Looking for Splashes of Color Amid Whitewash

My week in summary: I learned that Scarlett Johansson and Tilda Swinton have been cast in roles originally written as Asian characters and am like, “Um, why?” I became addicted to Shugs & Fats. No, not “sugar” and “fat,” though I enjoy them too — it’s sketch comedy.

Scarlett Johansson, Tilda Swinton, and How Hollywood Keeps Giving Asian Roles to White Actors

I love theater, I love film. I love that they create fantasies apart from the every day in which we can explore lives and actions outside our own. That being said, questions peskily percolate: In doing so, who gets to wear what? Who gets to play what?

This article talks about the latter. I haven’t seen the films in question, so I’m hesitant to judge at this point. Maybe they had a really, really compelling reason for casting Scarlett Johansson and Tilda Swinton in roles originally written as Asian characters. But Hollywood’s track record with whitewashing makes me skeptical.

“If black characters are tokenized and hard to come by, Asian characters on the big screen are near invisible,” Kristen Yoosoon Kim writes.

I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again: So many fantastic AAPI actors are (still) waiting for a Hollywood break, not to mention culturally relevant roles.

Hollywood, please cast accordingly.

Same Old Script

Okay, so realistically that’s not a simple request to fulfill. As the Complex article mentions, it’s not simply a matter of casting actors to play specific roles. Nor is it simply a matter of getting more diverse perspectives into a writers’ room (though both help).

Agencies play a significant role as well, writes Lily Rothman: “Yes, a powerful filmmaker can demand a higher level of diversity, but if a nonwhite actor can’t even find representation with a major agency, the filmmaker’s options are limited.”

The problem runs both deep to the bottom line and high to positions of power at the top, as this article from Slate reminds us by asking, “Can the writers of color staffing those writers’ rooms on hit series get their chance to become showrunners and executive producers two, three, five years down the road?”

These are the people who call the shots, including those that are perceived to be commercially risky, such as putting a less familiar name (or face) at the forefront of their work.

Shugs & Fats
Nadia Manzoor and Radhika Vaz

On to the good stuff happening behind the scenes and on-screen in creating original entertainment that celebrates refreshing points of view. This week, meet Shugs and Fats,two hijab-wearing women leading book clubs about “Lolita,” getting psyched about their first jury duty, and discovering the delights of at-home massage apparatus and juice cleanses in Brooklyn. Smile, giggle, and laugh in two- to three-minute bursts with this comedy web series brought to you by Nadia Manzoor and Radhika Vaz.

Learn more about them on Fresh Air from NPR. The show was also featured at Tribeca Film Festival 2016!

What else should I read and watch?


2 thoughts on “Looking for Splashes of Color Amid Whitewash

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