you know, 21 is probably one of the biggest perpetrators of racebending in hollywood media
21 is based off of a book thats based off of a true story where the main character is a chinese-american named jeffrey ma
whereas in the movie, they decided to cast a white dude to play his part instead. jim sturgess.
the teacher is an asian-american man named john chang who morphed into kevin spacey.
to add to that, while the main cast was originally mostly asian-americans, they were replaced with all white people except for two asians on the team, both exceedingly minor roles that were considered useless or incompetent.
aaron yoo and liza lapira respectively (whose characters also dont even receive last names)
however, my biggest issue with this was the explanation on why the racebending was ok or expected. whenever questions about this was brought up, the constant explanation was that asia male led movies didnt sell enough, that they wouldnt receive enough attention, interest, or a good response, or that (my favourite) theres no “access to any bankable Asian-American actors that [they] wanted”. with the concept of wanting “bankable” actors however, leads to the idea that they would want more popular or famous actors to be playing the roles. which is interesting considering that jim sturgess was more or less unknown before 21 had released.
the problem is that there is a belief in america that people of colour just dont sell. that theres either a lack of actors or actresses that are poc to choose from, that there are no bankable (god i hate that word) ones, or that if you insert a poc into a movie, itll immediately turn into some sort of offensive stereotype. to be quite honest, im pretty sure racebending poc in movies is more offensive than actually using them. and yet, the harold and kumar films both star two asian men (korean and indian) and the film series itself has become a critical and financial success, spawning many sequels, parodies, and adaptions. as a friend put it, “obviously one exception doesn’t prove the rule but it definitely makes me wonder whether it’s really that omg white people won’t watch films with asian leads! (that aren’t martial arts movies). or whether it’s more that Hollywood’s decided that and it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy.”
people have become so used to this that its become a tradition to whitewash. people ask why things like this dont change, the response is that no one says anything or that its become so normal that it shouldnt bother anyone. but it does! people of colour continue to be underrepresented and underappreciated. characters from books that are clearly black get played by white actors in the movies. asian main characters become white simply because theyre leading characters while their “tribe” remains inexplicably asian, and the villain roles get played by the current dangerous and ethnic people of colour that america should be so afraid of.
but in the end, it seems that poc in leading roles in movies — dont make money. because america wants to see white people. and despite the fact that america is supposed to be some sort of melting pot made up of people of different colours and cultures, that doesnt ever seem to be important enough to be portrayed correctly in movies.
and dont misunderstand that i have some sort of issue with white people or white actors. what i do have an issue with is asian characters or asian people (or any people of colour) that are shoved to the side or ignored or replaced with white actors and actresses because of faulty reasoning or just a lack of care.
when jeff ma was asked about this, people accused him of being a race-traitor. however, his response just seemed a defeatist attitude. because, honestly, how much is there that he can do?
“I’m definitely sympathetic to the stereotype of the Asian male in our society, I mean, I’ve lived it my whole life, where the Asian male is considered to be nerdy, not able to carry a movie, and not cool. And it bothers me, it’s bothered me my whole life. And I do apologize if people feel like by being complicit in this situation that I was helping to continue to perpetuate that stereotype but all I can say is that I tried to do the best for Asian American males by doing something that would make me front and center of the PR campaign so that I was out there and people would see that I was Asian American.”
anyways, i dont know why i started ranting about this. i guess im just honestly frustrated of being misrepresented in the media that surrounds me.
also, for those interested, heres the actual participants of the 21 team.