The Invisibility of Asians On The Big Screen

The Invisibility of Asians On The Big Screen

An open letter regarding the erasure & whitewashing of Asian-Americans in Hollywood

To Hollywood, and to all my fellow Asian-Americans:

We live in a country where every time we turn on the television, we hardly see anyone who looks like us.

It’s a truth that all Asian-Americans know all too well in their lives: We go see box office hits about brave superheroes saving the world, watch TV shows about glamorous politicians and police detectives, read books about characters in poignant and beautiful romances. But none of them are about us. None of them tell our narratives—our stories.

And in those rare moments we do see people who look like us on the big screen? They’re either the geeky math nerd or the perpetual foreigner, the exotic prostitute or the model minority. Frankly, the list of racist stereotypes goes on and on.

It’s a particularly disturbing phenomenon when you consider the statistics: Asian-Americans are the fastest growing racial group in the country—yet, according to the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, they only represent about 5% of speaking roles and about 1.3% of lead roles in today’s films. And at least half or more of all cinematic, television, or streaming stories fail to portray one speaking or named Asian or Asian-American on screen. In a world where American entertainment media plays a pivotal role in defining the perceptions of every aspect of daily life, the unfortunate truth is this: on screen, Asian-Americans are mostly invisible.

But we won’t stand for it.

Instead, we ask you: why is the erasure of the Asians—and other minorities—still an acceptable practice in Hollywood? It’s bad enough that there already aren’t a lot of opportunities for Asian actors to appear on the big screen—so why do today’s top films still underrepresent the Asian-American population, feature racist stereotypes of the Asian culture, and even engage in the practice of “whitewashing” traditionally Asian narratives and roles?

Indeed, there’s a problem that so clearly needs to be addressed when, even in stories that traditionally feature Asian characters and Asian narratives, we are still rendered invisible. Take last year’s film “Aloha” for example, where Emma Stone took on the lead role of a half-Asian woman named Allison Ng—yes, blonde-haired, blue-eyed, white Emma Stone, as a woman of Chinese and Hawaiian descent. And just last April, Disney and Marvel Studios released a trailer for the adaptation of the Marvel comic “Doctor Strange” that presented Tilda Swinton as the Ancient One—a character that had originated in the comics as a Tibetan monk. And in the live-action American film adaptation of the Japanese manga series “Ghost in the Shell,” scheduled to be released in 2017, main character Motoko Kuanagi will be played by Scarlett Johansson—in a black bob.

And the list goes on. Too often, our rich and diverse narratives, essentially rooted in our Asian culture and heritage, are “whitewashed” into roles portrayed by white actors in plot-lines grounded in white culture—stories being told that are, for the most part, stories about white people—which is, after all, nothing new in Hollywood. (Recall Mickey Rooney's "yellowface" caricature-like portrayal of Mr. Yunioshi in "Breakfast at Tiffany's" in 1961, or John Wayne's role as Genghis Khan, founder of the Mongol Empire, in "The Conqueror" in 1956.) It’s almost as if our stories are just not seen as relatable or applicable to a predominantly white demographic—as if being minorities or people of color make our experiences not accessible or universal, but instead “ethnic” and “exotic” and “foreign.”

Well, to those filmmakers and producers in Hollywood we say this: Our stories are just as beautiful, just as universal—and just as important. When you engage in the practice of whitewashing, you allow the assumption that people have an inability to relate to and empathize with Asian characters, and thus perpetuate a mindset that ultimately diminishes our humanity and obliterates our essential identities in our own narratives. And we won't stand for it. As a rich, diverse, and complex group of people, we deserve just that—rich, diverse, and complex depictions of our stories and experiences.

So we ask you to join us in our movement: to stop the deleterious practices of whitewashing and erasure of Asians in film and to instead fight for our visibility on the big screen. To make beautiful films not just with Asian people as unimportant, minor characters in the background—as the heavily-accented, no-English foreigner, or the book-smart, straight-A’s math geek—but about Asians who are successfully acculturated as an integral part of the American culture, or about Asians who are street-smart and outspoken and badass people. We ask you to make films about Asians who are passionate and daring and confident, Asians who are flawed and human, Asians who are hot and desirable in positive romantic leads, Asians who are unique and interesting and shatter the cliched stereotypes that the world often molds them into—Asians who are essentially the lead roles in their own individual, extraordinary lives.

