Making a Case Against Whitewashing

May 2017 (Volume 67, Issue 3)

By Emma Patz, Entertainment Editor

Over the past couple years, there has been an uproar over the lack of African-American actors and actresses represented in film and television. Many celebrities boycotted the 2016 Oscars due to its miniscule number of black nominees. The resulting firestorm on social media and throughout the country’s climate seemed to be successful, as this year’s Oscars included six African-American actors, along with many others who worked behind the scenes. Hollywood seems to be patting itself on its back. However, the battle for racial representation in media is far from over.

Asian actors have an even smaller history of gaining awards, with only three Asian actors ever winning Oscars. An even more glaring issue is the fact that Asian actors are simply not given the opportunity to take on meaningful roles, as many Asian characters are shockingly played by white actors. For instance, in 2016, caucasian actress Scarlett Johansson was cast in Ghost in a Shell as the Japanese main character, while Netflix’s 2017 remake of the Japanese manga Death Note has removed all traces of Asian characters from the cast.

NHS student Nina Yee weighs in on this issue, explaining that, “As an Asian-American, it’s definitely tough to find representation in the media, whether it is through Asians playing characteristically ‘Asian’ roles or caucasians playing Asian roles.” She is optimistic about the prospects of Asian representation in media, further elaborating, “However, we’ve definitely progressed with minority representation in TV and film, and I find that any conversation about this topic is good conversation.”

Another Needham High School student, Leah Miller, relays her opinion, stating, “There are so many talented Asian actors and actresses who could play these parts, but by having white people play Asian characters, they [Hollywood] are not giving them [Asian actors and actresses] equal opportunities.”

Undoubtedly, it is time for Hollywood to address the need to celebrate Asian actors and actresses and simultaneously assess the appropriate way to portray them in media.


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