Fight Hollywood’s Bigots for the Left, contribute to the
Center For Asian American Media: www.asianamericanmedia.org
Conceived by Bruce Lee, but they cast a Caucasian in the lead role.
Producers: Jerry Thorpe, Alex Beaton
Director: Jerry Thorpe
Casting: Lynn Stalmaster
“Romeo Must Die”
Based on Romeo and Juliet, but they changed the ending so that the
Asian American “Romeo” (Jet Li) does not kiss “Juliet” (Aaliyah Haughton)
Warner Brothers Pictures: Barry M. Meyer, Chairman & Chief Executive Officer,
Alan F. Horn, President & Chief Operating Officer, Ed Romano, Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer
Silver Pictures: Joel Silver
Executive Producer: Dan Cracchiolo
Producer: Joel Silver
Producer: Jim Van Wyck
Co-producer: Warren Carr
Associate producer: Mitchell Kapner
Associate producer: Ilyse A. Reutlinger
Episode “Now You Know” originally aired September 30, 2007.
Screenwriter: Marc Cherry
Director: Larry Shaw
10/4/07 AFP: “’Desperate’ apology over Philippines slur,”
Manila (AFP) – Makers of hit US television series “Desperate Housewives” have apologised for a slur against Filipino medical workers that caused an uproar in the Southeast Asian country.
The apology was sent to Philippine broadcaster ABS-CBN’s bureau in the United States and aired in the Philippines on Thursday following protests by the Manila government.
“The producers of ‘Desperate Housewives’ and ABC Studios offer our sincere apologies for any offense caused by the brief reference in the season premiere,”
cable news channel ANC quoted the statement as saying.
“There was no intent to disparage the integrity of any aspect of the medical community in the Philippines ,” it said.
The episode showed actress Teri Hatcher, who plays Susan Mayer, asking during a medical consultation to check “those diplomas because I want to make sure that they’re not from some med school in the Philippines .”
The apology was made a day after chief aide to Philippine President Gloria Arroyo said the line of dialogue appeared to be a “racial slur.”
Philippine Senators said the apology was not enough, and urged their Foreign Affairs Department to lodge a formal protest with the US government.
“I am mortally offended by the statement because it betrayed the racial prejudice and denigrates the excellent performance of world-class Filipino doctors in the US ,” said Senator Miriam Santiago, whose sister is a doctor working in Los Angeles .
15% of U.S. physicians and surgeons are Asian American.
But according to Bigots for the Left, Asian American men do not exist.
”General Hospital” (ABC) 1963 – present
“E.R.” (1994 – present) (info current as of Jan. 2006)
(had an episode in which Asian American man beat his wife)
Penny Adams, Neal Baer, Tommy Burns, Yahlin Chang, Christopher Chulack, Samantha Howard Corbin, Michael Crichton, Carol Flint, R. Scott Gemmill, Lance Gentile, Walon Green, Patrick Harbinson, Julie Hébert, Michael Hissrich, Dee Johnson, Jonathan Kaplan, Mimi Leder, Paul Manning, Bruce Miller, David Mills, Chris Misiano, Robert Nathan, Jack Orman, Tom Park, Joe Sachs, Mike Salamunovich, Teresa Salamunovich, Janine Sherman, Wendy Spence, Steven Spielberg, Meredith Stiehm, Richard Thorpe, Vicki Voltarel, John Wells, Virgil Williams, Lydia Woodward, David Zabel, Lisa Zwerling
39 episodes: Jonathan Kaplan
34 episodes: Christopher Chulack
25 episodes: Richard Thorpe
11 episodes: Felix Enriquez Alcala
10 episodes: Mimi Leder, Chris Misiano
9 episodes: Lesli Linka Glatter
8 episodes: Laura Innes
6 episodes: Charkes Haid, John Wells
5 episodes: Rod Holcomb, Paul McCrane, David Nutter
4 episodes: Anthony Edwards, Julie Hebert, Nelson McCormick
3 episodes: Paris Barclay, Alan J. Levi, Jack Orman, Thomas Schlamme, Babu Subramaniam
2 episodes: Arthur Albert, Stephen Cragg, Vondie Curtis-Hall, Steve De Jarnatt, Donna Deitch, Ernest R. Dickerson, Lance Gentile, Fred Gerber, Marita Grabiak, James Hayman, Elodie Keene, Ken Kwapis, Darnell Martin, Tom Moore, Gloria Muzio, Peggy Rajski, Jacque E. Toberen
1 episode: Anita W. Addison, Sarah Pia Anderson, Guy Norman Bee, David Chameidies, Fred Einesman, Brett Fallis, Vern Gillum, Davis Guggenheim, Kevin Hooks, Michael Katleman, Barnet Kellman, Eric Laneuville, Perry Lang, Peter Markle, Tawnia McKiernan, Dean Parisot, Whitney Ransick, Daniel Sackheim, Quentin Tarantino, Mark Tinker, Jesus Trevino, Jessica Yu
20+ episodes: John Wells, Jack Orman, Lydia Woodward, R. Scott Gemmill
10+ episodes: David Zabel, Joe Sachs, Dee Johnson, Neal Baer, Carol Flint, Paul Manning
5+ episodes: Samantha Howard Corbin, Lisa Zwerling, Lance Gentile, Meredith Stiehm, Walon Green
