By Vivian Nguyen
Northwest Asian Weekly
From director announcements on major projects to Twitter campaigns against whitewashing, May was a busy month for pop culture. Read on to find out the latest on movie controversies and news in Hollywood.
Movie posters combat whitewashing on social media
There’s been a lot of coverage lately on the growing controversy of whitewashed roles in film and television. The recent casting of Scarlett Johansson in the Japanese manga adaptation of “Ghost in the Shell” has launched some particularly thoughtful think pieces on the issue.
Media publications haven’t been the only ones to weigh in. The hashtag #StarringJohnCho went viral on Twitter, where Korean American actor John Cho was reimagined as the lead of box office films. As the hashtag’s official Twitter bio puts it, “#STARRINGJOHNCHO is a social movement that shows you what it would look like if today’s Hollywood blockbusters cast an Asian American actor as their leading man.”
Audiences know Cho from his early days in the “Harold and Kumar” franchise. Though he has taken on lead roles in now defunct television shows, as well as the “Star Trek” franchise, he hasn’t received the same leading man attention as his white counterparts with similar resumes.
“As I was Photoshopping John Cho’s face on top of Tom Cruise’s in the ‘Mission Impossible’ poster, my friends and I started chuckling a little bit, like, ‘How crazy would that be?’” said William Yu, the creator behind the hashtag, in an article with The New York Times. “Then I caught myself. Why should it be crazy?”
Some of Yu’s Photoshopped creations see Cho’s face on popular movie posters, including “The Martian,” “500 Days of Summer,” and “Avengers: Age of Ultron.” Another similar campaign quickly followed with #StarringConstanceWu, which saw actor Constance Wu also Photoshopped into popular films like “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 2,” “Chicago,” and “Easy A.” Wu stars on the sitcom “Fresh Off the Boat.”
Since its inception, the #StarringJohnCho and #StarringConstanceWu campaigns have received an outpouring of momentum from activists and fans, tweeting their own takes on recasting blockbuster films. Though a hashtag crusade alone cannot resolve whitewashing, at the very least, it breeds visibility and awareness.
Directorial announcements in Hollywood
Readers who grew up in the 90s will be delighted to hear that the iconic live-action/animated film “Space Jam” has a sequel in the works, aptly titled “Space Jam 2.”
Variety announced that director Justin Lin, who is best known for directing several installments in the “Fast and the Furious” franchise, as well as the upcoming film “Star Trek Beyond,” will serve as co-writer on the project. Lin is also expected to direct and produce the movie via his production company Perfect Storm Entertainment, so it seems likely that Lin will be heavily involved with creative development.
LeBron James, pro basketball player of the Cleveland Cavaliers, will star in the movie. In the original film, Michael Jordan teamed up with Looney Tunes cartoon characters, including Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, and more, to protect the universe from invading aliens. So there’s a strong assumption that Bugs Bunny and other cartoon favorites will also make a cameo.
Director Jon M. Chu is in talks to direct the upcoming film adaptation of “Crazy Rich Asians.” Written by Kevin Kwan, “Crazy Rich Asians” exploded on the literary scene in 2013, and is a character-driven story about family and culture, focused on a group of wealthy Chinese families prepping for a large wedding in Singapore. Gossip, backstabbing, and scheming ensue. Kwan is slated to be the executive producer of the adaptation.
In the past, Chu has directed several big name projects, including the music documentary “Believe” on pop star Justin Bieber to the action flick “G.I. Joe Retaliation.” Taking on “Crazy Rich Asians” would be an interesting departure from Chu’s past work. But if anyone has the directorial range, it’s Chu.
“Crazy Rich Asians” will feature a predominantly Asian and Asian American cast, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Though it seems obvious to cast Asian actors in Asian or Asian American roles, one cannot help but wonder if this announcement was in direct response to ongoing controversies over whitewashed roles in Hollywood. Only time will tell if “Crazy Rich Asians” will live up to its word.
Vivian Nguyen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.