My favorite Disney movie is “Mulan”; the whole plot line of the movie is emotional and empowering. The movie and the music captivated my heart as a young girl, and Mulan quickly became my favorite Disney princess. Even today, I’m inspired by listening to “I’ll Make a Man Out of You” when I go running.
When I found out they were making a live-action version of “Mulan,” I was ready to be first in line at the theaters. I read the headlines that were initially filled with exclamation points and excited emojis. Many millennials expressed sheer thrill at the thought of their childhood obsession becoming a reality.
But those happily punctuated sentences came to an abrupt end when news spread that a white actor might be chosen for the lead male role of Li Shang.
The internet exploded with the hashtag #MakeMulanRight almost immediately after the news spread. Fans were outraged at the mere rumor of casting a white actor for the role of Shang.
Casting a white actor to play the lead role in “Mulan” to me is like casting a bunny to play Mushu the dragon; not only does that make zero sense, it changes the whole meaning of the character and the story.
Disney quickly shut down the rumors and promised that all the lead roles, including Shang, will be Chinese. Disney fans around the world breathed a large sigh of relief. But “Mulan” is just one of many movies that has cultivated injustice for Asian-American actors in Hollywood.
“The Great Wall” is a movie set to be released this year, and it takes place in China. This film is a mix of action and science fiction, as Chinese warriors fight off creatures trying to destroy the wall. And the leading star is none other than Matt Damon.
Yes, Matt Damon.
One of the trailers shows Damon with slick black hair, traditional Chinese armor, and something that resembles a Samurai blade. Damon is leading an army of Chinese men, ready to protect the wall and fight off the CGI monsters that are heading their way.
The image of a white man leading a troop of Chinese men at the Great Wall of China says a lot about the entertainment industry today. Sure, they’ll hire Asian-American actors, but never as the leading role, even if the movie is set in Asia.
Senior Theater major Markell Smith noted that this says the industry has a narrow scope of actors in the field.
“The entertainment industry often times takes what’s easy, and what they’ve made comfortable,” Smith said. “It just forces minorities to try that much harder to show Hollywood…what we’re made of.”
“The Great Wall” is just another of many Hollywood films that has caught the eye of fans and the media by being accused of white-washing the cast.
“Ghost in the Shell,” a sci-fi film set to be released in March, replaced a role meant for an Asian-American with white actress Scarlett Johansson. The movie is based off the Japanese manga comic book where the leading lady, named “The Major” is an Asian-American woman.
George Takei, an Asian-American actor known for his role in the original “Star Trek” series, is very vocal about the lack of diversity in Hollywood. “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,” Takei said on his Facebook page.
Other Asian-American actors stand in solidarity with Takei, starting hashtags such as #whitewashedOUT. One of my personal favorite hashtag trends is #StarringJohnCho, a photo-shop frenzy that reimagines the Korean-American actor, John Cho, as the lead in popular Hollywood movies.
Hollywood is not only being discriminatory in their methods, but is truly missing out on some of the most talented actors in the field. In order for us as consumers to change this discrimination, we need to acknowledge that this is happening and demand accurate and diverse representation in movies.