1+ episodes: David Mills, Yahlin Chang, Julie Hébert, Bruce Miller, Robert Nathan, Linda Gase, Elizabeth Hunter, Jason Cahill, Patrick Harbinson, Tom Garrigus, Michael Crichton, Tracey Stern, Jacy Young
1 episode: Barbara Hall, Anne Kenney, Sandy Kroopf, Christopher Mack, Mark Morocco, Doug Palau, Janine Sherman, Virgil Williams
1 story: Belinda Casas-Wells, Moreen Littrell
“Medical Center” (CBS) 1969 -1976
”Marcus Welby, M.D.” (ABC) 1969 – 1976
“Scrubs” (NBC) 2001 – present
“House, M.D.” (Fox) 2004 – present (info current as of Jan. 2006)
Creator, executive producer, writer: David Shore
Executive producers: Paul Attanasio, Katie Jacobs, Bryan Singer, John Mankiewicz
Producer: Gerrit van der Meer
Supervising producer: Thomas L. Moran, Matt Witten
Consulting producers: Peter Blake, Sara B. Cooper
Directors: Daniel Attias, Paris Barclay, Guy Ferland, Fred Gerber, Keith Gordon, Tim Hunter, Bill Johnson, Frederick King Keller, Nelson McCormick, Peter Medak, Gloria Muzio, Peter O’Fallon, Daniel Sackheim, Deran Sarafian, Newton Thomas Sigel, Bryan Singer, Bryan Spicer, Greg Yaitanes, Randall Zisk
Writers: Peter Blake, Sara B. Cooper, David Foster, Liz Friedman, Russel Friend, Sara Hess, Lawrence Kaplow, Garrett Lerner, John Mankiewicz, Thomas L. Moran, John Anderson Thompson, Matt Witten
?? Had two episodes with Asian American men as physicians and one had a speaking part! Did have an episode in which Asian American man was mean to his wife
“Grey’s Anatomy” (set in Seattle) (ABC) 2005 – present
Creator, Executive Producer, writer: Shonda Rhimes
Executive producers: Betsy Beers, Mark Gordon, Peter Horton, Jim Parriott
Directors: Peter Horton, John David Coles, Adam Davidson, Mark Tinker, Wendy Stanzler
Writers: Zoanne Clack, M.D.,Ann Hamilton, Kip Koenig, Stacy McKee, James D. Parriott, Mimi Schmir, Gabrielle G. Stanton, Krista Vernoff, Harry Werksman,
”Strong Medicine” (Lifetime TV) 2000 – present
”Nip/Tuck” (F/X) 2003 – present
10/4/16 Atlanta Journal Constitution: “How uproar over Asian stereotypes ended NBC comedy before it started”
by Elahe Izadi, Washington Post
The backlash to “Mail Order Bride” was immediate.
Word broke last week that NBC had purchased a half-hour comedy that “follows a widowed single father who orders a mail-order bride from the Philippines to help raise his two preteen daughters,” according to Deadline. The project is from the trio behind “Superstore,” and is “loosely based” on writer-producer Jackie Clarke’s family, Deadline reported.
7/30/16 The Guardian: “Asian Americans decry ‘whitewashed’ Great Wall film starring Matt Damon”
by Julia Carrie Wong
A chorus of outrage followed the release on Thursday of the first trailer for The Great Wall, a fantasy adventure set in China more than 1,000 years ago, which stars the white Hollywood star Matt Damon in the lead role.
7/22/16 GQ: “How John Cho Defeated the Asian-American Actor Stereotypes”
By Kevin Nguyen
Last year, I read a book by Alex Tizon called Big Little Man: In Search of My Asian Self, which I picked up even though the title too nearly resembled the Tobias Funke’s memoir from Arrested Development, The Man Inside Me. In the book, Tizon laments the representation of Asian men in popular media—or really, the lack thereof. He writes of Sex and the City: “Something like 2 million Asians live in the New York metropolitan area, but Asians hardly appear in the show at all—symbolic annihilation at its best.” Symbolic annihilation: the under-representation of a group of people, usually in media. Asian men rarely show up in TV or film. And when they do, they often are at best sexless nerds, and at worst offensive stereotypes.
6/7/16 Angry Asian Man: “White Actor to Play Spider-Man’s Asian Best Friend, Sort Of”
More whitewashing in the Marvel Cinematic Universe? 14-year-old actor Michael Barbieri has reportedly been cast in Marvel’s upcoming Spider-Man: Homecoming as one of Peter Parker’s best friends. The part appears to be based on a character named Ganke Lee… who is Asian American in the comic books.
5/25/16 Washington Post: “On Capitol Hill, Asian American representation in pop culture is on the agenda”
By Alyssa Rosenberg
As debates about diversity spread beyond the century-old discussion of how African Americans are represented on-screen, some of the sharpest debates have been about the depiction of Asians and Asian Americans, who, when they aren’t being presented as mystical sages, have often been pigeon-holed as sexless, socially awkward geeks. And amidst those debates, a group of Asian American actors and media entrepreneurs gathered on Capitol Hill on Tuesday for a discussion introduced by Rep. Judy Chu (D-Calif.) and moderated by commentator Jeff Yang about how to move the entertainment industry forward.
