Tim Burton Explains Why His Films Are Full Of White People As Wednesday Branded ‘Racist’

Tim Burton has explained why his films mainly use a white cast as the hit Netflix show Wednesday has been branded 'racist'. 
Credit: Alamy & Netflix

Tim Burton explained why his films are full of white people as the hit Netflix show Wednesday has been branded ‘racist’

The director, 65, is best known for his work on hit movies such as Edward Scissorhands, Beetlejuice, and Corpse Bride.

Burton’s recent Netflix project, Wednesday, follows teenager Wednesday Addams (Jenna Ortega) as she enrols in a new school.

He directed four of the eight episodes, while also serving as an executive producer.

Watch the trailer for Wednesday below…

The comedy horror became an instant hit after debuting on the popular streaming service.

The Addams Family spinoff even broke the record for the most hours viewed in a single week of any Netflix TV show.

But despite its huge success, Wednesday has come under fire from some viewers who believe that the show is ‘racist’.

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Burton, who is currently working on Beetlejuice 2 alongside Ortega, has previously faced criticism for the lack of Black actors in his movies.

His 2016 film Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children faced a similar backlash as people questioned the lack of diversity in his projects.

Burton addressed the criticism in an interview with Bustle, where he claimed that films ‘either call for things, or they don’t’.

Burton told the publication: “I remember back when I was a child watching The Brady Bunch and they started to get all politically correct, like, OK, let’s have an Asian child and a Black.

“I used to get more offended by that than just – I grew up watching blaxploitation movies, right?

“And I said, that’s great. I didn’t go like, OK, there should be more white people in these movies.”

Lucas Walker in Netflix.
Netflix’s new hit series Wednesday has been called out by viewers for being ‘racist’. Credit: Netflix

Samuel L Jackson, the only Black actor in Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, also defended Burton by saying it isn’t ‘any fault of his or his method of storytelling’.

He explained: “I had to go back in my head and go, how many Black characters have been in Tim Burton movies?

“And I may have been the first, I don’t know, or the most prominent in that particular way, but it happens the way it happens.

“I don’t think it’s any fault of his or his method of storytelling, it’s just how it’s played out. Tim’s a really great guy.”

Burton has countless directing credits under his belt – and Jackson is one of the only Black actors to be cast in a leading role – though he was playing a villain.

The only other Black actor to have a prominent role in one of Burton’s films is Ken Page in The Nightmare Before Christmas – though he was also playing a villain called Oogie Boogie.

The character of Oogie Boogie has been accused of being racist in itself as the name is also a ‘derogatory term for African-American people’.

Although Black actors have prominent roles in Wednesday, fans have argued that their characters are also portrayed as ‘bullies’.

Samuel L Jackson in Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children.
Samuel L Jackson is one of the only Black actors to have a prominent role in a Tim Burton movie. Credit: 20th Century Studios

The character Biana Barclay (Joy Sunday) is a student at the academy who is a mean girl.

Lucas Walker (Iman Marson) also plays a bully in the series and he’s the son of a corrupt mayor.

Discussing this, one tweeted: “I’m loving the new Wednesday series, but why are all the Black actors lit so terribly?”

Another added: “Why are all the Black characters in Wednesday antagonists? Or did I miss something?”

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However, some have defended Burton by saying the show makes an effort to present people of colour with a positive representation.

One person wrote: “The Black girl was also classified as the prettiest most popular girl in the school. A Black girl with NON-Eurocentric features.

“A Black girl with a short haircut. A non-mixed girl. She’s classified as the prettiest! They really did a thing.”

Joy Sunday as Bianca Barclay.
Joy Sunday plays mean girl Biana Barclay in Wednesday. Credit: Netflix

Despite the backlash, Wednesday was renewed for a second season in January 2023.

It was also nominated for 12 Primetime Emmy Awards, including Outstanding Comedy Series and Outstanding Contemporary Costumes.

Ortega and Burton also received nods for their work, with nominations for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series and Outstanding Directing for a Comedy Series respectively.

Co-creator Miles Millar told Variety that they ‘always lay out at least three or four seasons’ worth of potential storylines for the characters’.

He added: “For us, it’s always looking at the future, and when we sit down to create a show, it’s looking at multiple seasons, ideally.

“We certainly have a pretty clear runway of what we want to do in future seasons.”

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Written by Rosario Monachino

Rosario is a content editor at IGV who specialises in film, TV and entertainment news. He has a degree in English and Film from the University of Salford and a masters in Journalism from Liverpool John Moores University.