Remember a few weeks ago when those rumours about Mulan hit the internet? The rumours that the live action remake of Mulan would follow a European trader who falls in love with Mulan and saves China because of his love for her?
Well, people (rightfully) hit the roof. I shared a petition on Facebook that demanded Hollywood keep whitewashing OUT of the Legend of Mulan and within an hour sharing it, it had 26 likes. Thankfully Disney, the studio producing the live action remake, confirmed that they were not going to whitewash Mulan and the matter was settled.
However, the uproar indicated something that Hollywood seems incapable of admitting: Hollywood doesn’t like casting Asian leads, and audiences are tired of it.
Think of the upcoming remake of Death Note, starring Nat Wolff. A beloved asian comic, hugely popular in both Asia and the US.
Think of Aloha, starring Emma stone as Allison Ng, the part asian, part hawaiian love interest of Bradley Cooper.
Think of Tilda Swinton, as the Ancient One, originally a Tibetan mystic, magically transformed into a celtic mystic… except she trains Strange in Asia, with asian techniques and symbols… so, she basically is a white woman playing an Asian stereotype. Hollywood doesn’t even want Asians to play Asian stereotypes.
Think of Scarlett Johansson in Ghost in the Shell, a remake of the popular Japanese manga.
Despite the backlash against whitewashing, Hollywood doesn’t take notice. The New York Times makes a good point: “Hollywood seems untroubled by these arguments. It’s not about race, they say; the only color they see is green: The reason Asian-American actors are not cast to front these films is because not any of them have a box office track record.”
Maybe the reason Asian actors don’t have a box office track record is because they keep having their roles stolen out from under them. They’re told they’re “too asian”, even though that wasn’t a problem in making the source material wildly popular – popular enough to warrant film adaptations.
It’s a feedback loop that we need to break.