5/25/16 New York Times: “Asian-American Actors Are Fighting for Visibility. They Will Not Be Ignored”
By Amanda Hess
When Constance Wu landed the part of Jessica Huang, the Chinese-American matriarch on the ABC sitcom “Fresh Off the Boat,” she didn’t realize just how significant the role would turn out to be. As she developed her part, Ms. Wu heard the same dismal fact repeated over and over again: It had been 20 years since a show featuring a predominantly Asian-American cast had aired on television. ABC’s previous offering, the 1994 Margaret Cho vehicle “All-American Girl,” was canceled after one season.
5/23/16 Southern California Public Radio: “Asian-American men fight for lead roles in Hollywood”
by Elyssa Dudley
Tim Chiou is not shy about describing the situation he and other actors like him face in Hollywood: “There’s this unofficial rule that Asian-American men are at the bottom of the food chain in terms of love and sex.”
5/17/16 India.com: “Why Hollywood’s Whitewashing of Asian-American Characters is Problematic”
By Saloni Gajjar
Mainstream media is finally catching up with Hollywood’s misogynistic practice of whitewashing. The concept isn’t new in the industry—white actors are often cast in roles originally conceived for Asian actors. Most recently, Tilda Swinton was cast as The Ancient One in Marvel’s upcoming movie “Doctor Strange” starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Chiwitel Ejiofor. The casting of Scarlett Johannson as Major Kusanagi in the adaptation of Manga’s “Ghost in the Shell” has also sparked an outrage. In both the original comics, these fantastic roles were Asian. So, why is a white person playing them?
5/12/16 Rafu Shimpo: “APAMC: Hollywood Uses Whitewashing and Yellowface to Erase Asian American Stories”
The Asian Pacific American Media Coalition (APAMC) is troubled by recent developments in which white actresses were selected to play the roles of Asian characters in two upcoming movies.
Scarlett Johansson will play a Japanese cyborg whose name has been changed from Major Motoko Kusanagi to simply “The Major” in the new DreamWorks film adaptation of Japanese anime and manga series “Ghost in the Shell” and Tilda Swinton is playing a character originally written as a Tibetan sorcerer, the Ancient One, in Marvel’s upcoming “Doctor Strange” film.
These casting decisions perpetuate the practice of “whitewashing” roles from original material that features Asians as lead characters. The coalition opposes these casting decisions as they contribute to the exclusion of Asian Americans as well as thoughtful Asian and Asian American narratives from mainstream media.
5/9/16 Hollywood Reporter: “Where Are the Asian-American Movie Stars?”
By Rebecca Sun and Rebecca Ford
After an uproar over the whitewashing of Asian characters in ‘Doctor Strange’ and ‘Ghost in the Shell,’ THR looks at how Asian-American representation can be improved in Hollywood.
As diversity continues to be the buzzword that isn’t going away, the ancient Hollywood practice of whitewashing has come under fire. When photos were released last month of Tilda Swinton playing The Ancient One in Marvel’s Doctor Strange and Scarlett Johansson as the Major in DreamWorks’ manga adaptation Ghost in the Shell, both characters that were Asian in the original comic books, it sparked a fresh wave of backlash that followed on the heels of the criticism that greeted Emma Stone’s portrayal of a part-Asian character in Aloha last year. (Marvel has explained that Swinton’s version of the character is Celtic, while Doctor Strange director Scott Derrickson tweeted that he is “listening and learning” from the Asian-American community’s response to “Hollywood whitewashing, stereotyping & erasure.”)
4/20/16 Singapore Straits Times: “Dr. Ken a sitcom written from an Asian-American standpoint”
by Alison de Souza (In Los Angeles)
You will be disappointed if you sit down with comedian Ken Jeong and expect Mr Chow – the flamboyantly foul-mouthed gangster from The Hangover films (2009-2013) – to show up.
The physician he plays in his sitcom Dr. Ken – which airs in Singapore on the Sony Channel (StarHub TV Channel 510, Singtel TV Channel 316) on Wednesdays at 8.20pm – is loosely based on Jeong’s previous incarnation as a general practitioner, a job he gave up a decade ago to pursue acting and comedy.
4/19/2016 The Hollywood Reporter: “Asian-American Actresses Call Scarlett Johansson’s ‘Ghost in the Shell’ Role “Blackface””
by Rebecca Sun
Constance Wu, Ming-Na Wen and Joan Chen sounded off during a panel addressing issues facing Asian Americans in Hollywood.
Several Asian-American leading ladies have spoken out on the latest instance of Hollywood whitewashing – and they don’t all feel the same way.
During a luncheon at the Beverly Wilshire on Saturday, Agents of SHIELD’s Ming-Na Wen and Fresh Off the Boat’s Constance Wu shared their reactions to the first image of Scarlett Johansson as Ghost in the Shell heroine Major Motoko Kusanagi.
