinevere. He has always been portrayed as a white person. (Photo: One of the earliest depictions of Sir Lancelot and Guinevere)

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