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Dakota Fanning faced backlash online after entertainment blog Deadline Hollywood tweeted out a clip of her new movie Sweetness in the Belly and mistakenly identified the actress’ role as “A White Ethiopian Muslim In Refugee Drama-Romance.”
The film, adapted from Camilla Gibbs’ 2005 novel of the same name, stars Fanning as Lilly Abdal, a young woman abandoned as a child by her English parents in Africa. When war breaks out in Ethiopia, Abdal flees to the U.K. as a refugee and begins work to help reunite other refugees with their families.
Twitter users were outraged over the headline and Fanning’s apparent role.
“Dakota Fanning is a what,” Twitter user @Phil_Lewis_ wrote.
Dakota Fanning is a what https://t.co/RTZcWS9Y0F— philip lewis (@Phil_Lewis_) September 4, 2019
Many criticized the decision to cast a white woman as an Ethiopian Muslim refugee.
“so many talented Muslim actors out there and you cast… Dakota Fanning???????????????????? and to play an ETHIOPIAN?????????????? I BEG YOUR PARDON???????????????” user @muhammedbutt wrote.
so many talented Muslim actors out there and you cast... Dakota Fanning???????????????????? and to play an ETHIOPIAN?????????????? I BEG YOUR PARDON??????????????? https://t.co/XAgs6y2G98— Muhammad Butt (@muhammadbutt) September 4, 2019
“This is so coincidental – just yesterday I was saying, you know who would best represent the contemporary refugee experience in Africa? Dakota Fanning,” user @Libyaliberty joked.
This is so coincidental - just yesterday I was saying, you know who would best represent the contemporary refugee experience in Africa? Dakota Fanning. https://t.co/asMJowvdhb— hend amry (@LibyaLiberty) September 4, 2019
Fanning later posted on her Instagram Story to clarify her character’s role in the movie. “I do not play an Ethiopian woman,” Fanning wrote. “I play a British woman abandoned by her parents at seven years old in Africa and raised Muslim.”
In addition to Fanning’s Instagram story, a handful of Twitter users attempted to clarify her role in the film and accused Deadline Hollywood of a deliberately misleading tweet about Fanning’s role.
“Anyway Deadline Hollywood made a clickbait-y title that deliberately mislead people to the point where Dakota Fanning had to put out a statement,” @blackheartwings wrote.
Anyway Deadline Hollywood made a clickbait-y title that deliberately mislead people to the point where Dakota Fanning had to put out a statement.— 👻 Gaby's Ghost 👻 (@blackheartwings) September 5, 2019
It's all good guys pic.twitter.com/KQoxMBRQRq
“The #DakotaFanning uproar is a prime example of people not educating themselves before getting outraged on woke Twitter and looking stupid as hell,” @foxymnj said.
The #DakotaFanning uproar is a prime example of people not educating themselves before getting outraged on woke Twitter and looking stupid as hell. She plays a white British woman abandoned in Ethiopia by her parents at 7 years old.— mona lisa vito (@foxymnj) September 5, 2019
Sweetness in the Belly is set to premiere this week at the 2019 Toronto International Film Festival.
Collyn Burke is a senior journalism student at the University of Texas at Austin interning for the Daily Dot's editorial team and Two Girls One Podcast. Her work has previously appeared in the Daily Texan and the Texas Observer.