Social media reacts to Hollywood ′whitewashing′ Asian roles | NRS-Import | DW | 04.05.2016
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Social media reacts to Hollywood 'whitewashing' Asian roles

To mark the first day of Asian History month in the US, Asian-American actors and social media users denounced their lack of representation in movies with the hashtag #whitewashedOUT.

On Tuesday, the hashtag #whitewashedOUT was trending on Twitter, appearing over 60,000 times as users denounced the lack of Asian and Asian-American actors in Hollywood films.

The hashtag was launched by two Asian-Americans, actress Margaret Cho and writer Ellen Oh, in collaboration with the magazine "The Nerds of Color."

On its website, the magazine wrote how, as May 1 marked the first day of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, "Hollywood has been preparing for this month by announcing film after film after film with white people playing Asians."

The quote referred respectively to the controversial casting of Scottish actress Tilda Swinton (pictured above) as a Tibetan character in Marvel's "Doctor Strange," and Scarlett Johansson's part as a Japanese cyborg in the upcoming "Ghost in the Shell," the most recent cases of Asian characters being given to white actors which have stirred controversy online.

Though both studios issued statements to explain these choices, they were not enough to placate social media users. On Twitter, other Asian-American entertainers were quick to join the conversation and tell their own stories.

Many users came out in support of these actresses, calling on the industry to change its methods.

Others stressed that Hollywood has too long a history of snubbing Asian actors and storylines and even barring the careers of Asian-American filmmakers and technicians.

Tweets mentioned infamous cases of white actors taking on the roles of Asian characters.

These included recent examples such as 2010's "The Last Airbender," where the entire cast was made up of white actors despite the source material's Asian inspiration, and the equally unpopular buck-toothed Japanese landlord in the 1961 film "Breakfast at Tiffany's," played by Caucasian actor Mickey Rooney with "Yellowface" makeup.

This hashtag comes only a few months after the latest Oscsars ceremony - and through it the entire industry - was heavily criticized for excluding minorities for the second year in a row.

In 2015, a study by the University of Southern California attempted to paint a statistical picture of the problem of underrepresented ethnicities in film.

It found that of the 700 top-grossing films between 2007 and 2014, only 5.3 percent of on-screen characters were "Asian," compared to 73.1 percent "white."

The unequal representation also extended behind the camera, with only 2.9 percent "Asian or Asian-Americans" among the 779 to have directed these movies.

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