According can affect how we treat the people

            According
to USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, Asian actors make up
only one percent of lead roles in Hollywood and in 2007, only 3.4% of
characters were Asian. From 2007 to 2015, the percentage of Asian characters did
not increase (Smith et al). It is evident that Asians are underrepresented in
visual mediums like television and film. This lack of Asian representation over
the last few years has led to an immense dialogue about what it means to have diversity
on the screen. The media contributes to and is an unescapable part of popular
culture. It affects not only how we think about ourselves, but also other
people which in turn can affect how we treat the people around us. This is why
on-screen representation matters. Visibility is important because when a
certain group is not equally portrayed on-screen, it makes that group feel like
they are not valued or their stories are not important enough. When
Asian-Americans are given the
opportunity to play a role in a television or film, the majority of the roles reinforce
existing stereotypes. A stereotype can be defined as “a fixed general image or
set of characteristics that a lot of people believe represent a particular type
of person or thing” (“Definition of ‘Stereotype'”). Stereotypical roles
perpetuate stereotypes and has viewers believing that the stereotypes depicted
on-screen are true. Many television shows and films also fall prey to
whitewashing, a common practice in which white actors are hired to portray a
character of color. This frequently occurs with Asian roles. Also, many people
view Asian ethnicities to be interchangeable; people see East Asians and
Southeast Asians as the same. This includes the Chinese, Japanese, Korean,
Vietnamese, Taiwanese, etc. Viewing Asian ethnicities as undifferentiated leads
to interchangeable casting meaning that an Asian actor of one ethnicity is
hired to play a role of a different Asian ethnicity. This practice reinforces
the stereotype that “all Asians are and look the same.” Asian-Americans are
inadequately represented in television and film and the stereotypical roles
that they do play manifest in the viewers’ minds. Despite this, small progress
has recently been made on the screen in which Asian-Americans are able to truthfully
present their stories through shows such as Fresh
Off the Boat and Dr. Ken.

            There
is no doubt that Hollywood is guilty of whitewashing. A recent example of
casting directors hiring white actors to play Asian characters is in the 2017 film
titled Ghost in the Shell, the
live-action remake of a classic Japanese manga that takes place in a futuristic
world. Scarlett Johansson, a white actress, plays the character of Major Motoko
Kusanagi whose ethnicity is Japanese. What led to further public anger is that
Scarlett Johansson’s appearance was altered by visual effects in order to make
her look “more Asian,” which is clear that this is a blunt form of whitewashing.

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Ming-Na Wen, a Chinese-American actress famous for voicing Disney princess
Mulan and playing the character of Melinda May in Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., spoke up about Hollywood editing
Johansson’s appearance. She said, “Altering a white actor’s features to appear more
Asian reduces our race and our ethnicity down to mere physical appearance… our
ethnicity, our races, and our culture are so much deeper than how we look” (Cheng).

It is clear that there is a lack of diverse Asian representation. Paramount,
the film studio that co-produced Ghost in
the Shell, “planned to cast a white actress in the role from the very
beginning” (Halliwell). In fact, white Australian actress Margot Robbie was
offered to play the lead role before Johannsson took the offer. In another case,
Emma Stone, the highest-paid actress in the world, was hired to play the
character of Allison Ng who is of half-Chinese descent in the film, Aloha. It is evident that although there
are some opportunities for Asian-American representation, white actors continue
to be prioritized over people of color and it is clear that white supremacy
operates behind the camera. Asian erasure and whitewashing in film and
television is a constant and overlooked issue that takes away from Asian
representation.  

            First
airing in 1994, All-American Girl, a
short-lived television series, symbolizes
the first sitcom to feature primarily an Asian-American family. It follows the
story of a Korean-American woman named Margaret Kim, a modern 22-year-old who
lives with her traditional Korean immigrant family in San Francisco. The themes
of the sitcom relate to Margaret whose “wild,” westernized lifestyle conflicts
with her family’s strict values and expectations. This sitcom was the first
attempt in trying to portray an authentic family but instead it was widely
criticized for promoting stereotypes of Asian-Americans. Margaret Cho, the
Korean-American actress who plays Margaret Kim, said she was ultimately
unsatisfied with the show because it tried too hard to appeal to the mainstream
audience. All-American Girl was cancelled
after only one season. The sitcom ultimately “became concerned with supplying
the audience with a rendition of an Asian American family that meets
stereotypical expectations” (Cassinelli). The show mocks multiple stereotypes.

The parents are depicted as overbearing, the grandma is hopelessly
unassimilated, and Margaret’s two brothers are portrayed as nerds who are
consumed by math and science—one of her brothers, Stuart, is in a residency program
to become a doctor which also models the stereotype that all Asians go on to study
in the STEM field and pursue careers to be doctors or engineers. Stuart clearly
embodies the model minority stereotype with his high achievements. He
effortlessly follows his traditional Asian family culture and is seen as
obedient and submissive, which illustrates further evidence of the
stereotypical Asian child. Margaret’s mother also represents the stereotype of a
mother not wanting her daughter to date someone white. It is clear that the
roles played by Asian actors focus merely on meeting stereotypical expectations
as a comedic form. All-American Girl
was too stuck on race and functioned as a vehicle to perpetuate these
Asian-American stereotypes which “gives the Asian and non-Asian audience minimal
substance to relate to” (Cassinelli, 132-133). These stereotypical representations
of the average Asian-American family furthermore lead viewers to believe these “authentic”
Asian-American representations embody a real Asian-American when these familial
portrayals are in reality not accurate.

