By Ivan Mateo
Cal Poly Pomona is one of the most diverse schools in California, let alone the nation.
A student walks around campus and there are so many different cultures, ethnicities and differences to embrace, yet in nearby Hollywood, a lack of diversity is still an issue.
Hollywood has a longstanding problem with whitewashing roles in films and television.
Whitewashing is a Hollywood casting practice where a film or TV show casts a white actor or actress to play the role of a character of a different ethnicity.
The latest example of whitewashing takes place in the Japanese anime/movie remake of “Ghost In The Shell,” starring Scarlett Johansson as Major. “Ghost In The Shell” actually serves as a solid live-action remake with a futuristic world and smooth action sequences, but having a film mired with controversy before release can only hurt the prior hype and build-up. The anime takes place in Japan and the main character’s name is Motoko Kusanagi.
The original “Ghost In The Shell” director, Mamoru Oshii, defended the casting choice when he told IGN, “What issue could there possibly be with casting her?” and “The Major is a cyborg and her physical form is an entirely assumed one. The name ‘Motoko Kusanagi’ and her current body are not her original name and body, so there is no basis for saying that an Asian actress must portray her.”
Netflix’s “Iron Fist” is the first negative consensus for any of the Netflix Marvel shows. It stars Finn Jones as Iron Fist, a white guy who learned and trained with Buddhist monks to become a martial arts expert.
I think these whitewashing decisions leave a negative impact and social media nowadays is so strong that word of mouth travels faster than ever before.
Once whitewashing is seen, people learn and they vote with their wallets.
Even when Asian actors do get tapped for a film role, they are generally typecasted as the stereotypical doctor, nerd, martial artist expert or even the villain.
In the case of “Avatar: The Last Airbender,” the opposing nation consisted of predominantly Asian actors and actresses such as Dev Patel and Aasif Mandvi. The director casted Asian actors, but they had to be on the villainous side.
There has been some progress in the expansion of diversity and opportunities for Asian actors and actresses, so there is hope for the future.
“Pacific Rim” (2013) cast Rinko Kikuchi as the lead actress, who kicks butt while piloting a giant mechanized robot alongside Charlie Hunnam.
Last year’s “Rogue One” starred Donnie Yen and Jiang Wen as part of the band of rebels trying to steal the plans for the Death Star. They helped round out the very diverse cast of “Rogue One.”
Television shows such as “Dr. Ken” and “Fresh Off The Boat” depict Asian families in everyday life.
Last year, Disney released the animated film, “Moana,” which depicts a girl of Polynesian descent traveling on a journey. “Moana” was special to me because the characters were Pacific Islanders. This is a step forward for broader representation. This is another perspective to be shown. Disney can realize its past mistakes by trying to fix them and so should the rest of Hollywood.
Society has always possessed a mix of ethnicities and cultures from a multitude of backgrounds, but will Hollywood adapt to the current landscape or continue to whitewash future films and television?
Robert Diep / The Poly Post
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