Can we talk about the disturbing trend for “fauxsian” characters in film & TV please? It’s the word I use for that godawful makeup they use on white actors to make them look ethnically Asian, and basically just another version of “blackface”.
Remember Mickey Rooney’s portrayal of Holly Golightly’s Asian landlord in Breakfast at Tiffany’s? John Wayne as Genghis Khan in The Conquerer? Katherine Hepburn in Dragon Seed? Let’s not forget casting Scarlett Johansson as Motoko Kusanagi in the upcoming film version of Ghost in the Shell.
I was chatting to my friend Rachel about whitewashing in the entertainment industry, where everyone from Disney Princesses to classic anime characters are given a white-over. To what end?
What exactly has been achieved by using a Caucasian actress to play Mulan (in fact this one was the same person who also plays the part of Belle), a legendary Chinese woman warrior? Other than show a total lack of diversity in their theme parks, of course. Whilst it’s understandable that Disney World would hire someone who could play several parts, it shows a shocking lack of judgement that they find it acceptable to just paint a white girl with “Chinese eyes”.
Is it any wonder that people still can’t see an Asian face in a leading role, when NOBODY FUCKING PUTS THEM THERE?? In almost every single film or TV show where I’ve seen an Asian actor, we are constantly reminded of their Asian-ness. Their ability to do martial arts. Their mathematical genius. Or that tired old trope, the exotic sexual siren who lures the innocent white man in with their patented oriental wiles. When can we have an Asian lead who is just called the lead?
The entertainment industry is so influential, they have such a unique opportunity to teach people about acceptance. How many young people are now eager to learn about the Women’s Rights Movement since Suffragette came out last year? How about the way that Jessica Jones highlighted issues of physical, emotional and psychological domestic abuse? Then there’s my favourite, the Canadian TV show Murdoch Mysteries, which depicts gender equality in the setting of a Victorian police procedural. So why are we still enduring this ridiculous whitewashing in our films and TV shows?
Why is it still ok to pretend that everyone is white?