It's time for the film industry to catch up to the progress that television programs have recently made: to offer fresh, genuine portrayals of Asian-American families like ABC’s “Fresh Off The Boat,” or to present Asian men in positive romantic leads like in The CW’s “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend,” or to depict Asian women in ultra-competent and ultra-stylish lead roles in glamorous occupations like Lucy Liu in CBS’s “Elementary.” We’ve waited long enough to even see ourselves on the small screen—isn’t it time for those gains made in television to move to the big screen, too?

And to all my Asian-American brothers and sisters, I remind you: change starts with you. Especially to those who are the artists, the writers, the actors, the creatives—we need you now, more than ever. We need your novels on bookshelves, your screenplays in Hollywood, your names in big lights on movie screens and theater stages. Step up and make your art,even if your parents tell you that it’s not a practical career choice or if the rest of the world laughs and says that Asian entertainers have no future in the States; share your art, tell your stories—let your damn light shine.

And to those who are not artists: exercise your power as a consumer. As the fastest-growing ethnic group in the country, our households outspend the average American family by 19% annually, and are 29% more likely than the average American to spend money on name brands. We have more consumer power than we realize—and we don’t have to continue settling for films and sitcoms with people who look nothing like us, people whose experiences and voices are nothing like our own. Don’t just politely ask and wait—demand a seat at the table, call out studios and networks for their whitewashing and racist stereotypes and reward and offer support to the progressive ones.

After all, it’s time for Hollywood’s monotone vision of the world to get a taste of our colorful, diverse stories—stories that are our own, and, after all these years, deserve to be told in our own unique voices.

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The 5 Blessings Of Community Theatre

Whether you’re a veteran of the stage or a newcomer, an audience member or a Broadway star, community theatre is where it's at.

Is there anything more thrilling that live theatre? The heat of the lights, the colorful costumes, the pain of the mic tape? I think not, and whether you’re a veteran of the stage or a newcomer, an audience member or a Broadway star, community theatre is where most people get their start.

Community Theatre Blessing #1: You Find A Place Where You Are Always Welcome.

I have been blessed to have taken part in countless community theatre productions. I’ve danced through West Side Story, I’ve sung through Seussical, and I’ve been over the rainbow with The Wizard of Oz – twice. These community productions mean more to me than just a check mark on a bucket list or names on a page – these productions have allowed me to become who I am today. I’ve shared too-small dressing rooms (and makeshift dressing rooms) with 15 of my closest friends. I’ve stayed late after shows, not just cleaning and tidying for tomorrow’s run, but simply because I didn’t want to leave. I found a home within the walls of the theatre; I have left my name backstage as part of a legacy started before I was born.

Community Theatre Blessing #2: You Get To Be Involved With All Aspects Of Theatre.

Community theatre teaches you more than just one aspect of theatre. Although I started out acting, singing, and dancing, I have credits as a director, costumer, producer, and sound tech. In just this past week, I’ve had my house overrun with felt and glitter glue for a production of Peter Pan Junior – I jumped on board to have something to do over break. When break ends, I’ll be in rehearsal for a production of She Kills Monsters and I’ll be busy in the costume shop with The Minneola Twins.

Community Theatre Blessing #3: Lasting, Permanent Friendship.

I’ve made friends I would have never met otherwise. Many of my closest friends in community theatre are homeschooled, while I attend public school. Community theatre pulls in people from the surrounding towns as well. While I do most of my shows in Milford or Amherst, New Hampshire, I have friends from Pepperell, Nashua, Hollis, and Manchester. Just as I seek out these companies year after year for my friends, my friends seek out the same companies for the comradery they find.

Community Theatre Blessing #4: It Showcases The Talents Of Many, In Many Different Ways.

