By Vivian Nguyen
Northwest Asian Weekly
The sun may be out in Seattle, but it’s definitely not shining in all parts of Hollywood! Read on to find out the latest pop culture news and media happenings for Asians and Asian Americans in Hollywood—the good and the ugly.
The whitest Asian character in Hollywood
Another month, another whitewashed casting of an Asian character.
This month’s offender? Actress Emma Stone in the new romantic-drama film “Aloha”. The film follows a celebrated military contractor (played by actor Bradley Cooper) as he returns to Hawaii, site of his greatest career triumph, and falls for an Air Force fighter pilot assigned to watch over him during his stay.
Played by Stone, the Air Force fighter pilot is named Allison Ng, and is intended to be an Asian American character—one of Chinese, Hawaiian and Swedish descent. According to reviews of the film, Ng is a Hula dancing expert. She has a half-Hawaiian/Chinese father. And she rocks the Hawaiian folk guitar.
It’s clear that Ng’s roots are intended to be a major plot device for the film, in addition to being reflective of Hawaii’s great diversity. And the casting directors chose Stone—an actress with red hair who has poked fun at her extremely white, all European ancestry. She is quite possibly the whitest person in Hollywood to play her.
Director Cameron Crowe, who could be one of many people held responsible for this casting, published a blog post apologizing “to all who felt [that] this was an odd or misguided casting choice.” He went on to explain that Ng, who was based on a real-life, redheaded local in Hawaii, was a quarter Hawaiian and half-Chinese. Ng was “meant to show the surprising mix of cultures often prevalent in Hawaii,” penned Crowe. He went on to absolve any blame from Stone and praised her characterization of Ng.
The point isn’t that Ng was a redhead—it’s the fact that there are so few mixed Asian roles like Ng in Hollywood, especially in big budget films like “Aloha”. It’s important to properly celebrate and recognize multiracial characters through multiracial actors since they have such little presence in mainstream media to begin with. But it’s clear that race-bending isn’t going away anytime soon in Hollywood, considering that the film executives couldn’t even bother to cast someone remotely Asian for the role of Ng.
However, the negative light that “Aloha” has received surrounding Stone’s casting may be the least of the producers’ worries. “Aloha” has been critically panned with the Washington Post even going as far as to call it an “incoherent pu pu platter”. Is this what we would call justice?
Asian Americans win big at the Tony’s!
As the theater world’s biggest annual event, this year’s Tony’s did not disappoint for those who call themselves an inner theater nerd.
Ruthie Ann Mills, an actress of Korean descent, won the Tony for Best Featured Actress in a Musical after receiving strong reviews for her performance in the revival of the classic musical “The King and I”. Miles played Lady Thiang, one of the wives of the titular king. “The King and I” marked her Broadway debut.
Ken Watanabe, who is best known for his Oscar-nominated role in the film “The Last Samurai,” was also up for a Tony for his role as the King of Siam in “The King and I”.
Latest happenings in television and film
Fans of the FOX comedy “The Mindy Project” were disappointed to learn of the show’s cancellation this past month. Although the romcom was a cult favorite, FOX decided not to renew the show after the third season due to consistently low ratings. However, actress, writer, producer, and creator Mindy Kaling, who also stars as the titular Mindy, wasn’t too disappointed by the cancellation. She broke news that the next seasons of “The Mindy Project” would live on through Hulu, the online video streaming website. So don’t fret, Mindy fans!
Director Justin Lin, who is best known for directing four films from the “Fast and the Furious” franchise and the cult classic “Better Luck Tomorrow,” recently dropped his hands in wet cement at the TCL Chinese Theater in Hollywood. Lin is now a part of the historic Hollywood of Fame!
Popular Chinese actors Huang Xiaoming and Zhao Wei, who are famous for their respective filmographies in Mainland China, also put down handprints next to Lin for their collaboration together in the upcoming Mandarin-language comedy “Hollywood Adventures”. The film, which opens in late June, is Lin’s first foray into producing Chinese film.
Meanwhile, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson stars in “San Andreas”—a disaster/drama flick that sees a rescue-chopper pilot, played by Johnson, trekking on a dangerous journey to rescue his daughter. If you love action movies and if you love The Rock, then this movie is for you. “San Andreas” is currently in theaters. (end)
Vivian Nguyen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.