            The
ABC sitcom, Fresh Off the Boat, became
the first ever Asian-American sitcom since All-American­­­
Girl­ in 1994 marking over a 20-year hiatus, and is one of two of ABC’s
sitcoms that are representations of Asian-American families, the second sitcom
being Dr. Ken. This show was met with
praise but also skepticism because of the failed history of All-American­­­ Girl­ as well as the common
Asian-American stereotype that the title elicits: it describes Asian-Americans
as “FOBs,” or immigrants coming from Asia with thick accents who are unable to
assimilate to or are unable to understand the ways of American culture. Despite
the fact that Fresh Off the Boat
takes place in the 90s, it is successful in telling a realistic story of an
Asian-American family without being too stereotypical or focusing solely on familial
portrayals. Fresh Off the Boat is
based off of a memoir written by author and chef Eddie Huang under the same
name: “Fresh Off the Boat.” This
television show follows the course of
restaurateur Eddie Huang’s Taiwanese-American family as they move from
Washington D.C. Chinatown, to Orlando, Florida—the latter being a predominantly
white area. This comical sitcom also breaks multiple stereotypes. 11-year-old Eddie,
one of the three children, breaks the model minority stereotype. Rather than
being portrayed as a highly intelligent and studious boy, he is pictured
struggling in his academics and earning “C” grades. This sitcom also defies the
stereotype that all Asians have incredibly thick accents. Eddie, his two brothers,
and his father Louis Huang all talk like the average American. Also, Louis owns
a cowboy-themed steakhouse restaurant rather than an Asian restaurant. Fresh Off the Boat is an honest
on-screen portrayal of an Asian-American family and is significant in
symbolizing a changing demographic in which Asian Americans are being
represented culturally in an accurate manner that attracts more than just an
Asian audience. This diverse sitcom defies the use of harmful stereotypes and
does not rely on them for comedy.

            A
controversial problem that exists in casting is the idea of interchanging Asian
casting where a person of one Asian ethnicity will play a character of a
different one. This is most common with East Asian and Southeast Asian
countries because these cultures are often lumped together by society due to
the existing stereotype that all Asians’ appearances and cultures are
indistinguishable. Sitcom Fresh Off the
Boat falls prey to this problem. Randall Park, a Korean-American actor,
plays Louis Huang, a Taiwanese character. In an interview, Park says how he
spoke to the directors and producers because he felt it would not be right for
him to act as the role of an Asian character of a different ethnicity. He
describes how his logic for taking the role is that we are still at a point in
society where white people are still playing Asian characters and therefore
having Asians portray Asian characters is still incredibly critical to Asian-American
representation. Park also confirms that in an ideal world, an Asian-American
would not be playing a character of a different Asian ethnicity (Fernandez). It
is evident that because Asian-American actors have limited opportunities, much
of the focus is solely ensuring that Asian-Americans play Asian characters.

            More
and more actors are protesting against the issue of whitewashing and giving way
to changes in the acting industry. It was announced in August of 2017 that Ed
Skrein, a white actor, would be playing the role of Major Ben Daimio, a
Japanese-American character, in the Hellboy
reboot film to be released in 2018. There was intense conversation surrounding
the casting of Skrein with many people describing this as another case of
Hollywood whitewashing. A week after, Ed Skrein respectfully announced on
twitter that he would be stepping down because by not doing so, he “would
continue a worrying tendency to obscure ethnic minority stories and voices in
the Arts. . . Representation of ethnic diversity is important and it is our
responsibility to make moral decisions in difficult times and to give voice to
inclusivity” (Couch). Skrein set an example for Hollywood and was met with a
multitude of positive comments and praise especially by Asian-American actors.

In September, it was publicized that Daniel Dae Kim, a Korean-American actor,
would be replacing Skrein for the role of Ben Daimio. While some people were
ecstatic over the news that an Asian-American actor was casted to play an
Asian-American role, others were not as pleased and felt that this whitewashing
occurrence was simply swapped for interchangeable Asian casting because Ben Daimio
is of Japanese-American descent and Kim is not. Many were disappointed because Ben
Daimio’s Japanese-American Culture has a heavy influence on his character. This
implies that Asian cultures are interchangeable and although Skrein’s resignation
symbolized a positive step towards Asian-American representation, many felt the
casting of Kim was still problematic. It is evident that there is still an
ongoing debate about whether interchangeable Asian casting is an issue that
should be given more light.

            Furthermore,
it can be concluded that change is needed in regard to Asian-American representation.

Asian-Americans are given limited opportunities when they are, the majority of
the roles include playing a stereotypical Asian-American character which can be
problematic situations in which viewers are led to believe these stereotypes to
be true. Asian-American actors and actresses are also limited in their roles in
Hollywood because casting directors will often hire white actors to play a
character of color. In the past couple years, more and more actors have begun to
speak out and protest against Hollywood whitewashing and this proved to be
successful when actor Ed Skrein stepped down from Hellboy to allow for Asian-American representation in a culturally
accurate manner. Media representation is on the road to becoming reality as Asian
actors continue to fight for diverse roles that defy stereotypes because there
is no universal Asian-American experience. This is visible with the success of Fresh Off the Boat. The visual media
industry has impacts on millions of people and Asian-Americans deserve to be
able to use this platform to tell their own stories.

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