As a little girl, I would always wake up every Saturday at 7 am to watch the Winx Club. I did this weekly and often would wake up without an alarm. To say that I was obsessed is an understatement. I lived, breathed, and existed for this show. I had Winx themed shoes, sunglasses, DS games, and stationery. I would also beg my mom to buy me Winx Club posters and stickers all the time, she always refused. I can’t blame her. I had a rather strange affinity for sticking things where they did not belong.
So when I found out that Netflix would produce a remake, I was excited and could not wait to see how it would look like in real life. I had high expectations, but after watching the trailer, they disappeared. The bar was set, and at the time, I did not think it could get any lower.
Finally, its release date came, and I watched it. Along with the rest of “The Winx Club” fandom, I lost my mind (not in a good way). They had made significant changes from the original plotline, which is not a problem in itself; it Is just that they took away everything that we as a fandom loved, totally erased Tecna and Roxy, whitewashed the cast, and tokenized many characters.
The blatant tokenism in Netflix’s remake of “The Winx Club” had me cringing. Like they really thought one gay guy, one fat girl, and two black people (Aisha and Dane) would offset their whitewashed cast. The fact that this happened in 2020 shows just how much Hollywood does not care about diversity. They do the bare minimum to satisfy their mass audience and keep them hooked. However, they have no intention whatsoever of making actual change.
What further annoyed me about this remake is that they whitewashed Flora and Musa. In the original series, Flora was Hispanic/Latina, and Musa was Chinese. Even if Elisha Applebaum is supposedly ⅓ Singaporean, it is still wrong. Because then the racist stereotype of “all Asians look alike” is strengthened. This whitewashing highlights Asia’s role as the token character.
The way her character is represented itself is also problematic. Aisha’s character is excessively controlling and acts like an overbearing yet jealous parent. Aisha also seems to be against Bloom and the girls, having gone against most of their decisions.
According to Nalip (2016), one of the ways that Hollywood fakes diversity is by increasing the screen time of BIPOC, but they are “not [given] as much dramatic agency as white characters.” This can be seen with how involved Aisha is with Bloom’s problems, but when she is not helping her, it feels like she ceases to exist.
To be clear, Bloom is the protagonist, so it is expected for her to get more screen time. However, in the original series, most of the girls also had their own time to shine. Even when the episode was not focused on them, they had decent screen time. When comparing the screen time given to Bloom, Techna, Flora, Musa, Stella, and Aisha (mostly her) in the original series to Netflix’s remake, you will notice a sharp difference in all their screen times.
Also, in the original series, Aisha existed independently of Bloom. She had her backstory and did not CATER to Bloom’s every need. The way her character behaves in the Netflix remake makes it seem like Aisha was policing Bloom’s behavior.
This representation of black characters is not new. Hollywood tends to cast black actors as police or members of a secret intelligence agency (Nalip, 2016). For example, Kevin Hart and Ice Cube in the 2014 comedy “Ride Along,” John David Washington in “BlacKkKlansman,” and Will Smith and Martin Lawrence in the “Bad Boy” film series.
When will Hollywood and Netflix learn not to do things like this? Why are we BIPOC not valued? There is not a shortage of talent in our communities. For example, they could have cast either Zhou Dongyu, Dilraba Dilmurat, Kelsey Chow, Melise Jow, or Brenda Song. They all are crazy talented and Chinese/Chinese American actresses that could have played Musa magnificently.