3/15/16 Los Angeles Times: “George Takei, Ang Lee and other Asian academy members protest Oscars jokes”
by Rebecca Keegan
A group of 25 Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences members of Asian descent have sent a letter to academy leaders objecting to jokes mocking Asians during February’s Oscar show.
3/6/16 Associated Press: “Asian-American Jab At Oscars Reveals Deeper Diversity Woes”
Los Angeles (AP) — TV’s “Fresh Off the Boat” creator Nahnatchka Khan was reveling in Oscar host Chris Rock’s deft comedic assault on white-fixated Hollywood. Then three Asian-American kids were brought onstage for a gag mocking them as ethnic stereotypes.
Asian-American Jab At Oscars Reveals Deeper Diversity Woes
2/29/16 Los Angeles Times: “Chris Rock’s Oscars joke about Asian American accountants stirs outrage”
by Randall Roberts
Despite an Academy Award ceremony focused on addressing issues of diversity in Hollywood, Asian Americans expressed outrage on social media after two jokes that poked at stereotypes. The comments, one by host Chris Rock during a skit and another by comedic actor Sacha Baron Cohen under his Ali G persona, were particularly notable due to the controversy surrounding the #OscarsSoWhite theme.
11/19/15 Rafu Shimpo: “Asian American Actors Less Afraid of Speaking Out About Race”
by Guy Aoki
In the past, Asian American actors seemed to be shy about addressing Hollywood’s double standards that kept them from getting significant roles in television and movies.
Leading the charge is Indian American actor Aziz Ansari, who’s currently starring in “Master of None” (all 10 episodes of the first season have just been released on Netflix). In the Nov. 10 issue of The New York Times, he wrote an essay, “Aziz Ansari on Acting, Race and Hollywood”:
11/13/15 NPR: “No Longer ‘The Only One’? This Year, Things Changed For Asian-Americans On TV”
by Kat Chow
Around this time in 2014, ABC had just canceled the sitcom Selfie, starring everybody’s ideal boyfriend John Cho and Karen Gillan. Cho was the first Asian-American male to play the lead in a rom-sitcom — he called his role “revolutionary” — and fans lamented that the show was just finding its legs when it got cut.
11/11/15 Vulture: “2015: The Year Asian-Americans Finally Got a Shot on TV”
By E. Alex Jung
It was a pointed reminder of Fresh Off the Boat’s own high-pressure debut earlier this year. At this time in 2014, there were just two shows headlined by Asian-American actors: Mindy Kaling’s The Mindy Project and Selfie, starring John Cho. Both were romantic comedies with Asian-American leads and would get canceled by their respective networks for flagging ratings: Fox declined to renew The Mindy Project and ABC would cancel Selfie after just six episodes. (RIP, Selfie.) Fresh Off the Boat came in with enormous expectations: It had been 20 years since the last Asian-American family sitcom on a broadcast network, Margaret Cho’s All-American Girl, had flamed out in one abbreviated and tumultuous season despite strong ratings at first. At the time, many Asian-American writers criticized the show for its hackneyed portrayal of a vague “Orient.” There was a fear that history would repeat itself: What if Fresh Off the Boat just recycled Asian stereotypes? If the show faltered, would Asian-Americans have to wait another 20 years to get another shot? It had to be perfect.
11/6/15 LA Weekly: “Aziz Ansari’s Master of None Is a Small Step for TV, A Giant Leap for Asian-Americans Progress”
BY Inkoo Kangfriday
In its very first scene, Aziz Ansari’s new Netflix series, Master of None, presents something never before seen on TV: an Asian-American male romantic lead at the center of his own series. Granted, that scene is hardly sexy: A broken condom puts the brakes on a bar hook-up between Dev (Ansari) and Rachel (Noël Wells), leading to an Uber ride to the pharmacy to pick up some Plan B. Still, given the historical desexualization of Asian and Asian-American men in pop culture, it’s novel, even bracing, to watch an Indian-American dude deal with his totally normal cock.
10/9/15 New York Daily News: “The Martian’ comes under fire for not casting Asian-American actors”
by Nicole Bitette
Ridley Scott’s “The Martian” is being slammed by an advocacy group for the lack of Asian American actors in the film.
Media Action Network For Asian Americans calls “The Martian” just one of many films that are being “white-washed” compared to the written material they are based on.
The film was adapted into a screenplay by Drew Goddard from Andy Weir’s novel by the same name.
MANAA pointed out that in Weir’s novel, NASA’s Director of Mars Operations is Dr. Venkat Kapoor — an Asian Indian character who identifies as Hindu.
In Scott’s film, he is played by British black actor Chiwetel Ejiofor and the name is changed to Vincent Kapoor.
Character Mindy Park is written as Korean American in the novel, but portrayed by Mackenzie Davis — a white blonde actress.
10/9/15 CBS News: “”Martian” criticized for changing races of Asian-American characters”
By Andrea Park
Just months after Cameron Crowe got heat for casting Emma Stone as an Asian-American character in “Aloha,” new Matt Damon flick “The Martian” is getting similar blowback.
