Hollywood has a reputation for being impartial to the truth in the interest of pursuing a good story. Meaning that “facts” aren’t always true and “events may not be shown as they actually occurred”. Now generally most people would accept this, after all don’t we goo to the movies to escape from reality? Don’t we want to indulge our senses in fantasy and fiction? Aren’t we mature enough to realize a story is just that- a story- and meant to elicit a response and nothing more. Except what happens when the characters we know and expect to see are played by the least likely of actors? Most commonly this occurs with something called “white washing”.
No, we’re not talking about DIY painting projects, we’re talking about the portrayal of characters of color and mixed ethnicity being portrayed by white actors. Ok,Ok before you get excited and think this article is about to get political and heavy let me stop you right there. Not the direction we are going, but let’s dialogue anyway.
Hollywood’s Long History Of White Washing
In the early days of the entertainment industry many roles were filled by White actors because they were the only equity actors out there, Hollywood simply didn’t cast actors of color. For example Marlon Brando played a Japanese Interpreter in the 1956 film “The Tea-house of the August Moon” because there were few Asian actors.
When it came down to making money or being open minded Hollywood producers tended to lean in favor of making money. But guys, it’s 2016. Why is this still a topic of discussion? Actor Steven Yeun of Walking Dead fame graced the cover of Entertainment Weekly recently and created a stir. He’s only the 3rd Asian Male Actor to make the cover since the magazine was first issued in 1990. Or how about Emma Stone’s portrayal of a half Chinese, Half Hawaiian character in the movie “Aloha”.
Make’s sense right? She’s a fair skinned, red head with blue eyes…the obvious choice for a Hawaiian character.
When questioned about casting choices producers still stand by the old arguments, if they want to cash in on ticket sales they stick to highly visible actors despite the fact they might not match the ethnicity of characters. Showbiz still has a hard time seeing Asian men in leading roles, especially as romantic or highly masculine characters.
Let’s get real. If today we can fly around the world at higher speeds and with less risks, drive an electric powered car, and screen my own genome for possible health defects than we can accept an Asian actor playing an Asian character. Bye bye yellow face and whitewashing and hello accurate representations!