Hollywood still so white

by | March 28, 2017 | in Opinions | No Comments

Cultural appropriation should have been long dead by now. America has written civil rights into law, elected our nation’s first African American President, removed the word “Orient” from federal laws and yet, Yet the movie industry remains stuck when they allow films like “Ghost in the Shell” to lag behind society.
In older films like “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” Mickey Rooney played a Japanese landlord. It seems like this should have changed, but in the Popchips 2012 ad campaign, Ashton Kutcher appeared in brown face, acting as a racist caricature of an Indian man. In “Aloha,” Emma Stone, a white female actor, portrays the lead Chinese-American character Captain Allison Ng and finally in“Ghost in the Shell,” Scarlett Johansson portrays the lead Japanese character Major Kusanagi. The list goes on.
Still in 2017  the film industry is still practicing misrepresentation of ethnic roles. Having a white actor portray Asian characters is offensive. It takes us back to a time when we as a nation accepted blackface. There are a plethora of Asian-American actors who are fully capable of playing roles that are written for Asian-Americans to play, but Hollywood is just not giving them a chance. Hollywood’s incorrect representation is taking away the spotlight from Asian-Americans and placing it on the A-list white actors standing next to them. Not only as an Asian American, but as an aspiring filmmaker, there are not a lot Asian-American filmmakers for me to look up to. My list is small­— Jon Chu, Gracie Lee and Justin Lin are really still on a skiff trying to break the waves of the everlasting vast white ocean. img_4057
When creating a film, production companies place an exorbitant amount of pressure on directors and producers to deliver a successful, money-making film. Because there is this pressure for movies to be successful and profitable, well-known actors are repeatedly chosen. According to the Bunche Center 2017 Hollywood Diversity Report, white, leading actors’ share in theatrical films remains above 80 percent, while the minorities’ share of lead roles remains stagnant, peaking at 16.7 percent in 2013 and moving down to 13.6 percent in 2015. According to the US Census Bureau, 22.9 percent of the population is non-white, so there is no excuse for this disparity in Hollywood.
I’m not saying that it is not ok for a white person to play an Asian-American role. It is the decision of the director, ultimately. However, once the actor is cast they should not give into racial stereotypes and misrepresent another race—that is when the line is drawn.
While Asian-Americans are starring in lead roles, such as FBI Agent Hannah Wells portrayed by Maggie Q in “Designated Survivor” and Aziz Ansari portraying Dev Shah in “Master of None,” this is only a small step in the right direction. Hollywood’s persistent cultural appropriation of the industry’s past still overshadows the progress made.
Additionally in the Academy Awards they talk about inclusion and diversity, however their movies reflect a different motto. When Hollywood perpetuates cultural appropriation, it goes against of what the Academy is trying to promote.
When will Asians have more representation in the film industry?  Change has to start from the top with executives and heads of studios who make these casting decisions. Diversity is such a big part of our social fabric that it can no longer be ignored — to do so is a disservice to the many stories yet to be told in film and on stage.