Hollywood again is being accused of “white-washing” roles originally written as Asian characters. The latest incident is on Ridley Scott’s The Martian, in which white actress Mackenzie Davis stars as Mindy Park, who’s identified as a Korean-American scientist in the book the film was based on.
“This insulting practice of white-washing has got to stop,” said Aki Aleong, President of the Media Action Network for Asian Americans, which has been battling the problem for decades. “Alarmingly, it has been increasing in frequency.”
Indeed, it happened last year on Cameron Crowe’s Aloha, in which Emma Stone played a character identified as half Hawaiian/Chinese, and it’s happening on Marvel’s Dr. Strange, where Tilda Swinton has been cast to play “The Ancient One,” who’s identified in the comic book the film was based on as being an old Tibetan man. There’s also Ghost In The Shell, in which Scarlett Johansson is set to portray Motoko Kusanagi, a Japanese character in the popular anime series that the film is based on.
MANNA also is taking issue with the The Martian’s casting of black actor Chiwetel Ejiofor, whose parents are Nigerian, to play the role of NASA’s Director of Mars Operations — a character identified in the book as an Asian Indian. Asian actors, however, weren’t completely shut out of the film: Benedict Wong plays the role of Bruce Ng, the Director of Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Other Asian actors playing small roles in the film include Chen Shu, Yang Haiwen, Eddy Ko, Yang Liu, Xue Xuxing and Narantsogt Tsogtsaikhan.
“So few projects are written specifically with Asian-American characters in them, and he’s now changed them to a white woman and black man,” MANAA founding President Guy Aoki said of Scott’s casting choices. “This was a great opportunity to give meaty roles to talented Asian American actors — and boost their careers. … This feel-good movie, which has attracted Oscar buzz, shouldn’t get any awards for casting.”
“Today’s audiences expect multi-racial casts in entertainment, as they reflect the multi-cultural environment in which they’ve grown up,” Aleong said. “In fact, three of the television series that are doing very well this television season star Asians actors: Fresh Off The Boat, Quantico and Dr. Ken.”