Please, Hollywood, Don't Whitewash 'Crazy Rich Asians'
While reading Kevin Kwan's debut novel, Crazy Rich Asians, one thought kept running through my mind... Please make this into a movie. Please make this into a movie. Please make this into a movie.
For those who haven't read it yet (and trust me, you should), Crazy Rich Asians is, on the surface, a love story ... Girl loves boy. Boy loves girl. Girl goes to Singapore to meet boy's family and discovers they're filthy rich beyond belief. There's so much manipulation and deceit, it's basically an Asian soap opera and I loved every minute of it.
As I started the sequel, China Rich Girlfriend, I learned that its predecessor was, in fact, being adapted into a film. YESSS!! I suppose I could have googled it beforehand, but that would have taken all the fun out of it.
Finally ... a feature film with an all-Asian cast! At least, I hope. You see, Hollywood has a very bad habit of whitewashing ethnic characters. Take, for example, Emma Stone's portrayal of an Asian-American woman in Aloha. You mean to tell me there were no qualified actual Asian women to play the role ... or was director Cameron Crowe simply too lazy to find one?
As Star Trek star George Takei noted on his Facebook page about the recent whitewashing in the upcoming Marvel movie, Doctor Strange, "Hollywood has been casting white actors in Asian roles for decades now, and we can’t keep pretending there isn’t something deeper at work here."
Even The Hollywood Reporter acknowledged the dearth of Asian actors available to bring Crazy Rich Asians to life on the big screen. For the record, I totally support their dream cast and think we need to get them contracts ASAP! But I was disappointed to learn there was a producer who wanted to make the main character's girlfriend White. WHITE. In a movie about a book titled Crazy Rich Asians. ASIANS!! You've GOT to be kidding me!
Except not really. This is a tale as old as time. There have been plenty of movies that haven't seen the light of day because there wasn't a White lead to make it viable to major studios. Take, for instance, Don Cheadle's Miles Davis biopic, which wasn't able to get financed until he wrote in a White lead character. For real for real. That's a thing that actually happened. In 2016!!!
While there's not exactly a ton of Black people in critically-acclaimed films (I refer you to the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite), it's clear we have it better than our Asian and Hispanic counterparts (Thank you, Shondaland).
According to a recent article in the New York Times, "only 1.4 percent of lead characters in a sample of studio films released in 2014 were Asian." That's just pathetic. We HAVE to do better. And, hopefully, Crazy Rich Asians will be a step in the right direction.
Now You See Me 2 director Jon M. Chu is taking the helm on Crazy Rich Asians, so that's promising. As I eagerly await the film adaptation, there's one main thought running through my mind...
Please don't whitewash it. Please don't whitewash it. Please don't whitewash it.