It’s the talk of Hollywood, but it’s not about the latest blockbuster. Whitewashing is happening in Tinseltown and minority actors say they’re tired of being overlooked for major roles.
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They say there’s also an ongoing problem of Caucasian actors landing rolls, in the film industry, originally intended for minorities.
This week on Full Frame, how racial stereotypes are portrayed in media and what’s being done to break the cycle.
Jason Scott Lee: Fighting for visibility
Jason Scott Lee is a Chinese-American actor who’s perhaps best known for his breakout performance in the biopic Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story, about the legendary Chinese-American martial artist.
After his acclaimed portrayal of Bruce Lee, Jason went on to star as Mowgli in Disney’s 1994 live adaptation of The Jungle Book. He became an inspiration to other Asian actors who rarely saw relatable faces in Hollywood. But he eventually took a hiatus from Hollywood, for almost two decades, because the roles for Asian actors, especially Asian males, were limited.
Today, Lee says things are improving, but the fight for a higher profile is still ongoing for Asian actors.
From Singapore, Jason Scott Lee joins May Lee in our Los Angeles studio to talk more about Whitewashing in Hollywood.
Michelle Villemaire: Correcting yellowface
The 2016 Academy Awards reignited the diversity debate in Hollywood and the “Oscars so White” campaign dominated social media, fueling outrage and action.
The omission of actors of color—both in casting and award nominations was particularly personal to Thai-American actor and blogger Michelle Villemaire. Simultaneously discouraged and inspired, she decided to use her blog to share a radical new project, “Correcting Yellowface.” She used photography to illustrate the decades-old Hollywood tradition of whitewashing: casting Caucasians in minority roles and essentially removing all racial references.
Posing side-by-side next to non-Asian actresses, cast in roles clearly designed for Asian characters, Villemaire also chronicled the history of the practice and Hollywood’s long tradition of exclusion and stereotyping.
Michelle Villemaire joins May Lee in our Los Angeles studio to share what she learned about Hollywood’s history and how she hopes to change its future.
Maz Jobrani: Breaking stereotypes
Iranian-American actor and comedian Maz Jobrani has appeared on hit TV shows like Grey’s Anatomy, Curb Your Enthusiasm, True Blood, and The Tonight Show. He’s also performed standup at venues around the world. Jobrani is one of a growing number of Middle Eastern entertainers who are working to change the distorted image audiences in the West have of those from Muslim countries.
His 2015 memoir, I’m Not a Terrorist, But I’ve Played One On TV, details life growing up as an Iranian American, and his struggles working in Hollywood. Jobrani says he and his fellow Middle Eastern-American entertainers are often typecast in the stereotypical roles of villains and terrorists.
In his bold new comedy film, Jimmy Vestvood: Amerikan Hero, he parodies these stereotypes, and shows that people of Middle Eastern descent can also be leaders, heroes, and more importantly, just normal human beings.
Maz Jobrani joins May Lee in our Los Angeles studio to discuss how he uses humor to change Hollywood and society’s stereotypes of Middle Easterners.