Over the recent years, the cries of crowds have become louder and louder. They protest over many things, but in this article, I will hone over one particular sentiment: Asian representation in media.
How many times has an Asian featured as the main lead, received an equal amount of screen time and lines without having to play a stereotype? How many times have Asian characters been played by actual Asians? How many times have Asians been given roles that only fit into the small spectrum of what whitewashed Hollywood thinks they can only be?
We are geeks, we are aloof posses, passed-over love interests, scantily dressed women, over-sexualized men, and walking advertisements of Asian brands. Pocky? Hello Kitty? Of course our characters on the screen have them. Noodles? Chopsticks? Rice?
The point is, when Hollywood decides to be inclusive of Asians, they limit them to roles that not only cages them in labels, but also restricts them in the interests and characteristics they have.
Recently, Daniel Dae Kim and Grace Park, two main characters in the long-running series, Hawaii Five-O, have quit from their jobs. Why? Because of unequal pay. A television show centered around tropical Hawaii, which is known to have a large Asian-American population, is losing its two prime Asian actors because of unequal pay.
Even more recent, was actor, Ed Skrein's, choice in leaving his role in the Hellboy movie reboot. Why did he choose to leave? Because he and other fans have noted that his character was of "mixed Asian heritage." A born and raised English man, Ed Skrein quickly realized the problem in hiring a white actor for an Asian role; it ignored the rightful cry for representation and denied people of said heritage from achieving a voice in media.
As a popular mention, Marvel Studios, echoes this sentiment of whitewashing Asian roles. In the movie, Doctor Strange, not only does a quarter of the film focus in on a Tibetan setting, but it also features Tibetan monks which Dr. Strange has to train with. The problem? His teacher, the Ancient One, canonically received as a Tibetan monk, is played by a white actress, Tilda Swinton. From her Asian garbs to her shaved head, her whole character begged a comparison to the narrow-minded yellow face that was popularized back in the twentieth century. Have we not progressed at all, Hollywood?
Are we regressing? Are you getting worst?
Must I expand anymore? Must I bring up the mistake that was the live action mess, Avatar: The Last Airbender? A television series turned movie that was heavily if not primarily founded upon various Asian cultures, opted to cast white actors as Asian, and dark-skinned Asians as antagonists. Not only did this film fail at giving Asians heavy film exposure, but it also played with the rampant prejudice theme that dark-skinned Asians are below their paler counterparts.
Hollywood, what is wrong with you?
Many times, to defend their choices, directors will say that there are no available A-list Asian actors and actresses for their role - that there are no big enough Asian performer names out there that will do their film justice. I wonder why.
How can a reputation be built if a person isn't given the chance to even make one? Argue the old adage of, "if there's a will, there is a way," but I will simply refute back that there is definitely a will, but all the ways are blocked. Asian performers cannot build the box office attraction that their white counterparts can because they simply have not been given the chance to by close-minded directors.
Besides that, look overseas. There are a clamoring number of Asian performers, all fluent in English and followed by millions, who can be called over to act in these so-coveted Asian roles. And if at that point, a director can't see the potential in those talented celebrities then that director is outright being discriminatory towards Asian performers in general because that means he or she is denying their hard work.
Oh, but what about those few successful Asian films? Like Harold and Kumar, one might argue? Take a closer look at films like those. Harold and Kumar, while fair comedic hits, take jabs at how Asians are portrayed. (I.e. Stereotypical Ivy League Students and the cameos of some racist punks.)
And as an insert, there is also the Fast and the Furious franchise to look at it. With a very diverse cast, it inserts many performers of various ethnicities in a right light without exaggerating or ridiculing their origins. And, it's still a popular franchise.
So Hollywood, open your eyes, please?
Give our performers the roles that was theirs to begin with. Don't be the wall in this social issue.