The Media Action Network for Asian Americans (MANAA) lobbed accusations of whitewashing against Ridley Scott for changing the races of two Asian characters in the film version of the book.
Character Mindy Park, who is Korean-American in the book, is played by white actress Mackenzie Davis in the film, and book character Dr. Venkat Kapoor’s name is changed to Vincent Kapoor, and is played by Chiwetel Ejiofo.
8/7/15 Rafu Shimpo: “Into The Next Stage: TV — Asian Americans Are Finally in the Mix”
By George Toshio Johnston
The other thing that’s better on American TV is diversity. It’s taken a while, with many false starts along the way, but we’re finally at a point where having Asian Americans in ensemble casts is no big deal. Even better, shows that star Asian Americans draw enough of an audience to make it beyond a single season.
7/7/15 vulture.com: “Asian Immigrants on TV Are Starting to Get Some Respect”
By E. Alex Jung
The first time you see inmate Mei Chang, played by Lori Tan Chinn, in Orange Is the New Black, is midway through the second episode of the first season. Piper is getting starved out by Red, and she needs Nikki to get some stuff from the commissary for her. There’s Chang, with her no-muss buzz cut, behind the metal mesh of the commissary booth, handing out cups and Colgate and ramen in her brusque, no-nonsense manner. That’s where she’ll remain for most of the show: doing her job on the periphery, seen but unnoticed. Just how she wants it. It isn’t until the sixth episode of the recently released third season that the show lingers on Chang: In “Ching Chong Chang” we get her backstory, and if one thing’s clear, she’s the real gangster at Litchfield.
5/29/15 Entertainment Weekly: “I’m not buying Emma Stone as an Asian-American in Aloha”
by Chris Lee
Accepting Emma Stone as an Asian-American in Aloha requires a certain suspension of disbelief and no small amount of magical thinking. In the Hawaii-set romantic comedy-drama, she portrays Allison Ng: an aggressively peppy Air Force fighter pilot of Chinese-Hawaiian-Swedish decent who falls for an existentially angst-y military contractor played by Bradley Cooper.
5/28/15 KHON: “‘Aloha’ movie criticized by Native Hawaiian, Asian American groups”
By Manolo Morales and Web Staff
The movie “Aloha” opens in theaters this weekend and features A-list actors like Bradley Cooper, Emma Stone and Rachel McAdams.
Native Hawaiians say the title is disrespectful while an Asian American watchdog group questions why Asian actors weren’t given any substantial roles.
Guy Aoki is a former Hawaii resident who is now the founding president of the watchdog group Media Action Network for Asian Americans.
As far as Asian characters, in the credits, they’re billed as “Indian pedestrian, upscale Japanese tourist, upscale restaurant guest, I mean these are people who don’t even have names so you know that their parts are not gonna be very big,” he said.
Aoki is asking the people of Hawaii to boycott the movie because otherwise it would encourage more filmmakers to make movies about Hawaii without using Asian actors.
“It’s an insult to the people of Hawaii that filmmakers come in and they want to use the lush background and they want to talk the culture as if they understand the culture and yet they don’t want to use the people who created the culture which are Asian or Pacific Islanders,” said Aoki.
‘Aloha’ movie criticized by Native Hawaiian, Asian American groups
5/20/15 New York Post: “Asian-American group says Cameron Crowe ‘whitewashed’ his new film”
By Kyle Smith
An Asian-American group is blasting “Jerry Maguire” director Cameron Crowe for having “whitewashed” Asian-Pacific Islanders out of his new film set in Hawaii.
A blistering press release from Media Action Network for Asian Americans (MANAA) charges that Crowe’s troubled new rom-com, “Aloha,” which opens next week, reserves virtually all of its prime roles for white actors — a stellar cast including Bradley Cooper, Bill Murray, Emma Stone, Rachel McAdams, Alec Baldwin, Danny McBride and John Krasinski.
5/15/15 PRI’s The World: “How many Asian Hollywood stars can you name? Right, it’s not easy”
By Naomi Gingold
There are a lot of dating clichés. Some that are backed up with data. Like the one that says Asian American men are thought of and see themselves as one of the least desirable groups. To quote some recent articles: Are Asian Men Undateable? Why Won’t Western Women Date Chinese Men?
John Cho is one of the few prominent Asian American male actors in Hollywood. You might recognize him from the Harold and Kumar movies or the recent Star Trek blockbusters.
In ABC’s “Selfie,” John Cho represented a rarity: an Asian American in a romantic lead on network television.
He says that when he was younger, “Girls would say, in an almost benevolent tone, that they just had zero attraction to Asian men. It wasn’t considered taboo to say something like that.”
Now, with all due journalistic objectivity here, John Cho is hot. In 2009, People Magazine voted him sexiest man alive. But in Hollywood, it’s still rare to see Asian men cast as confident, leading men. Hollywood hasn’t wanted to date them. And that impacts what America thinks of Asian men. And what Asian American men think of themselves.
7/4/06 In These Times: “Perpetuating the Yellow Peril,”
by Lakshmi Chaudhry
Mako, an actor who has appeared in over 90 feature films, talks about stereotypic portrayals he has had to struggle against.
