'Crazy Rich Asians' Stars Talk Groundbreaking Movie
How ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ Highlights Hollywood’s Ethnic Casting Problem
Chung, Mizuno and Condor bring up valid points. Though there have been some minor complaints about white actors portraying cultures that they don’t identify with, such as British actor Keira Knightley playing French novelist Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette in 2019’sColette, they have been mostly overlooked. However, these actors’ complaints reveal a more important issue: There are simply not enough roles for Asian actors, which is the “double-edged sword” Chung speaks of. “If I can’t play that part, what can I play? A part that’s half-Japanese, a quarter-English, and a quarter-Argentinean?” Mizuno said. “How many parts are there for that? It’s hard enough as it is.” With so few options, how can an Asian actor be picky and fit into a box that’s too small to begin with? In an ideal future, there will be so many roles available to Asians that it won’t matter if one or two Korean roles go to Chinese actors. However, that’s obviously not the case at the moment.
How can an Asian actor be picky and fit into a box that’s too small to begin with?
Despite Chung’s grievances, I deem it a step forward that Hollywood is showing any sign of consciousness regarding different ethnicities. And maybe there’s an approach that suits the career needs of actorsandthe needs of Asians who want more and better representation. Perhaps a line can be drawn based on how focused a character is on the ethnicity they’re representing. Would it have been weird if Condor had worn a Korean hanbok and celebrated Korean holidays inTo All the Boys I Loved Before? Yes. Was the movie perfectly fine with those scenes from the book removed altogether? Also yes. Can the same be said for a film likeMemoirs of a Geisha, a story rooted in Japanese history and tradition? That’s a resounding no. When Ziyi, a Chinese actor, was cast as Chiyo inMemoirs of a Geisha, it sparked a huge and understandable controversy. The movie attempted to shed light on Japan’s history and culture. (Its inaccuracy is another point altogether.) “It felt like I was watching a movie set in China, rather than Japan,” one audience member, Yumiko Kamiyama, toldThe AP
Photo: Warner Bros. Pictures.
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The issue boils down to people still having trouble telling different Asian ethnicities apart—if they even care to try. In Hollywood, as long as the look fits, casting directors often don’t even bother to make distinctions.If the actor looks Asian enough, that’s apparently good enough for many of them. These actors are cast for being different, without properly diving into what makes them different.
These actors are cast for being different, without properly diving into what makes them different.
There’s so much cultural variety and history among Asian countries, but in the eyes of many, Asians are all the same. They’re interchangeable. They can simply adopt a different accent. But I’m not comfortable with that—and neither are many others, including Park. Although Park ultimately accepted the role of a Taiwanese immigrant onFresh Off the Boat, he admitted toVulturethat he had a hard time playing an ethnicity that wasn’t his own. “It was a problem for me, for sure,” Park said. “I still have a little trouble with that at times. I guess the goal is that, eventually we can be at a place where we won’t see white people playing Asian people anymore. We’re not there yet. But in an ideal world you won’t see a Korean-American playing a Taiwanese character, especially an immigrant character.”
Photo: ABC/Jordin Althaus.
As Park suggests, perhaps now isn’t the time to dive fully into this issue when minorities as a group are still dealing with more important problems. Perhaps it’s a question for down the road, when hopefully representation is no longer an issue—when a Taiwanese actor doesn’t feel pressured to audition for just any Asian role for the sake of having work. However, it’s a question that I’m asking now because it’s never too early to start noticing and forming your own opinions. Whether that particular conversation is to be had now or later, its time will come.
Video: Today's Dish: 'Crazy Rich Asians' tops box office
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