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10 Times Asian-Americans Fired Back Over Representation In 2016

An abridged recap of the fight for better Asian-American representation in 2016

1. When Finn Jones was cast as the hero in Iron Fist.

Iron Fist is an orientalist-white-man-yellow-fever narrative. Asian actor would have helped subvert that offensive trope, and reclaim space.

2. When it was revealed that no actors of color were nominated for an Oscar.

In 2016, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences failed to nominate an actor of color in any of the major acting categories for the second year in a row. Soon afterwards, #OscarsSoWhite — a hashtag created in 2015 by and NU Tribe Magazine editor April Reign — began trending again.

Naturally, people were upset over the lack of diversity in the nominations. Many celebrities chose to boycott the awards ceremony as their form of protest. Others took their discontent to Twitter. Quantico actor Priyanka Chopra argued in an interview that "storytelling should be global and that's what the world looks like now."

Since the 2016 Oscars, the Academy has implemented a series of changes aimed at making its voting body more diverse. Additionally, nearly half of its 2016 membership is nonwhite. Time will tell if Chopra's vision of the world will be reflected in future films and the Academy's members.

#OscarsSoWhite that Rocky got nominated in a movie about Apollo Creed's son.

#OscarsStillSoWhite even the trophies will be gluten-free.

3. When Chris Rock and Sacha Baron Cohen cracked those racist jokes during the 2016 Oscars.

4. When Scarlett Johansson made her Ghost in the Shell trailer debut.

When it was announced in early 2015 that Scarlett Johansson would portray the main character in Paramount's live-action adaptation of Ghost in the Shell, many fans of the Japanese franchise were in an uproar. People on Twitter slammed the studio for whitewashing the main character (Major Kusanagi, who in the upcoming adaptation will simply be called "The Major") of a beloved anime and manga series.

This year, after the studio released a first-look photo of Johansson in character, the controversy escalated. (One report even asserted that the studio ran CGI tests on Johansson to alter her features and make her look more Asian.) Fresh Off the Boat star Constance Wu and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. actor Ming-Na Wen denounced the casting decision as whitewashing on social media and at a panel that took place earlier this year. “A lot of people’s visions of who they think looks like their hero is rooted in systemic racism," Wu said at the event.

In a nutshell...

Nothing against Scarlett Johansson. In fact, I'm a big fan. But everything against this Whitewashing of Asian role.😒

gosh where could we possibly find a Japanese actress who kicks ass...????? NAH just cast ScarJo we can't find any

5. When Marvel defended Tilda Swinton's role in Doctor Strange.

Then why didn't your crusty asses just film in Ireland like why is her ass in Tibet handing out Asian clothes&wisdom

Make bald Tilda Swinton an ancient Celtic magic monk. In charge of the Nepal sanctuary. Which is connected to the London one.

6. When Hollywood's whitewashing of Asian-Americans reached a new peak.

Something wonderful erupted from the fuckery that was the treatment of Asian-Americans in 2016. Fed up with Hollywood whitewashing, thousands of Asian-Americans took to Twitter to voice their dissent using the #whitewashedOUT hashtag throughout May, Asian Pacific American Heritage Month.

The Nerds of Color founder Keith Chow, YA author Ellen Oh, comedian Margaret Cho, and a team of Asian-Americans kicked off the monthlong #whitewashedOUT campaign, which took aim at Hollywood for consistently creating film and television shows that center on whiteness and for casting white actors in roles that could or should have gone to people of color. It was a momentous occasion, as the hashtag became the second-highest trending topic on Twitter the day it launched.

“In general, people have always blown us off because of the model minority myth, and the [misconception] that Asians are quiet and submissive," Oh told BuzzFeed. "This is really our way of saying we will not be ignored anymore.”

#whitewashedOUT meant it took years for me to realize writing Asian protags was possible. I cast myself as the sidekick in my own stories.

Growing up wishing you were white so you could be characters in stories #whitewashedOUT

7. When it was revealed that Matt Damon would lead a movie about the Great Wall of China.

...why would white men need to be in a movie about the Great Wall, even if it's a monster movie?

8. When NBC began developing a sitcom about a mail-order bride from the Philippines.

Today in terrible ideas: NBC buys "family comedy" about widowed white male who orders a Filipina mail order bride

9. When a leaked spec script revealed that Disney planned to incorporate a white male lead in its live-action Mulan film.

Mulan is a story of honor and family. She saves an entire nation and you’re about to make her some damsel in distress. #makemulanright

#Mulan is our hero. We don't want to see another white man chasing after #Asian girls half his age. #MakeMulanRight

10. When Fox News aired a racist segment about Chinese immigrants and Chinese-Americans.

During the hellscape that was the 2016 election, Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor contributed to the dumpster fire by sending correspondent Jesse Watters to New York's Chinatown to ask residents for their opinions on the election and Donald Trump. The aired segment cut the footage with movies scenes that reinforced Asian stereotypes, and poked fun at elderly Asian immigrants who couldn't speak English. It was a low blow.

Watters did respond to people's objections via Twitter, but his statement was a classic non-apology. "I regret if anyone found offense," he tweeted.

A day later, The Daily Show's Ronny Chieng went the fuck in, blasting Fox News for perpetuating outdated ideas about Asian-Americans and for targeting non-English-speakers: "What the hell was that? How was that on the news? In fact, how was that even on TV?"

Chieng even took to the streets himself, interviewing a handful of people about the election, using their native language. He even gave one guy the chance to clap back at Watters.

Did Fox News run a racist segment about Chinatown? @RonnyChieng weighs in. #DailyShow

Although Fox News has not issued an apology for the controversial segment, a Fox executive and O'Reilly Factor executive producer did meet with the Asian American Journalists Association in October to discuss the Asian-American community's concerns. It's a step toward better representation and a reminder that Asian-Americans — long regarded as the model minority — will continue to fight for visibility.


This post has been updated to include the fact that April Reign (@ReignofApril) started the #OscarsSoWhite hashtag.