On the topic of whitewashing, I'm curious; does it generally only apply to Western European-descended actors/actresses? Because while Tom Cruise (Irish,German,English ancestry) as The Last Samurai is a frequently cited example in whitewashing criticisms, I never really hear any criticisms about Masiela Lusha (Albanian ancestry) playing a Hispanic character on George Lopez. Why do you think that is?
Uhhh, no. Whitewashing is whitewashing regardless of the flavor of white. When whitewashing happens, I really doubt people are like “oh, let me look up exactly what kind of white this actor is, and if all their ancestry is on the east of some arbitrary border, then I’m not gonna critique about it.”
For the example you gave though and in general, I think the answer lies in visibility. So what I mean by that is…
1) These are two different kinds of whitewashing going on. And I think that really makes a difference. In The Last Samurai Example, it’s very obvious that Tom Cruise’s character is white. Following so many tropes, they’ve plopped a white person in a ~exotic location~ where they do everything better then the locals because white supremacy and the white savior complex. See also: Kevin Costner in Dances with Wolves; Scarlett Johansson in Lucy. With TLS, it’s so obvious that the white dude (as actor and character) is the hero. With the George Lopez Example, this is a case of casting a white actor to play a character of color. Which sometimes is extremely subtle, so you don’t hear a lot of criticism (ie, because the actor “looks” like they could be a PoC such as Al Pacino in Scarface; Vanessa Ferlito in Nothing Like the Holidays). But sometimes it’s not subtle at all and there’s lots of criticism (ie because the actor is very clearly white even though the character is a PoC… can also come with blackface, brownface, yellowface, etc. See the cast of Avatar: the Last Airbender; Jake Gyllenhaal in Prince of Persia). I’ll get back to this notion in a moment - white actors “passing” as PoC characters - but in terms of your comparison the visibility of whiteness is a factor.
2) Hollywood has a very flat version of what Latinxs look like, and thus base their casting choices off of that. And we as consumers buy into it. Seriously, the reason why you probably haven’t heard a lot of criticism against Masiela Lusha is because she “looks” Latina, and seems to fit right in with the rest of the cast. So people might not have thought to Google her. You literally see this all the time, because it’s major whitewashing of Latinidad as an identity. YES, white Latinxs exist. But you rarely see Indigenous and/or Black Latinxs and/or other kinds of Latinxs representing because of this fixed idea of what Latinxs look like… because you know, we all have dark hair and “olive-toned” skin. (see my above examples; Natalie Wood in West Side Story). Hollyowood really seems to love white actors that they can play off as ~ethnic, exotic folx~
3) Let’s face it, The Last Samurai is a big-budget film. This is not to say that George Lopez wasn’t a huge hit (it has an Emmy, also my family watched it lol) buuuut the amount of money, advertisement, and hype that goes into a movie like The Last Samurai makes people more aware of the actors, including their ethnoracial backgrounds. Most of the examples of whitewashing that I know about come from movies, particularly big blockbusters. That makes them more accessible, in my opinion, and then easier to critique (see also: Jennifer Lawrence in The Hunger Games; Benedict Cumberbatch in Star Trek: Into Darkness; most of the cast of 21).
So to sum up; it’s very obvious that Tom Cruise is a White Dude; media promotes flat representations of Latinidad; whitewashing in big films is more obvious.