You’ll often read on alt right blogs about how Hollywood movies cast white men as the villains. In many cases they go so far as to give them German accents or blonde hair to really further the phony narrative that only white gentiles are capable of being soulless psychopaths willing to commit mass murder for financial gain or ideological purposes.
If in fact this is true, you could speculate on the motivation for this in multiple ways. Are they just trying to stoke anti-white feelings among movie goers? Are the movie makers white racists themselves, and feel it would be unbelievable to to cast a non-white in the role of a genius villain because they’re not smart enough? Are they just trying to avoid any potential backlash for portraying a designated victim group in a bad light? Is there some hidden market research that indicates casting whites as villains sells more movie tickets?
It’s impossible to determine the absolute truth on what the motives are. But is the premise even true? Furthermore, are big budget movies just dominated by whites overall? Are the heroes increasingly non-white while the villains remain white, or are all the lead roles typically white men?
Not that this is any kind of definitive study, but I figured I’d look back at the highest grossing films of recent years. I acknowledge that the studios didn’t necessarily know these would end up being the most popular movies of the given year when making the casting decisions, but I had to start somewhere:
2017: Beauty and the Beast
The villain is a white man, but this is set in 18th century France and has an almost entirely white cast which seems appropriate. Hard to make too much out of this.
2016: Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
The villain is a white man. The all white male Galactic Empire is back from the original 1977 movie here (it’s set in the days prior to the start of the original trilogy), but Director Krennic is a new addition. It’s also worth noting that while the Empire has remained white, the rebel alliance has been diversified for 21st century audiences. The main hero is a white female.
2015: Star Wars: The Force Awakens
While technically a sequel to 1983’s Return of the Jedi, this is really just a remake of the original 1977 Star Wars film. Darth Vader has been replaced by a white guy where you can actually see his face. Grand Moff Tarkin has been replaced by a red head and the Nazi imagery was laid on pretty thick. Meanwhile Luke Skywalker was replaced by a girl. The closest thing to Han Solo is a Guatemalan actor. And the closest thing to Princess Leia is a black guy.
2014: Transformers: Age of Extinction
Couple of white male villains here. Although the hero is also a white male.
Villain is a white male (although an all white animated cast). Hero is a white girl who may be a lesbian.
2012: The Avengers
White dude. Main heroes are white men (Iron Man, Thor).
2011: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2
Never saw the movie, but the cast order suggests that while there are two white male villains, the main villain appears to be a white female. Main hero is a white male.
2010: Toy Story 3
A cartoon Bear. Hero is a white male toy.
White guy. Main hero is a disabled white man pretending to be an alien.
2008: The Dark Knight
White villain, white hero.
2007: Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End
Never watched any of these films, but looks like both villain and hero are white guys.
2006: Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest
I think it’s pretty much the same set up as the 2007 film.
2005: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
White men are hero and villain
2004: Shrek 2
I think it’s this guy. So the villain is a white male and the hero is an ogre.
2003: The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
Seems like it’s some kind of non-human thing. The hero is a white male.
2002: The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
White male villain, white male hero.
2001: Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone
White male villain, white male hero.
So it looks like each year’s main blockbuster in the 21st century had a white male as the main villain except three. One was a white female, and two were non-humans. Most of the main heroes were also white, but much more likely to be female. It’s also worth noting that there were limited casting choices for a number of these films. The characters were often established by novels or comic books so it would have been strange for example, for a studio to cast a black guy as the Joker.
Might be more interesting to look at the films that are given academy awards. Or just the top 10 movies from each of the last five years or something.
More to come if I get bored and feel like looking up more stuff on this topic.