Asian Inequality in Hollywood

Almost everybody remembers just a few months ago, the outrage that was received when it was announced that Scarlett Johansson would play the main lead in the film “Ghost in the Shell”. The outraged was caused because the role that Johansson was going to play was of Asian descent and this was just another instance of Hollywood whitewashing Asian roles. Hollywood has had a history of whitewashing roles and it usually leads to some outrage but it ultimately dies down eventually and that is what inspired our final project. John and I are both Asian Americans and throughout both of our lives, we have witnessed countless roles that were meant for Asians go to white actors and before our research we were not entirely sure why. At the start of our project we researched and tried to find more examples of Hollywood whitewashing and the root of this whitewashing. We soon found some of the first examples of whitewashing with Charlie Chan, an Asian detective played by white actors and we also discovered the unfortunate reason for the whitewashing. It turned out that Asian males were not seen as very cool and attractive for the audience and they believed that casting a white man for the role will add another layer of masculinity and appeal. Fast Forward to the 21st century, where more people are more open and accepting of other races, Hollywood still has not evolved with the rest of the world. Hollywood continues to cast white actors for Asian roles because of this outdated view they have of Asians.

Once we had done our research, we knew that we wanted to find out how many people actually knew about this problem in Hollywood. We soon decided to interview a few of our peers in order to get a small sample size of people’s knowledge of the situation. In our interview two of the main questions we asked were, “Do you know the inequality that Asians are facing in the film and television industry?” and “What do you think is the main source of this inequality” and all of the people we interviewed knew about the problem and also they had a multitude of different reasons. Many of the answers to the reason why Asians were not given roles ranged from the studios just wanted bigger names related to the project to the original source of the inequality that Asians were not appealing to the audience. We were pleased to discover that many of our friends knew the problem and knew the many different sources of the problem.

We believe that with this video, we can share this with others to first teach others that it is not just Asians who know about the problem and also show others the multitude of reasons for this inequality. In this class we learned that there are many different forms of activism and one impactful way we can participate in activism is by informing others of the problem because, if others are not informed of the problem there is nothing you can do. Through this project and along with the class, we really learned that there is no criteria to being an activist, anybody can be an activist. Before this class we both agreed that we probably weren’t activist because we never really did any activist work, or so we thought but we quickly learned that small things like informing others can make you an activist. Whether we inform and teach one person or a thousand people, we know that just putting the information out there makes us, active activists. Overall, we hope that this video will inform and teach others about the inequality towards Asians in the Hollywood industry and ultimately lead to change.  
-John Suh & David Park


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