Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Asian Actor Criticizes Hollywood for Being "Racist!"

Famed Hong Kong actor Andy Lau  recently criticized Hollywood for being "racist." (photo from wikipedia)

Hollywood took a big blow to the chin from one of Asia's top actors, Hong Kong's Andy Lau when the box-office star labeled America's film industry as being filled with "racial discrimination."  According to Asianpopnews.com, the famed actor made the criticism on May 20 at the Cannes Film Festival when asked about landing a role in a Hollywood film in which he responded that he was "not interested" and that Tinsel town "wants to tap into the Chinese market and does not respect Chinese actors."

Andy Lau Questions Hollywood's Integrity

Andy Lau's assertion may be correct that Hollywood wants a piece of the "Chinese Entertainment Market" and are willing to include Chinese/Asian actors but to a certain extent.  Lau may have directed his comment towards the blockbuster hit "Iron Man 3" which was partly filmed in China and a Chinese-American collaboration between China's DMG Entertainment and U.S.-based Marvel Pictures.  Before its release in early May,  the Chinese and Asian media were excited about Chinese actors Fan Bingbing and Wang Xueqi being featured in the well-known franchise.

The film was made into two versions: the Chinese version for Chinese audiences and the International version for audiences outside of China.  The Bingbing and Xueqi scenes and other scenes filmed in China were included in the Chinese version of IM3 while the international version was heavily edited, cutting out key scenes involving the actors and other Chinese content much to the dismay of film critics and international audiences.  The finished international product resulted in Bingbing's scenes being cut out and Xueqi's scenes were reduced to 10 seconds of screen time.

According to Hollywood Reporter (April 25, 2013), Chinese bloggers and the media were upset with the international version for its deleted content and the reduced screen time of Xueqi and Bingbing.  Asian audiences, who watched the international cut, claimed "false advertising" by the film's trailer which touted the appearance of two of China's popular actors.  Many critics believe that the insertion of Bingbing and Xueqi in "Iron Man 3" were "token roles" and meant to please DMG and Chinese film regulators.

After the IM3 fiasco, Chinese film regulators are now on the lookout for "fake co-productions" and for films  not exhibiting "enough Chinese content."

Hollywood: Asian Stereotypes

"Elementary" star Lucy Liu also criticized Hollywood in her recent interview with Net-A-Porter magazine.  (photo courtesy of Wikipedia)

The Hollywood film industry has been roundly criticized for its missteps using Caucasian/non-Asian actors for playing "Asian roles" in such recent films as "Cloud Atlas" (2012), "The Last Airbender" (2010) and in "Dragonball Revolution" (2009).   The Media Action Network for Asian Americans (MANAA) blasted "Cloud Atlas" for the "poorly done Asian eye prosthetics to make Caucasian men look Asian."   MANAA President Guy Aoki was amazed that the film's Caucasian actors Jim Sturgess, Hugo Weaving, and James D'Arcy were cast as "Asian actors."

Prominent Asian actors have been regulated to supporting roles rather than in lead roles in major Hollywood films with the belief that they cannot carry an American film in a starring role. Asian actors are commonly portrayed as "the villain" or "comic relief" or martial artist or sidekick/subservient to a Caucasian/non-Asian actor.

Overall, Asian actors have been "boxed in" to portray the Asian stereotype of being "buffoons and village idiots" or cast as foreigners with thick accents on television and film. Rarely do they have the opportunity to star in major American films and be portrayed as "sex symbols" or in strong dominant roles.  

Asian-American actress Lucy Liu talked candidly about "racism in Hollywood" in a recent interview with Net-A-Porter magazine.  She criticized Hollywood for giving her "Asian stereotype" roles in the beginning of her career.  She's been cast as a "martial artist" in "Charlie's Angels" and "Kill Bill," and as a prostitute linked to the Chinese mafia in "Payback."

Amazingly, her current role in the television show "Elementary" defied all logic when she was cast as "Watson" which is a male character in the Sherlock Holmes crime-drama. The brave casting decision by producers Carl Beverly and Rob Doherty initially brought protest by some, who questioned the choice of Liu.  Many perceived the protest against Liu as being "sexist" because of her gender and for being "racist" since she is of Chinese-American descent.   Nevertheless, "Elementary" is a hit show on CBS and Lucy Liu has been hailed as a "pioneer" by the Asian-American community.  .

Hollywood Heading in the Wrong Direction 

(photo by Wikipedia)

It is troubling how Hollywood has transformed from being a diverse community starting from the silent era in the early 20th Century when Japanese actor Sessue Hayakawa was a beloved star to being painted today as an industry steeped in racism towards Asians.   Despite mass criticism from Asian organizations, non-Asian organizations, and the media, Hollywood continues to cast Caucasian/non-Asian actors in roles meant for Asians or characters of color and place Asian actors in secondary roles filled with Asian stereotypes.

So far, no one has stepped forward to defend Hollywood for their inept decisions and casting choices.  No one has responded to Andy Lau either.

Perhaps, Mr. Lau, was telling the truth.