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Why Are There So Few Asians In Hollywood? | Decoded


– Imagine if you went to see
a movie about Elvis Presley, and the producers decided
to cast Steven Yeun with no explanation, that
would be weird, right? Well, the inverse happens
to Asian Americans a lot. (upbeat pop music) In case you weren’t alive
in the past few months, you may not have heard that
the film Crazy Rich Asians made a lot of money, and left many Asian people
in the movie theater crying their eyes out. So why did a film about someone
marrying a really rich guy have such a big impact? Well, Hollywood has a history
of whitewashing films, meaning not only do Asian
actors often get overlooked for parts, many roles that
are based on Asian characters or actual Asian people
are given to white actors. So why does this happen? Why is Hollywood so quick to take away onscreen
opportunities from Asian actors? To get a better understanding, my friends, Fareeha Khan and Lily Du,
are here to break it down. – Thanks, Franchesca, I’m Lily Du. – And I’m Fareeha Khan, and we’re here to break down Asian
whitewashing in Holly– (beep) – No, I’m Lily Du.
– And I’m Fareeha Khan. – Whitewashing in Hollywood
is a huge problem. – I mean, at this rate, if you
wanna see yourself onscreen, you might wanna be white.
– Do you though? – Okay, let’s take a look at
Asian erasure in Hollywood. Asian erasure is a process in which Hollywood takes roles
written for Asian characters and gives ’em to white actors
instead of Asian actors. So basically, our dudes
are gettin’ wiped out before they even hit the screen. You think this is the same country that had Japanese internment
camps or upheld the Muslim Ban? It is, and it’s tough time
for the Asians out here. But you’re unfamiliar with
whitewashing in Hollywood, here’s a few examples. (upbeat music) You get what I mean (laughs). If you’re a hard stats
type, here’s some numbers, and they are terrible. Asians are still only in one percent of Hollywood’s leading roles,
but make up five percent of the American population. A recent study found that
the number of directors of Asian descent in the
100 highest grossing films of each year saw virtually no
change over the last decade, and only 34 of the 1000 films surveyed had an Asian director,
and this is my favorite, more white women playing
Asian women have won Oscars than actual Asian women (laughs). That hurt me.
– So what are Hollywood’s fun excuses for whitewashing movies? A lot of execs choose the
popular financial excuse that, “There aren’t enough Asian stars,” to lead big productions, and
they need those white stars to make back their giant budgets. It’s not that they’re racist. It’s that everyone else is racist. For example, Rupert Sanders, the director of Ghost in the Shell said the reason why he cast Scarlett Johansson
as a Japanese character and then used CGI to make her
look more Asian is because, “She’s the best actress
of her generation.” And then, Max Landis, the screenwriter of that same movie said, “There are no A-list female
Asian celebrities right now “on an international level.” Hmm, I wonder why that is. The Catch-22 of these
arguments is that by and large, Hollywood as a system
chooses who they make stars. For example, Scarlett
Johansson found opportunity in smaller roles, then bigger
roles in smaller movies, then leading roles, and then blockbusters. Roles get you roles.
– If Hollywood wanted to, they could choose to make stars out of any of these Asian actresses
who have proven their talent in a slew of very popular movies. Also, I’m available, hit me up. – And by the way, all of
Scarlett Johansson’s star power didn’t keep Ghost in the Shell from bombing big time at the box office. Look, clearly a lot of
excuses at this point are just plain bull (bleep). Does anyone really think Doctor Strange made significant more money from casting Tilda Swinton as
The Ancient One in the film? That’s a character that was
an Asian man in the comics. Often, there is no
measurable monetary benefit from casting white actors instead of Asian actors
for Asian characters. A recent study at UCLA found that films with diverse leads produced
higher box office numbers, and also had higher returns on investment for studios and producers. So looks like it pays to
put me in your movies, specifically me. Oh, and also Fareeha, buddy cop movie? – And if you’re not Asian,
maybe you’re sitting here like, “Why does this matter?” If you ask that question
’cause you’re racist, and you’re just here to troll us, I can’t wait for your
comments later, buddy. Thanks for stoppin’ by, but for the people who actually wanna
understand, you’re cool, let’s talk about what effect this has on the Asian American community at large. First off, when you don’t see
yourself represented onscreen, this discourages young
Asian talent from getting into the biz in the first place, perpetuating the issue of
talent rising up even further. Second off, seeing yourself in your story represented is huge. For a little insight, when
I first saw M.I.A. rapping on stage, I lost my (bleep). To me, it showed me that
brown girls can be strong and badass and cool and not just stuck with being either Jasmine or Frumpy Dump, like this guy told me once in high school. Shout Out to your boy
for that one (laughs). – I wouldn’t say the trends are changing, but we’ve definitely
seen a few improvements in the last two years, like The Big Sick, which centered on an Asian American story and Star Wars, a huge blockbuster, that featured major Asian
American characters. Plus, we’ve seen The Mindy
Project, Fresh Off the Boat, and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend
putting Asian stories on TV, which is refreshing. Look, as Fareeha said
earlier, Asians make up less than once percent of Hollywood roles, but five percent of the
American population. So if we were even close to proportional, there would be five times
as many Asians in the media. – And one more thing, besides all that, Asians are good as hell at art. Pay respect where respect is due. – Your Chinese tattoo
that you don’t understand says you should, back to you, Franchesca. – No one deserves to feel
like they don’t count, but erasure of people of color
on screen does exactly that. Plus, it looks like diversity in film may actually turn out to be a big financial win when done right. And listen, we all have our own biases, but we need to challenge
ourselves to look beyond them. So to learn more about your own bias, check out lookdifferent.org. Special thanks to Lily
Du and Fareeha Khan, and we’ll see you next
time right here on Decoded. (upbeat pop music)

