Another month, another Hollywood whitewashing of an Asian character. This month’s episode: Cameron Crowe’s ‘Aloha’.
You may have read about how terrible ‘Aloha’ is, but did you read how the producers cast Emma Stone as the mixed-Asian character Allison Ng? Yes, the red-headed (in the movie she’s blond), pale, big eyed Emma Stone as a character with 50% Asian heritage. Let that sink in and then read this from CNN:
Native Hawaiians, Asian activists and bloggers have criticized the movie — set entirely in Hawaii — for its overwhelmingly white cast, with many singling out Stone’s casting as being especially egregious.
After a couple weeks of getting raked over the internet coals and his movie bombing at the box office, Cameron Crowe issued an apology on his blog (no-follow link for you!) explaining his mindset and offering a “heart-felt” sorry:
Thank you so much for all the impassioned comments regarding the casting of the wonderful Emma Stone in the part of Allison Ng. I have heard your words and your disappointment, and I offer you a heart-felt apology to all who felt this was an odd or misguided casting choice
Another Hollywood apology? Does it matter? Did he mean it? At least it wasn’t completely structured like most form apologies “if you were offended…” that’s so chic with the rich and famous set.
Yes, the apology does matter, not so much the actual statement itself, but the news coverage that it, the boycott and social media noise caused. Whether you believe that his apology was heart-felt or not, a famous person not only acknowledged our pain, but responded to it.
Big Media Covers Aloha Outrage
The casting mishap made the front page of Google News and more importantly, it was a trending in the news feeds of millions of Twitter and Facebook users.
So why does this matter? If you’ve been paying any attention to Asian-American’s rights over the last decade or more, that’s progress.
It’s a huge step, actually. Whether America agrees or disagrees whether Emma Stone was poorly case is not what’s important. The issue takes a backseat here. Yes, we want more Asians cast as Asians, but the real change here is a broader understanding and recognition of Asian-Americans. That lack of representation and recognition of our voices is what handicaps Asian-Americans on every issue — Hollywood is just playing into it because that’s what American culture wants.
So it’s not the casting of Emma Stone that’s the focus for me, so much as it’s the fact that Asian-Americans are the subject of national discussion and we have a voice.
Even if the majority of Americans read the title, roll their eyes and immediately scroll by the story on Twitter or Facebook — don’t underestimate the power and value of the pop culture news item and how it can cumulatively impact and further progress for Asian Americans. AAs in the national media doesn’t happen often enough for us, so each time it happens, I know we’re moving in a good direction.
Simply, the more the American public knows about Asians/Pacific Islanders, the better. This issue gives some depth — deeper than eggrolls, fortune cookies and General Tsao, slanty eyes and dragon moms — so “Asians”are not seen a monolithic people where Japanese, Thai, Malaysians, Koreans and Chinese are cobbled together with “same difference”.
Would I rather have protests in the streets? Would I rather have larger buy-ins from the broader Asian-American community instead of shoulder shrugging? Yes. Until we as a community can get it together, I’ll take an apology, genuine or not, and the national attention comes with it.