Let me start off this rant by declaring my absolute love for Independence Day, Roland Emmerich's totally out-there, bombastic, alien-invasion flick starring Will Smith, Jeff Goldblum, and Bill Pullman. I've been a huge fan of the film since its blockbuster summer of 1996. My best friend and I saw it four times in the theater. As goofy middle schoolers, we sat giddily in the back of the theater, shouting at the screen. I still watch it at least once a year (on July Fourth weekend, of course). I always cry when Harry Connick Jr.'s Captain Jimmy Wilder dies. I can recite practically the entire movie. I weave lines of its dialogue throughout my everyday conversations. But I have zero desire to see Independence Day: Resurgence. And it's not because it looks even more bloated and ridiculous than the first. Not because it seems like an obvious cash grab. And not because of this year's severe sequel-itis problem. It's because I'm raging mad that Mae Whitman, the actress who played President Whitmore's young daughter Patricia in the original, has been replaced with another actress. There are a number of characters from the original film who aren’t coming back for the sequel, in which aliens return 20 years later looking for revenge. Will Smith's character, Captain Steven Hiller, has apparently died. And Randy Quaid's kids, who were featured prominently in the original, don't seem to be a part of this chapter. But many others are back, including Patricia Whitmore. And as the "love interest" of Liam Hemsworth's new fighter pilot character, there’s a good chance she’ll play a significant part in the story. (Why Hemsworth isn't described as the "love interest" of her character, we'll never know.) But Mae Whitman isn't playing her. Maika Monroe is. Now don't get me wrong, Monroe (The Guest, It Follows) is a fantastic actress and she has appeared in some great films lately. But this casting decision is absolute bullshit. Twenty years after Independence Day, Whitman is still a prominent actress, and a successful one at that. She had a powerful role on NBC's Parenthood. She carried a small 2015 comedy called The DUFF to an opening weekend of over $10 million and a domestic gross of over $34 million. She's not a nobody. So when it was announced over a year ago that Whitman wouldn't be reprising her role, people were naturally pissed. Fans took to Twitter to express their outrage that Whitman wouldn't be returning. Even Anna Kendrick angrily weighed in on the topic, with a message that Whitman retweeted, adding her sweet reply, "Man. I love you to death kid."
Of course, Whitman can turn down any role she pleases, but at this point, it doesn't look like she was even considered, let alone offered the job. As The Hollywood Reporter noted, the short list for actresses up for the role included Lucy Boynton, Merritt Patterson, Gabriella Wilde, and Britt Robertson. According to io9, Roland Emmerich claimed that Whitman didn't want to read for the role, but if that's true, did any of the other returning actors, like Pullman or Goldblum, have to read for their roles? Why was this standard imposed on a young woman playing a "love interest" and not on any of the film's male stars? Or was the fact that she'd be playing Hemsworth's girlfriend a part of it? Why would the actress playing Patricia have to suit Hemsworth, rather than the other way around? Is that what this all comes down to? That Maika Monroe is just a more "believable" girlfriend opposite the hunky Hemsworth? That folks would accept a tall, ethereal blond as the lead ingénue of a summer action movie over an equally lovely but paler, shorter brunette, even though she originated the goddamned character? "Fuckability," as Heather Matarazzo defined it, is what HitFix theorized this casting choice came down to, writing, "This decision seems like such a blatant, tin-eared attempt to follow industry heat and pander to industry norms about who can or can't be a lead in this kind of film that I'm feeling fed up before this thing even begins." E! News went even further, saying, "We all know why Mae Whitman was replaced: she does not have the look of what we call the 'Transformers dolls,' meaning she's not the bombshell hottie with a body that usually makes up most action movies." And though Whitman has been relatively silent on the matter, her Twitter feed doesn't seem to reflect someone who preferred not to be involved in the sequel. She retweeted the HitFix piece, replied with broken hearts, and also retweeted a piece titled "Mae Whitman is Hot!" that argued, "The role in Independence Day 2 should have been Mae Whitman’s to refuse by any fair or rational standard. And again, for the record, IMHO Mae is HOT." Of course, no one in Hollywood would ever even consider confirming such a thing. If 20th Century Fox admitted it recast a female character with a "hotter" actress, the backlash would be insane — even though this retrograde thinking is still standard operating procedure in the industry. So all we can do is sit back and be pissed that Whitman isn't in the film. I may have gone to see Independence Day four times, and I may have memorized every single line — but the sequel? It will never win my heart.