Righting a Wrong

Ed Skrein’s Actions Speak Volumes

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Photo courtesy of Samir Hussein and Dark Horse Comics

Whitewashing in Hollywood isn’t anything new; minorities are still vastly underrepresented in mainstream media and films, and in the rare times they are, they are usually portrayed in a stereotypical, racist way. Scarlett Johansson in Ghost in the Shell is a prime example of whitewashing because she was casted to play Major Motoko Kusanagi, a Japanese character from a Japanese Manga.

Another example is Nat Wolff in Death Note. The whole movie was changed to fit a white cast/protagonist: the character’s name was changed from Light Yagami to Light Turner, the setting was moved from Japan to Seattle, and the cultural elements were completely eliminated. This movie, originally a Japanese manga, was supposed to reflect on the old Japanese lore of a “death god,” but because the whole story was remade with a white director and a majority white cast, the “Japaneseness”of this popular manga was totally erased.

There are a lot more movies where whitewashing occurs: The Great Wall, Doctor Strange, Breakfast at Tiffany’s. The list can go on and on, and this is just whitewashing of Asian characters. The most recent case of whitewashing, however, took a surprising turn for the better. Originally, the casting directors for Hellboy: Rise of the Blood Queen casted Ed Skrein as the main protagonist, Major Ben Daimio, who is supposed to be Japanese-American, based on the comics. However, just days after the cast reveal, Ed Skrein posted  this message on his social media:

He stepped down willingly from the role amid backlash from the public, so the casting directors could cast an Asian American for the role. This caused many positive reactions and has garnered reactions from other actors, such as Chloe Bennet. She took to instagram to praise Skrein and his bravery, saying how thing is a step forward in the entertainment industry.

Since his announcement, a new actor has been casted for the role of Major Ben Daimio. Daniel Dae Kim, popular for his roles from Lost and Hawaii Five-0, is confirmed to be Skrein’s replacement. Ashley Bui-Tran (11) is thrilled about the new casting. “As a fan of Hawaii Five-0, I was sad to see Daniel leave the show; it wasn’t fair to him that he was getting paid significantly less than his white co-stars,” she says. “I’m glad that they chose to cast Daniel because he is a great actor and would bring his character to life.”

In a broader scope, diversity in film is still a major issue in America. According to USC’s latest study on diversity in entertainment, Asians “represented just 5.1 percent of speaking or named characters across film, television and digital series in 2014, and at least half of those projects featured no such Asian characters at all” (The Hollywood Reporter). Because Asian Americans comprise of  only about 5.6% of the total U.S. population, media representation for this group is often overlooked. However, in places where the Asian Americans are more concentrated, they might feel neglected and underrepresented. In Yorba Linda, Asians make up approximately 15% of the population (Suburban Stats). Many Asian students, or people in general, who aspire to make it in the entertainment industry might feel discouraged because of the casting discrimination that prevails there.

Hollywood doesn’t seem to be learning from its mistakes, as shown in film after film. Hopefully, Ed Skrein has set an example for other actors, or else a lot of talented people will never have the chance to show the world their potential.