Margaret Cho, Keith Chow (Nerds of Color) and Ellen Oh (#WeNeedDiverseBooks) are taking a stand against the white-washing of Asian culture within media. The #WhiteWashedOut campaign launches today, May 3, with a chat at noon Pacific Time to “talk honestly and openly about the dangers of erasure and lack of representation in Asian American communities.”
George Takei chimed into the ongoing and very necessary conversation by offering his opinion on the recent casting of Tilda Swinton as the Tibetan character “The Ancient One” in Doctor Strange. Scarlett Johansson was recently cast as Major Motoko Kusanagi, the lead character in Japanese anime Ghost in the Shell. Clearly, this blonde of Danish-Ashkenazi heritage is the best choice for the role of a Japanese cyborg. *eye roll*
“They cast Tilda because they believe white audiences want to see white faces,” he says. “Audiences, too, should be aware of how dumb and out of touch the studios think we are.”
He said more on Twitter:
“To those who say, ‘She an actress, this is fiction,’ remember that Hollywood has been casting white actors in Asian roles for decades now, and we can’t keep pretending there isn’t something deeper at work here. If it were true that actors of Asian descent were being offered choice roles in films, these arguments might prevail. But there has been a longstanding practice of taking roles that were originally Asian and rewriting them for white actors to play, leaving Asians invisible on the screen and underemployed as actors. This is a very real problem, not an abstract one. It is not about political correctness, it is about correcting systemic exclusion. Do you see the difference?”
Mashable reached out to Marvel Studios, where a spokesperson offered this statement:
“Marvel has a very strong record of diversity in its casting of films and regularly departs from stereotypes and source material to bring its MCU to life. The Ancient One is a title that is not exclusively held by any one character, but rather a moniker passed down through time, and in this particular film the embodiment is Celtic. We are very proud to have the enormously talented Tilda Swinton portray this unique and complex character alongside our richly diverse cast.”
Twitter users are speaking out against erasure using the #WhiteWashedOut hashtag to tell their own personal stories. Take some time to read the experiences of others to learn a bit about how lack of representation affects them. If you’re Asian American, join the chat with that hashtag.