At first glance, Jeff Adachi’s Slanted Screen is an earnest documentary that covers familiar ground. The shameful depiction of minorities—in this case, Asian-American men—in television and film is hardly news. What makes the movie special, however, is that it offers a rare view of Hollywood from the inside. Apart from the occasional talking head, the interviewees are actors, producers, directors and screenwriters.
Part of the movie’s interest lies in their horror stories, which are likely to make even the most jaded viewer cringe. Producer Terence Chang—whose big-budget credits include Mission Impossible II, Face-Off and Broken Arrow —describes being told to change the race of the white villain in the script for the Chow Yun Fat vehicle, The Replacement Killers , and make him a Chinese druglord instead. The logic: “If the hero is Asian then the bad guys have to be Asian as well.” The racism is open and unapologetic.
As gruesome as such anecdotes may be, Slanted Screen is most compelling when its subjects explore the conflict between who they are and what they do. It may be hard to watch a repulsive Long Duk Dong slobbering over the girl in Sixteen Candles, but it’s harder still to be the guy who plays him: Gedde Watanabe, a Japanese-American actor born and raised in Utah, who put on a fake accent to utter immortal lines, such as “No more yankie my wankie. The Donger need food.”
In the seven-minute short film The Screen Test—which was screened along with Slanted Screen in San Francisco —actress Judy Lee sums up every Asian actor’s moral dilemma: “Our paychecks come from stereotypes.” When there are practically no roles for Asians, a script that calls for an “opium den mistress” is a cause for celebration.
The art of survival lies in enduring what you must, and quietly changing what you can within Hollywood’s stifling parameters. What may look like just another stereotype from the outside may in fact be a serious attempt to challenge industry norms. A good example is what has become Hollywood ‘s favorite Asian character: the martial arts warrior. Bruce Lee may seem to be just another uni-dimensional macho hero, but his rise marked an epochal shift for Asian Americans, both as actors and as men. After decades of being demonized as sly yet effeminate “yellow peril” in the post-World War II era, Lee represented a positive, vigorous version of masculinity. And it’s this consolation that actors like Cary -Hiroyuki Tagawa cling to when they play similar roles in movies like Mortal Kombat, even when they’re negative. “If the choice is between playing wimpy business men and the bad guy,” Tagawa tells Adachi, “I’d rather play the bad guy. … I want kids to know that Asian men have balls.”
When Hollywood allows Asian leading men to be macho, it rarely gives them the privilege of being “American.” “Asian Americans tend to be looked at as perpetual aliens,” says author and poet David Mura. “In other words, an Asian-American male can’t be seen as representative of all Americans in the way Tom Cruise or Tom Hanks or even Denzel Washington can.”
According to University of Delaware English professor Peter X. Feng, the benefit of safely foreign heroes such as Jet Li or Chow Yun Fat is that “they come to these shores to solve a problem and then they leave. So there is never any question of integrating them into the American body politic.” In this sense, Mura argues, Asian- American men are worse off than women, who “are more easily assimilated by the white psyche in part because they are seen as sexually available to white men.” Hence Lucy Liu can be one of Charlie’s Angels, but no one would cast, say, Jason Scott Lee in a remake of Starsky and Hutch—though Hollywood execs were only too happy to cast him as an Indian in The Jungle Book . While there have been exceptions to this depressing norm—Dustin Nguyen as
Officer Harry Ioki in “21 Jump Street” or more recently, Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle—the predicament facing Asian male actors today is grim compared to Hollywood’s silent era, when Sessue Hayakawa rivaled Douglas Fairbanks, Charlie Chaplin and John Barrymore in popularity as a leading man. But despite
his Rudolf Valentino-esque persona, even Hayakawa almost never got the girl— not unless she was played by his own Japanese wife, Aoki. His present-day counterparts are no better off. Chow Yun Fat never gets to kiss Mira Sorvino in Replacement Killers, while the creators of Romeo Must Die edited out the sole kiss between Aaliyah and Jet Li. “To say it doesn’t affect us is bullshit,” declares Tagawa, the anguish bubbling to the surface as he exclaims, “We’re not eunuchs!”
The stark contrast between the sexual images of Asian men and women on-screen follows the dictates of age-old colonialist logic, where the sexual appropriation of women is accompanied by the emasculation of the men. That the documentary never includes a discussion of women, or their perspective, is a glaring omission. The very action hero roles that seem to affirm Asian masculinity can be deeply problematic from a feminist perspective. Is a Schwarzenegger-like machismo really the kind of Asian male identity that we want to promote?
The sexual politics are even more complicated. Take, for example, the comments of Gene Cajayon, who directed one of the first Filipino-American movies, The Debut (2000). Cajayon says it was important for him to make his
lead character “someone who is attractive to white girls” so as to establish his credentials as a bona fide “cool kid.” But how subversive is this character if his masculinity requires a white seal of sexual approval and treats white women as mere markers of his prowess?