I’m not choosing to pursue theatre as a career, but on the community level, no one cares what you have a college degree in. My town’s annual PTA Play usually features some of our elementary school teachers in a tap dance – and I know from experience, tap isn’t easy! Community theatre allows people to showcase their talents that would otherwise stay hidden. Who knows, maybe your next-door neighbor has the voice of an angel!

Community Theatre Blessing #5: You Can Make It Anything You Want It To Be.

Community theatre doesn’t have the same kind of pressure as the professional world. I don’t have to do community theatre to survive, but I still choose to because I enjoy it. That’s what most people in community theatre do – they have a job that pays the bills and puts food on the table, but they get to live out their dreams and passions. One day, this will be me too – I’ll teach by day, and I’ll learn by night. If I’m too busy to commit to the entire rehearsal period, I know at least someone within the production will appreciate another set of hands. I know even if I cannot perform, I can still be involved.

Cover Image Credit: Naomi Cohen

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Astrology trending among the youth

Astrology trending


The ancient, and for some outdated, science of telling the future from looking at the stars is again trending. And this time it’s not the pink haired grandmothers gazing at the stars, it’s the young and hip! Google Trends show a significant increase in search volume related to astrology/horoscope related searches, Instagram and Pinterest are overblown of young hip bloggers decorating their homes in accordance with their horoscope!

The astrology scene has previously belonged to the older part of the population. The grandmas that have read their weekly horoscopes forever, then as they retire, finding they have endless amount of time to spend on their hobbies. Well as they have no hobbies, they have spent their time learning to see the future in the stars, studying astrology. Well, no more! Now statistics tell us that the youngsters are taking over, and the demand for “love” or “baby” horoscopes are growing by the minute, at the same time we can hardly open Facebook without seeing astrology related ads!

So, were to start you spiritual journey?

For those of you that want to take part in the recent spiritual awakening there are loads of information on the web, there are plenty of websites with high quality articles about almost all things related to astrology, horoscopes, clairvoyance or healing. Also good old Wikipedia has tons of information, both for sceptics and believers. Our clear advice is to start by reading all you can find on the internet, then move on to Amazon and buy some books on the subject. Books tend to dig a bit deeper and the authors don’t save their dynamite for later!

What are the best online astrology resources?

Lets start by mentioning www.å, a great site with tons of information about astrology, how to make horoscopes, clairvoyance, and other how tos, like how to become a clairvoyant. This is for the “spiritually gifted” of course. is definitely also holds tons of solid information, for those who like facts presented in the “Wiki-way”. Other than that our advice is to start Googling, surg the web and go with the flow! There are endless amounts of information, and there are endless amounts of cheap and free horoscopes to follow you on your trip towards enlightenment! But do remember that the saying “the best things in life are free” is not necessarily a guideline to stick to concerning astrology. Not because the cheap or free ones are bad or worse than others, but mostly because they are to general. I horoscope should be set for one single person based on time of birth. 

Great books for the beginner

I’d like to start by mentioning the great intro to astrology by writer Joanna Martine Woolfolk, with the suitable title “The Only Astrology Book You'll Ever Need”. This one takes you from newbie to full blown astrologist! Well, if not full blown, at least a decent well informed hobby astrologist. And from there you will know the path to reach your spiritual insight. The book will guide you in detail how to cast your own chart and also how to interpret it. With the book comes an app that’s about as fun as it is fantastic. That’s saves you decades of learning and hours of work setting you own horoscope!

The other book I’d like to present, with the new and young audience is “Astrology & Interior Design: Unlocking the Secret to Your Personal Style at Home”. A book by Kita Marie Williams, right to the heart of the new wave of astrologers. The title tells it all for this adventure of a book. How to make use of this agent science when planning and decorating your home. Here you will find general instructions, help you cast charts, and help you find true inspiration from the spiritual world. Where do you belong in the Zodiac? Really doesn’t matter, this book will help you place your closet and find the nips to go with it as well!

Let me end this by encouraging you to start your journey against the stars right now! Go to Amazon, Åndelighet or Google right at this moment, begin learning and by all means don’t forget to have fun!


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