Emma Stone, Scarlett Johansson, Mikey Rooney! All big names in Hollywood we know and love who have all taken part in White-Washing roles that were originally intended for Asian Actors. You can love these actors all you want, but are we really going to let our love over shadow their harmful use of white privilege and ignorance?
Blogger and activist Jenn Fang calls out White Hollywood productions in the History of White People Playing Asian Characters for casting White actors to play the role of an Asian character in both the film and television industry. For too long Hollywood has been participating in Whitewashing, that according to Merriam-Webster “is the act of casting white actors as characters who are non-white. It can also refer to preferring white directors, cinematographers, over equally qualified people of color” (Webster,2017). Whitewashing isn’t a relatively new thing that Hollywood has been doing. It dates back to the earliest forms of discrimination in the entertainment industry –Yellowface.
Nancy Wang Yuen, Associate Professor at Biola University says “it’s a part of the same lineage. Whitewashing is a descendant of the original yellowface. It’s all part of the same story in American media: the underrepresentation, misrepresentation of Asians by white actors” (Fang, 2018).
There have been many cases of Whitewashing intentionally done by productions due to their claim that the Asian actor is not palatable enough for the audience- aka the White audience- therefore not bring in the needed revenue to succeed in Hollywood (see Ahmed, 2016; Close, 2016; Harwell, 2015) and the worst being “not good enough”. How can this claim even by made when Asians have only been represented by 4.4% in films (Smith & Piper, 2014)? Recent examples of Whitewashing include Aloha, Drangonball Z: Evolution, Death Note, Ghost in the Shell, Marvel’s Dr.Strange, and of course the Last Air Bender- All originally Asian driven narratives portrayed by White American actors (Lee & Gandhi, 2017). What Hollywood fails to recognize is the use of White-washing results in the dehumanization of Asian people (Fang, 2018).
In times of change, Hollywood continues to be heavily racist industry that turns a blind eye on doing the right thing when it comes to equal representation. It’s time to kick the Racist out of the equation, and I’ll show you how.
Ahmed, T. (10 May 2016). TV Star Salaries Reveal Pay Gap between White and Minority
Actors. News Week. Retrieved from https://www.newsweek.com/leaked-tv-star-
Close, K. (25 Feb 2016). Movies with a Diverse Cast Make More Money. Money. Retrieved
Feng, J. (8 Aug 2018). Yellowface, Whitewashing, and the History of White People Playing
Asian Characters. Teen Vogue. Retrieved from https://www.teenvogue.com/story/
Harwell, D. (15 Dec 2015). Diverse movies are a huge business. Why doesn’t Hollywood make
more? The Washington Post. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/
usiness/economy/diverse-movies- are-a-huge- business-why-doesnt-hollywood
Lee, T., & Gandhi, L. (21 Dec 2017). Hollywood has whitewashed Asian stories for decades.
Smith, S., & Piper, K. (2014). Race/Ethnicity in 600 Popular Films: Examining On Screen
Portrayals and Behind the Camera Diversity. University of Southern California.
Webster, M. (2016). A New Meaning of Whitewashing. Merriam-Webster. Retrieved
The opinion piece I’ve selected as the centre for my podcast episode is an article from Teen Vogue titled Yellowface, Whitewashing, and the History of White People Playing Asian Characters by Jenn Fang. The piece calls out White Hollywood productions for casting white American actors to play the role of an Asian character in both the film and television industry. The main claim of the article is that for a white person to think they are better equipped to play an Asian character than an Asian person, is the height of white privilege.
Jenn Fang is the founder of Reappropriate.co, one of the web’s oldest blogs dedicated to Asian-American feminism, pop culture, and politics. Fang graduated from Cornell University with a degree in Natural Science and a minor in Asian American and Pacific Islander Studies, better known as AAPI Studies.She continues to hold an active online presence on several editorial, magazine and blog sites (Teen Vogue, NBC, and The Nerds of Colour) discussing the Asian American/Coloured experience. She advocates for the rights of Asian’s (and other marginalized communities), equality, and health care. Fang’s bias is found in her work as an Asian American criticizing the use of Whitewashing roles meant for Asian actors and as an enthusiast of American pop culture/media.
What makes Fang’s piece on Whitewashing and Yellowface topical, is that it addresses a matter of racism in Hollywood that seems to be a reoccurring issue. When film’s such as Avatar: The Last Airbender and Speed Racer came out, the uproar of these productions casting White actors for roles originally intended for Asians seemed loud enough for Hollywood to get the message that Asians were done with Whitewashing. After all this time, Hollywood has still not received the message in full detail apparently. Film and television series such as Aloha, Dragon Ball Z, Death Note, Doctor Strange and Ghost in the Shell have all came out within the last few years still participating in Whitewashing. I believe this piece has the potential to create an interesting podcast episode due to the fact that even with many efforts to discourage Whitewashing, Hollywood continues to be a heavily racist industry in “times of change”.
After watching the two YouTube videos and considering the lecture notes, I found myself guilty of sometimes incorporating/mixing opinions with facts in previous work. I understand using my opinion in research is problematic because it is my own “lived truth”. Therefore, I cannot expect every reader of my work to have engaged in the same experiences I have lived, in order to agree with my personal opinion driven in emotion. I think opinion has the potential to weaken an argument or research due to bias. Since an opinion is subjective and cannot be confirmed, it makes it harder for an individual interpreting your work to come to a conclusion due to the many possible doors that are now open when entertaining the posed opinion rather than a fact.
A fact being proven and verified by experts, allows your work to be supported instead of having yourself fall within the gaps formed by an opinion that can only be lifted alone. In my head, I imagine an opinion being a house made from straw. Easy to break, supported by little to nothing. A fact can be viewed as a brick house. Strong, glued, and supported.
Week 1: Introduction
Hi! My name is Anjalee and I’m a second year Concurrent Education in Theatre student. My interests include baking, volunteer work, and working towards racial diversity in the arts. I am excited about the course project because I am open to learning new things. Personally, I haven’t seen many university courses offer students space and time to generate a truly thoughtful opinion through a scaffolding technique. From the way the course project is set up, I really believe that there is an opportunity to grow with strength.
A research shortcut/ tactic I think might be commonly used by undergraduate students is the reputation heuristic I learned in my Computer Information and society class (NATS 1700). This commonly occurs when students take the information found on the website of a well known organization with a profound reputation to determine the credibility of the information being presented. The problem of this tactic can be limiting because sometimes it may not be in the best interest or benefit of a student. Just because the reputation of a site is intact, this does not have to do with our ability to know if the information is true or false, we end up not analyzing the information critically due to the reputation overshadowing our lens.