A more compassionate interpretation of this desire is to see it instead as a hunger to be seen as sexual, period. That it entails white affirmation is merely a sad acknowledgement of the requirements of the broader culture we live in. “It seems to me unfair to question the desire of Asian-American men to feel sexually attractive,” says Mura. “If an African-American man were to say, for instance, that he wanted to be appreciated for his intelligence and not just stereotyped for sexual or athletic prowess, would we say he was succumbing to a trap which defined real male worth by intelligence?”
Mura argues that Asian men “desire a complete picture of ourselves and to be valued as complete individuals. We desire respect in those areas where we feel we are disrespected. We don’t get to pick and choose where those areas are.” But we are more likely to see a more “complete” picture of Asian men if we portray them as they are rather than as ethnic versions of Hollywood gender-laden fantasies of manhood that haven’t served white men well. In fact, those kind of movies will be just as valuable for the rest of us, male or female, Asian or otherwise.
Lakshmi Chaudhry has been a reporter and an editor for independent publications for more than six years, and is a senior editor at In These Times, where she covers the cross-section of culture and politics.
6/5/07 Miami Herald (Los Angeles Times Service): “White male writers dominate Hollywood film, television jobs: The earnings gap between minorities and white males working in film and television has steadily widened, according to a Writers Guild study,”
by Richard Verrier
Hollywood — Despite some advances by women and minority writers, white male scribes disproportionately dominate film and TV jobs in Hollywood , according to a study released by the Writers Guild of America, West.
More than 30 percent of the U.S. population is nonwhite, the study noted, yet minority writers accounted for less than 10 percent of employed television writers between 1999 and 2005. In film, the share of minority writers remained at 6 percent, unchanged since 1999, according to the sixth in a series of reports by the guild examining employment and earnings of its members.
”Little progress has been made,” said the report’s author, University of California , Los Angeles sociology Professor Darnell Hunt.
What’s more, he said, next year’s numbers will likely be worse due to the recent merger of the UPN and WB networks into the new CW, which resulted in the canceling of several minority-themed shows
Union officials released the latest findings hoping to influence hiring for the upcoming television season.
”The disturbing problem which underlies the need for this report is matched only by the disturbing lack of change that has been the industry’s response,” Guild leader Patric Verrone said.
The earnings gap between minorities and white males working in film and television has steadily widened, with minority writers earning $83,334 in 2005, compared to $118,357 for white males.
Women television writers, however, earned virtually the same as men in 2005, after an earnings gap of $10,000 in 2004. Nonetheless, the median income for female film writers was $40,000 less for males.
While older writers earned the most, they are significantly underrepresented on show staffs, the report states.
6/1/07 Washington Post: “At Med Schools, a New Degree of Diversity: Classes Reflect A Foreign Flavor,”
by David Brown
The six members of Medical Team 4 have a lot in common. Each wears a white coat, has a stethoscope for a necklace and has stayed up late this week. They can all start an IV and work up a solitary lung nodule.
They share something less obvious, too. With one exception, none has a grandparent born in the United States.
Med 4 at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Northwest Washington is the new face of American medicine. Its members happen to come from Georgetown and George Washington universities, but the team is indistinguishable from similar groups of young doctors and doctors-to-be at many of the country’s 125 medical schools.
In the past 15 years, U.S. medicine has seen a huge influx of first- and second-generation immigrants. It follows and augments a different demographic trend that began 30 years ago with the acceptance of increasing numbers of women into medical schools. As a result of that earlier revolutionary change, half of new practitioners today are women.
The Norman Rockwell-Marcus Welby image of the American doctor — an avuncular white man, often in a bow tie — is rapidly disappearing.
From 1980 to 2004, the fraction of medical school graduates describing themselves as white fell from 85 percent to 64 percent. Over that same period, the percentage of Asians increased from 3 percent to 20 percent, with Indians and Chinese the two biggest ethnic groups.
Counted in the “white” category, moreover, are a moderate number of ethnic Persians whose families fled the 1979 Iranian revolution, and a smaller number of more recent arrivals from Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. In the “black” category is an unknown number of graduates whose families recently arrived from Africa, predominantly Nigerians and Ghanaians.
“We are seeing more and more kids of foreign-born parents, especially in the last eight to 10 years. I don’t think there is any doubt about it,” said Milford M. Foxwell, a physician and dean of admissions at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. In his 18 years on the job, he has reviewed about 75,000 applications.
Many forces are sketching this changing portrait of the American medical student. They include a general increase in immigration, a large influx of foreigners trained in scientific and technical professions, and a culture of educational achievement in communities of newly arrived immigrants that prepares their children for the competition and rigors of medical school.
How — or whether — this trend will change the practice of medicine in this country is uncertain.
There is a small amount of evidence that a diverse student body may be more attuned to disparities in medical care than a homogeneous one. A study published in 2004 found that black, Hispanic and Asian medical students (in descending order) are more likely than white ones to think that U.S. medicine often “treats people unfairly” based on race, ethnicity, insurance status, income or ability to speak English.
In general, though, few are eager to touch on the implications of the new ethnic mix in medical schools. Officials at institutions as different as the University of Vermont and Howard University declined multiple requests to discuss, even anecdotally, the evolution of their student makeup.
