I haven’t seen the movie Aloha. I don’t plan on seeing the movie Aloha. However, I can tell from deep in the depths of my icy heart, I truly hate the movie Aloha. I’m going to get right to the point: the casting of this movie? Racist as hell. The bottom line is that it isn’t Emma Stone being in this movie that bothers me. It’s that she is the actress who was cast and yet it was still deemed a good idea to keep her character a quarter Asian and a quarter Hawaiian. Obviously her heritage isn’t important to the film itself so why not just change her name? Did she really need to be Allison Ng, could she not be Allison freakin’ Smith? Stone? Cooper? McAdams? And if her heritage is important to the story, why not find a goddamn hapa actress who would actually be appropriate for the role? As I’m sure you can see by now, I have so many questions! See below for a visual representation of Allison Ng vs Emma Stone.
I’m sure there are people out there who have heard about this and rolled their their eyes, who have wondered what the hell the big deal is when it’s just a movie. Those of you who think it doesn’t matter because you don’t care about the issue, anyone who dismisses this as a stupid claim of racism, I’m sorry to say that what you’re displaying is pure ignorance. “It’s just a movie” applies to things like casting mortal human beings like Chris Hemsworth (debatable, I know) as gods like Thor or undeniably irresistible, smart, and funny women like Kat Dennings as the sidekick there for a laugh or two. When a white woman like Emma Stone is cast in an Asian role in a primarily white cast set in a state where white people make up less than half the population, there’s a problem.
For the record and to get it out of the way, no, this is not reverse racism. I do not dislike this casting because Emma Stone is white. I will say it again, I DO NOT DISLIKE THE FACT THAT EMMA STONE IS WHITE. I dislike the fact that of all the part-Asian actresses who could have been cast (Chloe Bennet comes to mind, as do Olivia Munn, Shannyn Sossamon, and Kristin Kreuk, just to name a few), Hollywood casting went with the predictably white lead, thus turning what could have been a culturally important film into just another romanticized Hawaii-based flick where the culture doesn’t even matter, it’s just pretty and exotic.
Consider the confusion that swept the small-minded sect of “I’m not racist, I’m just canon compliant” comic fans everywhere when Michael B. Jordan was cast as Johnny Storm in Sony’s new Fantastic Four film; or when Lucy Liu stepped into Joan Watson’s shoes in CBS’ hit Elementary; or the recent announcement that Isaiah Mustafa would star in the upcoming Mortal Instruments-based ABC Family television show Shadowhunters as the book and movie’s preciously (side note: hahaha autocorrected from previously, truly exceptional) white Luke Garroway. ABC Family, by the way, already has a hit show that stars another hapa actress: Shay Mitchell as Emily Fields of Pretty Little Liars, another character described as white in the book series of the same name. When teen shows are better at casting diversity than your star-studded Hollywood flick, shouldn’t that make you stop and wonder what the hell you’re doing wrong?
So wait, is everything I’ve just written not actually racism at its finest? White characters not only being played by people of color but one actually being gender-swapped? NO, YA DUMB IDIOT. In the cases of Storm and Watson, these characters were created, respectively, in 1961 (Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s The Fantastic Four #1) and 1887 (Arthur Conan Doyle’s A Study in Scarlet). In other words, they were created when the demand for diversity simply wasn’t as strong as it is today, in a world where people can speak their minds via the Internet and cause an uproar when once upon a time, their voices may have been muted. Jordan’s casting as Storm isn’t okay just because Chris Evans gave his blessing; it’s okay because in 1961, nobody gave a shit whether black people were being represented in media enough, and that’s the sad as hell truth.
I will go ahead now and tell you what Hollywood racism is. Racism is Katherine Hepburn playing a Japanese woman named Jade Tan in the movie Dragon Seed. Racism is Avatar: The Last Airbender, just in general. Racism is Johnny “I’m 1/16 Cherokee” Depp playing Tonto in The Lone Ranger. Racism is Jim Sturgess doing yellowface in Cloud Atlas. Racism is Prince of Persia trying to pass Jake Gyllenhaal as a prince of Persia. And racism is Emma Stone playing a hapa woman called Allison Ng in Aloha. It’s worth noting that none of these films have performed well (side note: HELL YES to Mad Max: Fury Road outperforming Aloha‘s weekend debut and even to San Andreas taking the number one spot because at least that one stars an actor of Samoan and Black Novia Scotian descent) but the worst part is, Dragon Seed was a film made in 1944. Seventy-one years later, Hollywood hasn’t made as much progress as it would sure as hell like us to believe.
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