Hollywood and Diversity

We have finally reached the end of this online series that was initially supposed to be the lack of Asian diversity in Hollywood. In this post, I will give a summary of my topic and how it naturally evolved with each post, starting from whitewashing to hashtag activism to yellowface.

In my first posts I discussed whitewashing, the act of giving a role meant for Asians to white actors, which often occurs in movies and TV. This is an important issue because Asians are already underrepresented onscreen and handing one of their roles to a better-known actor, makes the problem worse. I didn’t realize how much whitewashing happens until I started writing and researching more about this topic. It was really shocking to learn how this is still happening today, with no signs of improvement in Hollywood’s near future. For example, the movie, Aloha, cast Emma Stone for the character Allison Ng—who is supposed to be a quarter Asian and quarter Hawaiian. This is problematic because it should have gone to an actress who actually has a drop of Asian blood in her. The bar is set so low and yet all Hollywood can deliver are white people who seem like they could possibly be Asian.

When I wrote about the public’s thoughts on the industry’s lack of diversity, audiences believed that Asian actors should create change themselves by creating their own movies. Although this sounds like a reasonable solution, I thought it seemed like the wrong way to fix this issue because it divides the industry even more. The only way to include more diversity in the media is from the top down, since those who control the media, control what the public thinks. The studios need to be the ones to implement change, but obviously, they won’t because they only care about the money. Rather than focusing on what will make the most profit, they need to listen to those who actively speak against whitewashing and why it’s important to take it seriously.

This leads to the hashtag activism that I wrote about in my second series of posts, which I started off with the phrase #OscarsSoWhite. I wondered if a trending hashtag about one of Hollywood’s biggest issues would actually make a change. In the beginning, I believed that audiences speaking out about the industry’s lack of diversity could be an effective way to peer pressure the industry to be more inclusive. This tactic proved to work for the Golden Globes just this year, which has nominated more movies and shows featuring and created by People of Color, like Atlanta, Moonlight, and Black-ish.

Moonlight (above) and Atlanta (below) were nominated for the the upcoming Golden Globes; Photo Courtesy: Blavity

My opinion changed when I wrote about the other side of how effective hashtags were. I broadened my topic to include any and all activism that depended on a trending phrase. Although it was kind of a jump, it felt really natural to talk about online activism because in the end, they all have the same goal of wanting to create a substantial change in the real world, regardless of what the hashtag is about. This side made me change my thinking because I realized that hashtags can create attention towards a problem, but it’s not enough to create change in the world.

My topic reverted back to Asians in movies and TV when I worked on my poster, but I made it about yellowface rather than whitewashing since I wanted to approach my topic from a different angle. I thought this was appropriate since whitewashing has been referred to as the modern yellowface; this is when a white actor uses makeup to look more Asian, often in a very racist portrayal. I knew that yellowface was terrible before I made my poster, but it was disheartening to see it happen in recent movies and TV shows. I was disappointed to see it used in How I Met Your Mother since that was an extremely popular show at the time. Their millions of viewers saw this episode and accepted the fact that they used racism for cheap laughs and moved on with their lives. We can’t let this casual disregard of a culture slide without any consequence, yet it did. Instances like this desensitize audiences to racism and if this happens enough, this behavior will become normalized.

In the end, my topic evolved from whitewashing to online activism to yellowface, showing how lack of diversity can’t be pinned down and applied to one specific race or factor. There are too many people who are affected by Hollywood’s discrimination and not enough can be done by those who want change in the industry. This topic ended up being more complex than I ever imagined it would be, and through this series I learned a lot about the injustice that Asians face in Hollywood today.


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