WHITEWASHING AND UNDERREPRESENTATION OF ASIANS IN THE MEDIA

Posted by Cindy Khantushig

In a recent event, Margaret Cho chatted with Tilda Swinton about the controversial whitewashing of Asians in the Marvel Studios movie, Doctor Strange. Cho was unable to understand why Swinton didn’t see what the problem with her role, which was supposed to belong to a Tibetan man in the comics. This conversation that both of the women shared is important and it’s something that we should all be talking about in media. Just this year, the Academy Awards have been attacked for their lack of diversity, especially with their low Asian American and Mexican American representation. But, the topic of whitewashing has been on the rise as the new adaptation of a Japanese manga and anime, Ghost in the Shell was just released. Only the movie isn’t led by a Japanese actress playing the role of the Major, the main protagonist, but by Scarlett Johansson. The production team or Scarlett Johansson doesn’t seem to mind the problem, especially has the production team had been in the works to make Scarlett Johansson look more Asian. Why not just cast an Asian actress? Why waste the time and money to make someone look Asian?

This whitewashing of Asians in the media only represents the idea that only “white” sells to the point where even the director of the original animation, Mamoru Oshii, sees no problem with the casting. This just shows how strung up the media and box office is with whitewashing and the ethics of it. Because of these famous white actors, like Scarlett Johansson, there’s money on the other end of the line. Besides the financial aspect of whitewashing, it creates fewer opportunities for those wanted to pursue acting in the Asian community. In the world of acting, it’s hard for Asian to sign up for any role, especially ones that won’t paint them to be the stereotypical Asian. Not being able to see any Asian actors in the media is a complete letdown for the community itself. It makes it harder for Asian to be able to see themselves accomplish things, like acting and breaking from their stereotypical roles when there’s no opportunities to uphold those things. Also, it offers empty validation for the Asian community, where it seems to be impossible to see someone that looks like them, even in films.