Rooney Mara could fill a football stadium with the hate she’s received from playing the whitest-looking Tiger Lily ever in Joe Wright’s Peter Pan flop called Pan. A little while after the movie was released, Rooney said that she was sorry you felt it was weird that a white Victorian ghost played a Native American character. Now that the dust has settled a bit, she has more to say. Except this time, she wants you to know that it wasn’t really whitewashing because the real Tiger Lily isn’t even Native American.
Rooney got into it during an interview with Deadline after they asked her if casting actors of specific ethnic backgrounds – like hiring a Native American actress for the part of Tiger Lily – “curbs art and creativity.” According to Rooney, the answer is yes. But also no. But mostly yes.
“I think that there are two sides to it. Yes, I do think it curbs art and creativity, and I also think that if you’re going to go by that, you have to be able to…it has to go both ways. It can’t just be that you don’t want a white girl to play a certain part. It has to be both sides. And I do think it can curb art and creativity. That being said, is there whitewashing in Hollywood? Absolutely, and I feel really bad and embarrassed to be a part of that.”
She then said that her version of Tiger Lily isn’t one of those times Hollywood has whitewashed a part, because Joe Wright’s natives of Neverland were a blend of all the World’s people. So there, everyone who side-eyed Rooney Mara’s choice.
“In J.M. Barrie’s book, the natives were not Native American. That was something later attributed and there’s probably racism behind even that attribution. In the book, they’re called the Pickaninny tribe, which is wrought with racism. But it was never my intention to play a Native American girl. That was never an option to me. It was Joe (Wright’s) pure desire to make the natives a conglomeration of many different cultures and indigenous people. To make them people of the world. He wanted them to be natives of planet Earth. I thought that was a really beautiful intention of his. That being said, I understand the anger about whitewashing. I completely do, and I agree with it.”
Who knew that when you mix every race together you end up with a white person? Crazy. She was also asked about Hollywood’s gender wage gap, but Rooney didn’t have nearly as much to say. According to Rooney, things like Jennifer Lawrence’s gender pay gap essay are the “wrong conversation” and that she’s usually paid the same as everyone else.
But Rooney wasn’t done talking about race issues just yet. She also spoke to The Telegraph about the whitewashing of the Academy Awards. Well…sort of. Rooney is nominated for her second Academy Award this year (for playing Baby Audrey Hepburn in Carol), so it’s not exactly a shock that they asked her about the #OscarsSoWhite situation. If you were hoping to write Rooney Mara’s name down on a side, you’re going to have to keep waiting. Because Rooney Mara only said, “I have a lot to say and I have very strong opinions about it, but it is such a sensitive issue I don’t want to reduce it to a sound bite.”
She did, however, want to stress once again that she’s sorry for that whole Tiger Lily White situation.
“I really hate, hate, hate that I am on that side of the whitewashing conversation. I really do. I don’t ever want to be on that side of it again. I can understand why people were upset and frustrated.”
I believe her. She’s clearly learned that it’s not cool to play characters that aren’t white. Wait, where was Mary Magdelene from again? The Middle East? Err…nevermind.