Matt Damon would like you to know that by taking the lead role in The Great Wall, an upcoming science-fiction film set in China, he did not steal the part from a Chinese actor. The Bourne star explained in an interview with The Associated Press that he hoped everyone who was angry about a white man saving China on the big screen would just chill, "once people see that it's a monster movie and it's a historical fantasy and I didn't take a role away from a Chinese actor ... it wasn't altered because of me in any way."
The fact that Damon's presence on the cast list didn't change the racial make-up of the story is probably 100% true. But by pointing that out, the actor is just confirming what actress Constance Wu, a vocal advocate for more diverse casting in Hollywood, tweeted about the project, "I never said The Great Wall was whitewashing.It's not. I said it was white-hero bias. Those r two VERY diffrnt things so dont lump em togthr."
Several whitewashed roles made headlines this year, from Tilda Swinton playing the Ancient One — originally a Tibetan character in Doctor Strange, though they very pointedly mention in the film her origins are "Celtic" — to Scarlett Johansson landing the lead in Ghost in the Shell, an adaptation of the popular Japanese manga. But the fact that the hero of a film about the Great Wall of China was originally written as a white man is still incredibly problematic. Minorities being saved by white characters is an age old trope in film and it needs to die. As Wu said in a tweet this summer, "We have to stop perpetuating the racist myth that only a white man can save the world. It's not an actual fact."