It’s 2016 and we’re still having white people casted in Asian character roles — from Scarlett Johansson in the upcoming Ghost in the Shell to Tilda Swinton in Doctor Strange.
Most folks got that Scar Jo’s casting choice was a poor one — but what make’s Swinton’s casting in Doctor Strange a bit more problematic is that the attention to the gender swap for her character received positive attention.
When Tilda Swinton first got casted in Marvel’s Doctor Strange as a traditionally depicted ‘male’ character, folks praised the bold casting choice. What some people failed to notice was that the character they gender-swapped was a powerful Asian mystic and those celebrating that choice were actually practicing white feminism.
While this isn’t a new Hollywood thing — with diversity and representation being two buzzwords swirling around the media and industry these last couple years, it’s disappointing that the white-washing of Asian characters is still happening. Though white feminism has picked up slightly — systematic racism is still thriving and industry influences are doing little about it.
Of course, select publications have made an effort to call out production teams, writers, directors and studio presidents — but not enough folks are holding the white actors that accept the roles accountable for their part in the problem. At the end of the day, Johansson is guilty for taking on the task of portraying an Asian character and Swinton should at least acknowledge the white feminism happening. It’s a responsibility that not enough actors take seriously.
Asian actors exist and should be taking on Asian roles. With the few roles actually written for Asian characters, casting white people to play them is outrageous.
Back in February, a study released by the Media, Diversity and Social Change Initiative at the University of Souther California’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism found an “epidemic of invisibility” through the industry for women, minorities and LGBTQ+ folks.
“Asians represented just 5.1 percent of speaking or named characters across film, television and digital series in 2014, and at least half of those projects featured no such Asian characters at all,” reports The Hollywood Reporter in their coverage to sniff out Where are the Asian-American Movie Stars?
So, it’s especially confusing that when films have the opportunity to cast Asians for Asian roles — they just don’t. Instead of doing the right thing, they opt for white names and inevitably white-wash characters — and in extension, movies that have the potential to showcase diversity and representation.
For those who want to do their part to help this dire situation — the best advice is to boycott these types of pictures that fail to cast properly. Don’t invest your money in films that bank of white-washing. Just don’t do it. And, for the love of all things furry, don’t praise Marvel for the gender swap thing and disregard the white-washing that’s taking place.