Friday, March 28, 2008

'21': Why Hollywood Continues to Be Racist

I won't be going to see "21" and it's not because a review I just read compares the film to a "two-hour commercial for the Las Vegas Visitors and Convention Bureau." And it's not because that same review called lead actor Jim Sturgess "not particularly interesting" and Kate Bosworth an "onscreen vacuum."

No, it's because I haven't been so offended by Hollywood since they cast David Carradine in the role of a wise Chinese sage and called it Kung Fu. (And look - they even got his eyes to slant up!)

"21" is based on the true story of a group of MIT students who made a ton of money in Vegas with an elaborate card counting scheme. In real life the two main players in the story are Jeff Ma and Mike Aponte, who are both of Asian descent.

That's right, and they are played in the movie by Bosworth and Sturgess. In case you hadn't noticed, neither of them are even close to being Asian. Thanks again Hollywood, for once again telling the world that Asians aren't even capable of portraying themselves.

I can't wait to see the Hollywood version of the upcoming Olympics in China, with Shia LeBouf playing the role of China's gymnastic team star and Richard Gere as a Tibetan monk.

Hopefully they'll have some roles for some actual Asians - maybe as a rickshaw driver, or a laundress, or a sushi chef, or, yes - a Kung Fu master! That is, unless David Carradine is up for the role.

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  1. An ex-boyfriend of mine who wanted to be an actor and also happened to be Asian would often rant passionately to me on this very subject, and so I try to pay close attention to the discrimination against Asians in T.V. and movies. It really is ridiculous.

    Every time I watch Heroes I get so excited about how popular Masi Oka has become. And then I remind himself that his character is a walking stereotype of a comic book otaku.

    But then I try to console myself with the thought that EVERY character on Heroes is a walking stereotype, including the white people (like the overweight cop, and the blonde cheerleader . . .)

    But then I remind myself that they couldn't even be bothered find another Japanese dude to play Hiro's sidekick Ando. . .


    Are there any shows or movies you'd like to point out that do a really good job of portraying Asian characters?

  2. I thought the same thing, too, having read 'Bringing Down the House' (the book the movie was based on) a few years ago.

    The movie will tank, anyways, I was just in a theater and the 21 trailer got nothing but groans.


  3. As usual, Hollywood takes the cowardly way out. Not surprising, but disappointing nonetheless.

  4. I heard Paris Hilton is going to be playing Jackie Chan in his life story.

    That's not true, is it?

  5. Which is why I named my daughter, "Suzy Wong".

  6. Wow. I'm glad I read this. I will protest with you. I'm a black and Latina. Solidarity for the minorities!! :)

  7. I had no idea! I won't be seeing the movie but in all honesty, it doesn't appeal to something I would like to see.

    Yea, I actually learned something while reading blogs today.

  8. But it's hard to find sympathetic roles for Asians when they are all so darn sinister and inscrutable.

    Just kidding - I agree that we should all say a big Dr No to racism.

    As a Englishman I too am sometimes bemused by Hollywood. In U571 a gallant crew of American submariners capture an Enigma coding machine. Except that the incident that the movie is based on involved a British crew and occurred before the US had even entered the War. What was the point of the change?

    British thesps are also on speed-dial whenever a villain is required in an action movie. Even classical dramas always seem to cast British people as the Romans and Americans as the plucky freedom fighters.

    My guess is that since the majority of the audience will be white European Americans the logic is that the heroes will be too. It is assumed that the audience will find Asian actors unsympathetic. It's not so much that Hollywood is racist as that they assume their audience is and panders to that assumption. That feels somehow worse.

  9. Easy: because their producers are a bunch of idiots after all what a shame.


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