It was announced this week that white actor Zach McGowan was cast to play real-life native Hawaiian Ben Kanahele in the upcoming film NI’IHAU. This was met with outrage and accusations of “whitewashing” and “yellow face” from the community including from my fellow Offender Anderson and our friend and actor Tamlyn Tomita.

But the film’s producers and Zach McGowan have remained silent while the controversy has swirled and now we know why–at least according to McGowan’s brother, Matt McGowan, who took to his Twitter to defend his brother and the casting. And the alleged reason for this?

Yup, “cyberbullying”. Because apparently, when a non-white community that has consistently been underrepresented in the media expresses their outrage at once again being marginalized in this way, it means they’re “bullying” and “threatening”.

Boo hoo, spare me your privileged white man tears, dude.

Boo hoo, you’ve been called “hapa haole”, how fucking tragic!

Boo hoo, it’s not a documentary, you guys, so you shouldn’t be upset!

Boo hoo, we respect your culture, you just don’t understand!

Boo hoo, my brother played Russian before (twice even!) so what’s the big deal with him playing Hawaiian?

He was even a Romani:

Oh, and he played Native American too, you guys!

See, we’ve done the cultural appropriation thing before…many times…and it was cool. So cool…

All of this is the standard white privileged butt hurt defense and not unexpected, but then there’s this:

McGowan cites an interview with INTO THE BADLANDS actor Daniel Wu to argue that Wu supports the casting of his brother in NI’IHAU…except that Wu says no such thing. Wu doesn’t mention NI’IHAU at all–the interview took place long before the casting was announced and he was speaking on the “whitewashing” controversies surrounding IRON FIST and GHOST IN THE SHELL, two fictional characters:

Yeah but you know what, I think that’s people going a little too precocious on that because originally the character (Iron Fist) was written white — it wasn’t like it was a whitewashing thing. It’s not like you are talking about a Ghost in the Shell issue, right?

To assume solely from this interview that Wu approves of McGowan playing a real-life native Hawaiian figure and supports McGowan on this particular issue is disingenuous or just outright bullshit.

Finally, let me conclude with this tweet:

If he is genuine about listening and doing “his best” then we haven’t seen any sign of that. Silence on the issue does not equate to listening or doing his best. Nor does a brother defending this casting using the same ole’ excuses white folks always throw out to justify these choices. If everyone involved with NI’IHAU really wants to do their “best”, it’s on them now to reach out to the community that is understandably upset and not just listen to their concerns, but really do something about them.


  1. Well I’m not blaming Zach for playing the role, It’s those in power who are to blame. It’s really sad that his brother has to defend him with comments and excuses that only makes it sound worse.