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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Iced Earth: 'Burnt Offerings' Album Review

'Burnt Offerings' is Iced Earth’s magnum opus thanks to its impressive musicianship and brilliant songwriting


Jon Schaffer - Rhythm Guitar / Vocals

Randall Shawver - Lead Guitar

Matthew Barlow - Lead Vocals

Dave Abell - Bass Guitar

Rodney Beasley - Drums

Additional info:

Recorded at Morrisound Studios, Tampa, Florida.

Produced by Jon Schaffer and Tom Morris.

Year: 1995

Album Length: 52:39

Genre: Thrash Metal, Power Metal

Label: Century Media


Burnt Offerings is the third album by American power metal band Iced Earth. After a three year hiatus, Iced Earth comes back in full force. Iced Earth decided to adjust their lineup for the third time. Lead vocalist John Greely has been replaced by the legendary Matt Barlow and drummer Rick Secchiari has been replaced by Rodney Beasley. This makes the third vocalist and drummer in three albums for the band. These changes would prove to be the most important in the band's decision because it gave way for Matt Barlow to add his incredible vocal range on this record.

The Good:

Schaffer takes his songwriting to a whole new level on this record. Iced Earth had gone through some difficulties over the past 3 years, regarding differences with their label and between some band members which resulted in the angriest, the darkest and the heaviest songs that Schaffer has ever composed. Schaffer still maintains the beautiful acoustic sections and melody within the music though demonstrating his composing abilities further.

Matt Barlow is one of the best metal vocalists of all time. He immediately gave Iced Earth power, emotion, range, and variation that many vocalists can only dream of having. His voice added a new dimension to Iced Earth that took them from being a good band to an incredible one.

This is definitely the heaviest album in Iced Earth's discography. Burnt Offerings is a thrash metal album with some power metal tendencies. The amount of speed and aggression on this record is simply unmatched by other Iced Earth records.

The Bad:

There are no major weaknesses with this record.

Favorite Tracks:

Track 1: Burnt Offerings

I love the dark atmosphere of the track. It really sets the mood of the entire record. It begins with a slow and eerie opening, but soon completely changes tempo to a very thrash oriented sound. The vocals immediately stand out from previous albums with lower growl-like vocals and Barlow's powerful vocals. The riffs are fast paced when they need to be and slower during the more melodic parts. The track also utilizes acoustic passages to balance between the band's heaviness and melodious sound. The guitar solo is a welcome addition that only adds to an already brilliant opener.

Track 3: Diary

I love the heavy opening with its slow chugging guitar. It sets the dark tone of the entire track. The atmospheric element of this album is really what helps it stand out from other albums within the genre and there is no shortage of atmosphere on this track. I love the drumming on this track as well. Barlow's vocals are absolutely fantastic thanks to his utilization of different styles of vocals delivery. "Diary" is another standout from this fantastic record.

Track 6: Creator Failure

Barlow's voice is fantastic thanks to the power behind his brilliant delivery. The track changes pace and tone throughout its run-time. I love many of the different riffs that are utilized during the track as well as the fantastic guitar solos within the song. The song has such a fantastic mix of emotions between somber emotion and darker moods within its different sections. This is certainly one of Iced Earth's most unique tracks that they have ever written.

Track 8: Dante’s Inferno

"Dante's Inferno" is the band's most well-written song that they have ever composed. The song takes us through the Nine Planes of Hell for sixteen minutes, each plane has something new and demonic in store for the listener. Not only does this track contain terrific lyricism, it also contains an immense amount of well-written music. The song has a very unique song structure, contains many time changes, and has twists and turns at every corner. Schaffer proved that he is one of the greatest songwriters in metal history thanks to this terrific masterpiece. This is still the band's greatest composition to this day.

Rating Scale:

1: Garbage

1.5: Awful

2: Bad

2.5: Mixed

3: Decent

3.5: Good

4: Great

4.5: Excellent

5: Perfect


Burnt Offerings displays a large amount of heaviness, power, and emotion that many metal albums would be hard-pressed to achieve. The songwriting is as good as it gets in both the thrash and power metal genres and the performances from the members of the band are spectacular. Burnt Offerings is a true masterpiece that is basically perfect from beginning to end.


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13 Times 'Parks And Recreation' Accurately Described College Life

"I have no idea what I'm doing." - Andy (and probably many college students)

College is the time in everyone's life where you are partially an adult but not quite yet and each semester has it's same old ups and downs with lots of group suffering. From the dreaded finals to the excitement of breaks, here are just a few moments that almost happens every semester with a "Parks and Rec" GIF to illustrate.

1. Returning back to school

There's always excitement about going back to school and seeing friends again.

2. Figuring out your life

It seems like every semester, you have to really decide what you are planning to do in life. From your schedule and your major, to future job goals and internships, the beginning of the semester is when you start to plan what your next few months up to the next few years will be.

3. Partying

It's the start of the semester so the parties are starting up once again. As there are no tests and homework to worry about too much yet, you can party without realizing you forgot about a homework assignment.

4. First exam

Realizing that you didn't study as much as you should have is never a fond time and you remember that you have responsibilities again.

5. Trying to do homework

This is what getting that specific word count for that essay you really don't want to write feels like.

6. Midterms

So much stress.

7. Break (Thanksgiving or spring)

Going home is great because either you eat good home cooked meals or you go on a vacation but no matter what you get to relax. As long as you forget all about your upcoming assignments.

8. Returning from break


9. Group project

It always feels like one person does all of the work. And that person is probably you.

10. Procrastinating

Doing anything else is better than studying. Especially watching Netflix. You accomplish so much by procrastinating.

11. Questioning everything

Do you really want to major in Chemistry or do you want to quit college and become a flight attendant?

12. The beginning of finals week

The end is so close yet it feels so far away.

13. Completing your last final


Cover Image Credit: @parksandrecs

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