In the case of Med 4, its roots stretch to India (two students), Bangladesh (one), Austria (one) and Russia (one). The sole team member without a family narrative of recent arrival is African American.
The door to the team’s office at the VA hospital humorously telegraphs an awareness that the people inside the windowless warren of cubicles, computers, backpacks and water bottles are not quite a random sample of America. Someone has taped on it a page from the supermarket tabloid Weekly World News.
“Your doctor could be an alien! They’re working undercover!” shouts the headline. Under it is a photo of four masked-and-gowned physicians — one with dark space-creature eyes — gathered around a supine patient.
Team 4’s international coloration includes even its senior physician, Divya Shroff, an assistant professor of medicine at GW.
Her father immigrated from India to study chemical engineering in graduate school, returned to India to marry, then came back to the United States with his bride. Shroff and her younger brother and sister grew up in the Chicago suburbs but spent three years in New Delhi in the 1980s. Her brother is also a physician, her sister an investment banker.
“We were never forced into medicine,” she said recently in her office at the VA hospital. “But in the Indian community in Chicago, everyone was a professional. Everyone was a doctor or an engineer.”
She went from high school into a program at the University of Missouri where students got both a bachelor’s degree and a medical degree in six years. Of the 10 people in her group, “maybe one was Caucasian,” she recalled. The majority were Indians.
The culture of high expectation holds true for another South Asian on the team, resident Moneera Haque, who grew up in Bethesda with parents who immigrated from Bangladesh.
Haque, 30, has a doctorate in social work along with her medical degree. She recently presented a paper on “racial differences in utilization of cardiac rehabilitation” at a scientific meeting in New Orleans and another paper at a conference in Amsterdam. Her brother is a neurosurgeon.
In her household, the notion that education came first “was simply the way things were,” Haque said while sipping a drink in a break room. “For me, that didn’t seem like pressure.” But she admitted she wasn’t studying just for herself: “We have a sense of obligation to our parents to help them fulfill their dreams as well.”
Alexandra Langer, a third-year medical student at GW, traced a distinctly different path.
Langer, 30, grew up in Yekaterinburg, in central Russia. Her father managed a pension fund, and her mother was a police officer. As a high school student, she aspired to become a doctor, but her parents talked her out of it.
“In Russia, doctors are much lower status than here,” she said. “And they are very low-paid.”
So at 18 she left home and moved to Prague, where she studied Czech, English and international relations, but she never really gave up her original idea. She married an American, moved to the United States, graduated from college in North Carolina and got into medical school.
“It seems like a very, very long time,” she said. “But it’s worth it.”
Although the Association of American Medical Colleges asks all medical school applicants and matriculants to describe their race and ethnicity in general terms, there is little published information about national background and none about family history. Anecdotes, however, suggest that immigrants’ children are more likely to attend schools on both coasts.
S. Balasubramaniam, a surgeon at Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science in Los Angeles who emigrated from India in 1971, recently queried 50 medical schools and calculated that 12 percent of the class that entered in 2006 is of Indian heritage. The highest percentages are in California, Texas, New York, New Jersey and New England.
Na Shen, 25, a second-year medical student at Maryland who was born in Shanghai, calculated that 12 percent of her school’s students are from China, Taiwan, Korea and Japan, and 1 percent from Southeast Asia. When South Asians are included, the Asian portion of the school rises to 21 percent.
In contrast, University of Kansas medical school students since 1996 have consistently run about 10 percent “either born overseas or of parents who were born overseas,” said Glendon Cox, the vice dean.
The most recent arrivals — Africans — are the hardest to quantify.
Morehouse School of Medicine, in Atlanta, has 12 students born in Africa out of about 210 in the M.D. program. Meharry Medical College, another historically black institution, in the past eight years has had an average of two foreigners per year in its incoming classes of about 60. It has no data, however, on students with recent ties to Africa who are U.S. citizens or permanent residents. Howard, the third historically black medical school, did not provide information when asked.
A half-dozen people at the Student National Medical Association — the main U.S. organization of black medical students — did not respond to inquiries.
Lauree Thomas, an African American physician who is associate dean for admissions at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, estimated that “20 to 30 percent of the black applicant pool” at her school is students who were born in Nigeria, or of Nigerian parents. Foxwell, the Maryland dean, estimates that close to half the black students there have recent ties to Africa.
This is a touchy subject in the black medical community.
Albert Morris Jr., a diagnostic radiologist in Memphis who is president of the predominantly black National Medical Association, said he recently talked to black students at Pennsylvania State University’s medical school in Hershey. Afterward, several took him aside and quietly complained about the rising number of Africans.
“It was a big topic — that people were coming in and getting slots that they thought should be going to African Americans,” he recalled.
Blacks constitute about 13 percent of the U.S. population, but only 4 percent of U.S. doctors. There has been much effort in the last two decades to remedy this imbalance. Morris, a graduate of Howard, said he understands the students’ sensitivities.
“We are happy to see doctors who are ready to treat minority populations, no matter their nationality,” said Morris, 56. “But we want to make sure that those of us who have helped open the doors [to medical school for blacks] get to share in the bounty.”