Why It’s Not Ok For White People To Take Asians Roles

I know, immediately after you white folks read that headline you immediately went on the defensive. You know why? Because you don’t like it when people question the status quo. And the status quo right now, is white traditions, beliefs, and values.

But let me just bring you back a few years and prove to you that your belief is problematic, and why you shouldn’t be reinforcing it.

Whitewashing in the film industry started in the early 20th century was when white actors played caricatures of minorities by wearing blackface or yellowface. They took the worst stereotypes of their cultures and used it to poke and make fun of their culture, and helped reinforce racism.

While no sane Hollywood producer would dare to do blackface, a majority of Asian roles are still being cast to white actors. And while the media keeps telling you they’re making progress we can list out all the films that were whitewashed. 75.2% of all speaking roles goes to white actors according to the University of Southern California’s “Inequality in 700 Popular Films” study. Not only did they point out how whitewashed it was, but they showed how gender, race, and LGBT status affected how people were cast in Hollywood.

“Only 17 of the 100 top films of 2014 featured a lead or co-lead actor from an underrepresented racial and/or ethnic group. An additional 3 films depicted an ensemble cast with 50% or more of the group comprised of actors from underrepresented racial/ethnic backgrounds.”

Out of the 4,610 speaking characters, only 10 were gay, 4 were lesbian, 5 were bisexual, and none of them were transgender. So not only are Asian-Americans an endangered species, but LGBT characters are just as scarce in Hollywood.

  • Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time
  • The Last Airbender
  • Exodus: Gods and Kings
  • The Lone Ranger
  • 30 Days of Night
  • Aloha
  • Anna and the King of Siam
  • Argo
  • Batman Begins
  • Doctor Strange
  • Dragonball Evolution
  • Ghost in Shell
  • Gods of Egypt
  • The Great Wall
  • The Hunger Games
  • Kubo and the Two Strings
  • The Martian
  • Noah
  • Pan
  • The Social Network
  • Star Trek Into Darkness
  • Stonewall
  • Stuck
  • Wanted
  • Warm Bodies
  • World Trade Center

And those are just films that were made in the 2000s…but this has been happening as far back as 1915.

Hollywood has begun a new phase of racial erasure. They’re removing the original ethnic identities of characters to make the white character fit the white actor. And then they lie about the casting it was a “colorblind casting,” when that is just fancy talk for racist bullshit.

Take Doctor Strange, they cast Tilda Swinton and changed her backstory to be a Celtic mystic. Swinton was spoonfed the point from the producers that she wasn’t playing an Asian character for the film in The Hollywood Reporter as well.

“Well, it’s not actually an Asian character — that’s what I need to tell you about it. I wasn’t asked to play an Asian character, you can be very well assured of that.”

Colorblind casting has almost never worked positively for people of color except for when they cast Idris Elba.

Everybody has gone up in arms about the upcoming Batman film because of the prospect of an Asian actor, Steve Yeun, playing Robin. That would be a huge milestone for the Asian-American community. Other Asian actors have even stepped forward like Big Hero 6’s Ryan Potter. He tweeted and even a video fight sequence of him wanting to play Tim Drake, another one of Batman’s many Robins.

But Hollywood sees everything as white and green.

White Actor = More Money

Constance Wu and Ming-Na Wen have become some of the most outspoken actresses who are finally helping to call out Hollywood on this racism.

After Scarlett Johansson was cast as the main character for Ghost in Shell. And they are right to be angry after the film’s producers tested visual effects to make characters in the movie appear more Asian.

“A lot of people’s visions of who they think looks like their hero is rooted in systemic racism,” Fresh Off the Boat star Wu said.

Ming-Na Wen, an Asian-American actress, known for being part of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has been the most outspoken actress about white characters playing Asian characters.

“It’s been very interesting, the last couple of years, to see this new trend happening in Hollywood which is kinda surprising to me, considering how China especially is becoming such an incredible force in cinema. And to have that going on and at the same time, this backwards step in Hollywood where there’s been several incidences where characters that were specifically Asian are being given to [white] actors…”

“That’s astounding to me because, on the one hand, I understand about economics and needing to make money and needing to have the big names but—and sometimes they cast the whitest of Caucasians! You know, like Emma Stone in Aloha and Scarlett Johansson…”

“Ghost in Shell was a very specific anime character with a Japanese name. And I know she’s a cyborg. However, it’s a Japanese cyborg!”

“There are a lot of big name stars in Asia. So they could have plucked any of them. Or give us the chance. If Asian-Americans don’t have the chance to star in films and television roles, how are they going to become big names?”

America doesn’t allow opportunities for Asian people to get the visibility they need to have their stories told. For years first generation Asian-Americans have passively accepted this in order to assimilate into society, to not cause a ruckus and become the “other.”

“I think it’s because of the scarcity of roles,” Constance Wu said. “If I say this against this executive producer, maybe they won’t hire me. Better to say it in private to my friends so that I get employment later.“

“The thing we need to learn is … the job is not worth it because jobs come and go,” Wu continued. “I hope the Asian community starts becoming more vocal.”

The Asian community needs to wake up and say, this is not ok. Some people like Mimi are already doing it, but reclaiming Asian culture and roles back. And we need everyone: white, black, latino, middle eastern, it doesn’t matter. Everyone, needs to tell Hollywood we’re sick of this and we want more diversity. And it’s up to the white actors who are cast in these roles that need to stop taking it.

CAPE (Coalition of Asian Pacifics in Entertainment) is a diversity-focused group of actors, directors, and writers from Hollywood, with a mission to bring together Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in the film industry. They hope to educate, connect, and empower Asian American and Pacific Islander artists and leaders in the industry to bring about social change.

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