29 Comments

  1. x Miuna x Author

    you guys know youre doing the right thing when you have so many dislikes cause its exactly those kinds of ppl who should be and are clearly watching 😛

    Reply
  2. Rik van Berkel Author

    Their so right. I'm from Europe and 20 years ago people wanted to think that all people are equal. We learned now that's not the reality. You have different kind of races. As a white men, I belong to white people. And a black person belongs to black people. Every race have their our own lives in their own groupes. We just don't belong to eachother and we never will. We are like a different species almost.

    Reply
  3. Strictly Business Author

    If Asian whitewashing is so problematic for Asians why don't they fight it? When was the last time we saw Asians in the U.S. fighting for civil rights? They just receive them from the struggle of others. You know it's true.

    Reply
  4. J. S. Author

    Oh that showed us.. try to deflect any kind of discussion by saying we are racist for disagreeing. Lmao God forbid you actually show confidence in the bs coming out of your mouth by encouraging people to talk about this even if they disagree. Weak people. I feel bad for you.

    Reply
  5. Jeffrey Morrissey Author

    How many leading roles do conservatives get? They are over 30% of the population? How about Jews and homosexuals? Last time I checked they were 2% and 1% of the population, respectively, and I would hazard to guess they are over represented. Let’s change those percentages as well. Lastly, this is very sneaky case of manipulation and projection as this “critique” is implying that Hollywood is run by far-right WASPs whereas it is nearly monolithically marxist and far-more Jewish than America at large.

    Reply
  6. Mick R Lee Author

    Hollywood is run by leftist Democrats….there Francesca, I answer your question!

    Now make a video about the racist history of the Democrat party 🐎💩

    Reply
  7. I play the trumpet and the mayonnaise Author

    Does it matter if there’s so few Asians in movies? A movie is only good if the plot and storyline make sense
    Ahem* Long Haul

    Reply
  8. JainCK Author

    I'm so glad you mentioned that travesty called Dr. Strange because the director just simply said he wanted to make more money in China (?) like how does that work? I think that this work you're doing please don't stop.

    Reply
  9. Fire Power Author

    What is ignored is that while minorities in the past have been have been played by Caucasian people, they attempted to make them look like the race they were playing. Meanwhile, the opposite is being enacted in movies/tv/plays with characters, including actual historical characters, who were Caucasian being played by other races with no attempt to make or acknowledge the original person wasn't of that race. Or placing other races into scenes in historical stories in an attempt to make it seem like there have always been a mixture of races. Primarily that Europe was not or is not a homeland of the Caucasian people. This is 100% acceptable in movies/tv/plays today and everyone applauds. Even suggest that a live action film of Mulan is being made and a casting call for Asian or Caucasian women is happening, and the internet loses it's mind (that actually happened by the way).

    Reply
  10. The Bright Cube Author

    How is power rangers white washing? None of the power rangers have a recurring race, the yellow ranger doesn't always have to be asian.

    BTW the black ranger is chinese and the pink ranger is indian.

    Reply
  11. Hunter Thunell Author

    You mean a primarily white country uses white peoples for films. Where’s your coverage on Ariel becoming black or all the other groups taking over white films….no okay

    Reply
  12. Thomas Lin Author

    This is really funny, it’s like asking Bollywood why are there no white actors and only Indians. First of all the majority race in the US are three types of people, white, black and Latin Americans, so obviously there’s going to be more of these people showing up on the big screen. Second of all we’re smart, so studying is easy for us. Why not just study hard, get a good job and make loads of money, rather then trying to compete in Hollywood? It’s common sense, common,

    Reply

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