Film version of ‘Cats’ trailer leaves people hissing over ‘whitewashing’ of black star

(Image: screenshot)

A new live-action film version of “Cats” has caused a furor months before its expected release.

The film adaptation of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s original musical was teased in a trailer released this week that set off an avalanche of criticism, with much of the attention focused on the supposed  CGI “whitewashing” of its black lead actress.

(Video: YouTube/Universal Pictures)

Viewers of the trailer were aghast at the human-cat hybrid portrayed by Francesca Hayward, a former principal ballerina for the British Royal Ballet, who was born in Nairobi, Kenya. Outraged viewers claimed the 27-year-old making her acting debut was being “whitewashed” as a character with white fur and grey markings.

Never mind the fact that Hayward’s feline character is named “Victoria the White” in Webber’s long-running Broadway show.

Fans saw that as an arbitrary point, however, arguing that it should have been changed to accommodate Hayward’s natural skin tone.

“So how come you can clearly see this is taylor swift/the entire bottom half of her face is visible, but you wouldn’t know the black lead was black unless you knew her already,” one Twitter user asked, referring to singer Taylor Swift who also appears in the movie.

“she’s BLACK?!” responded another shocked Twitter user.

“While furry versions of Taylor Swift, Jennifer Hudson, Ian McKellen and Idris Elba were instantly recognisable, a less familiar face in the trailer was that of Francesca Hayward, principal dancer with the Royal Ballet. She is one of Britain’s best-known ballerinas and this is her cinematic debut. But even ballet fans would struggle to recognise the mixed-race dancer in her feline reincarnation,” Biba King wrote for The Telegraph, noting that the trailer was met with “great unease” by viewers.

But the nonsense over the “race” of a cat, or the actress portraying a cat, was soon slammed on Twitter as many users protested the criticism.

A simultaneous outcry was over the trailer billing Hayward as a “newcomer,” which set off fans of the ballerina who  took a temporary leave of absence from the Royal Ballet while filming her role for “Cats.”

Yet one of the biggest takeaways seemed to be that the computerized graphics have rendered the upcoming film, due out in December,  into a “creepy” and “horrifying” piece of work.

Frieda Powers


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