This is a weird, random, and controversial thought, but….
I wonder if this consistent pattern of replacing Asian characters with White actors (even with more and more Asian actors getting more screen time [at least on TV] and all these articles highlighting whitewashing) is a subtle and unconscious battle of cultural and racial dominance? If it stems from a fear-based place of “if you put more Asians as leads in mainstream, worldwide entertainment, then it removes some of the cultural dominance of the status quo”.
I’m really not trying to bash White people, but you really can’t argue that White people overall have more privileges than any other race. And White men are the heads and execs at basically every major company in Europe and North America. And in entertainment, which has major worldwide influence, White people and predominately men are the execs, directors, writers, producers, and agents. Ironically, they welcome foreign money with open arms from Chinese to Middle Eastern investors.
Asians, population-wise, are more than 50% of the world; China and India have enormous populations with a lot of spending power. Asian countries have created very popular forms of entertainment with anime, manga, and video games. They frequently feature characters of Asian descent. Japan has always been a powerhouse country, but their status as an Axis power in World War II has set them up historically as a bad guy. Then their strength in electronics and cars in the 90’s set them up as the “competition” (i.e. not American and not us). And Chinese is ALWAYS the bad guy in the news. “We can’t have factories in China. The Chinese are gonna take over.” There’s a history of US vs THEM. Besides the military, the only industry of world dominance that White America has complete control over is the entertainment industry. American movies make so much internationally. Ironically, the US entertainment industry depends on the income from the foreign markets, but cater very little to their populations by representing them on screen. They know that the foreign populations will come see their movies no matter what, because they aren’t doing huge budget CGI movies where they are.
So for instance letting Scarlett Johansson’s character remain Asian or Emma Stone’s or Tilda Swinton’s or Emile Hirsch in Speed Racer or the random guy they cast for the Dragon Ball Z movie. If we actually cast Asian people in those roles then the ENTIRE WORLD would develop more favorable opinions about Asians. They could become sexy and cool instead of docile, studious, and sexless. And FOREIGN. Even in Asia, Asians are foreign. We are not American. I go to Thailand and I’m not American. Anyways, that’s another rant.
But it could be the same thing with letting more Blacks in as the leads instead of the sidekicks. And just more Latinos in general without having to have an accent. And women leads who are over 35 and not drop-dead sexy.
But back to Asians. Culturally, in the States at least, we’ve always been the White man’s helper. Their accountant, their tech guy. In a band, the Asian might play the bass. I spend a lot of time on LinkedIn. If they have an Asian in a big company they are in the finance or accounting department or IT.
So back to an earlier point, if Asian’s in other areas of the world are already strong in tech, electronics, automobile manufacturing, and entertainment like anime, video games, etc., one could understand why the White guys at studios wouldn’t want to allow Asian actors to play Asian leads in movies. It’s cultural competition. It may be so unconscious they don’t even know it. So they spout out common robot lines like “so-so is just more bankable,” when deep down it’s “I cast a brunette guy, because he looks like me when I was younger.”
Anyways, I welcome some thoughts on this. I know race topics are the most unpopular and divisive things online. So comment at your own risk.
Choosing to remain ANONYMOUS, the writer of this post has worked in the trenches of Hollywood for over a decade after attending the best film school in the country. He has professional experience on the creative side as an actor, writer, and director. On the other side he has worked professionally in casting at small production companies and at a large talent agency. He’s Asian.