Controversial New “Pan” Backfires

The classic story of Peter Pan is widely known because of Disney’s “Peter Pan.” Another widely known and loved rendition was the 2003 live movie, “Peter Pan,” released by Universal Pictures. A new rendition of the boy who never grows up hit theaters on October 9th. “Pan” was released by Warner Brothers Pictures and directed by Joe Wright, best known for “Pride & Prejudice” and “Anna Karenina.” “Pan” features a slew of stars including Hugh Jackman, Rooney Mara, Amanda Seyfried, and Cara Delevingne. With a great cast for a classic story, the production and release should have gone through without a hitch. Except, there was one disastrous choice made on the behalf of casting and that was casting a Caucasian for the part of Tiger Lily. In the American film industry, there have been several issues with whitewashed casts, and this is no exception.

Rooney Mara as Tiger Lily. (
Rooney Mara as Tiger Lily. (

Rooney Mara, commonly known for her performance in “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” decided she would accept the role despite not being a Native American. Actresses Lupita Nyong’o and Adèle Exarchopoulos were also considered for the role, despite the fact that they also are not Native American. Mara has made many statements about being upset over the criticism, but she ultimately does not understand that this was one less role taken away from Native American actresses. Initially, Mara was not sure if she wanted this role or not, but Wright was able to convince her. Early on, Mara saw issues with her playing Tiger Lily, but according to Cinema Blend she stated “[Joe] showed me all of these images that he had of all of these different cultures around the world, and he explained to me what his vision was for the native village. It made sense to me. They are natives of Neverland, a completely made-up place. Then it made sense to me.” Even a petition with more than 94,700 supporters did not stop Warner Brothers, Wright, or Mara.

Rooney Mara as Tiger Lily in the 2015 movie, "Pan". (
Rooney Mara as Tiger Lily in the 2015 movie, “Pan”. (

It was predicted that this casting disaster would cause issues with the release and reception of the movie. The predictions could not be truer considering all of the critics are saying the same things. Josh Dickey, of Mashable, did not hold anything back by stating “Pan has created a new genre in film: A movie so bad, so resoundingly rotten in every way, that you should absolutely leave the house this weekend and pay good money to see it. We’re not talking about “so bad it’s good” here — this isn’t Showgirls or The Room. There is no joy in the earnest schlock of it all, no giddy tickle of mockery and camp. No, no, nothing like that. Pan is instead its own thing: a visually disgusting, audibly loud and obnoxious, narratively incoherent attempt at a Hollywood adventure blockbuster.”

Dickey even added his own tidbit about casting Mara as Tiger Lily, “Politically it wasn’t a great move, but creatively it was worse. Mara’s icy detachment worked for The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, but here she just seems weird and slightly mean, the leader of a tribe of mostly people of color who wear ghastly bright rainbow streaks and warpaint and do a lot of coordinated dance-fighting.” Another critic, Matt Pais of Red Eye Chicago, called it “Joe Wright’s apparent attempt to do a Baz Luhrmann version of several Disney rides at once.” Pais also pointed out the whitewashed cast and Tiger Lily’s “…apparel from Bjork’s closet…” which goes to show the lack of consideration for who Wright may have been offending. All of the critics say the same thing and all of them point out the poor choice in casting Mara instead of a Native American.

“Pan” is being shown at Country Club Mall Cinemas in LaVale.

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