Is “Star Trek: Into Darkness” Guilty of Whitewashing?

This movie has been out for a few months now, so if you don’t know by now, you don’t care, but Benedict Cumberbatch plays Khan Noonien Singh in the latest Star Trek movie. Khan was meant to be of Indian descent in the original Star Trek series (Singh is a predominantly, almost exclusively, Sikh surname), and was played by Ricardo Montalbán, a Mexican with Spanish ancestry. The argument is that Khan isn’t supposed to be white because he is supposed to be a genetically superior creation (we all remember what happened the last time white guys thought they were genetically superior), and by making him white J.J. Abrams was sorta kinda in a roundabout way endorsing white people as being superior genetically.

On the other hand, I have heard that Benicio Del Toro was Abrams’ first choice for playing  Khan, and that he only went with Cumberbatch when Del Toro couldn’t do it. Now maybe I am just an idealist, but I like to think that J.J. wasn’t being racist when he cast Cumberbatch, and that he doesn’t see white people as being genetically superior. Maybe Abrams thinks that genetic superiority has nothing to do with ethnicity, and simply picked a great actor to play a great villain.


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