Being a big Cameron Crowe fan, it was a bit disconcerting to hear that Crowe had shafted API’s (Asian Pacific Islanders) in his recent projects. The recoil has been so bad that Crowe offered a public apology for casting Emma Stone as “Allison Ng” in Aloha.
There has been an insurmountable outcry against Cameron Crowe’s new movie Aloha, starring Emma Stone and Bradley Cooper, from social media. The film is about a military contractor (Cooper) who returns to Hawaii and reconnects with an old flame while falling for a young ingénue (Stone) assigned to be his watchdog.
According to online netizens, the main issue with Crowe’s new film is the fact that Stone’s character, “Allison Ng,” is supposed to be Eurasian – a quarter Chinese, and a quarter Hawaiian. As far as we know, Emma Stone is completely White and many are complaining that Crowe whitewashed the movie. According to The Huffington Post:
“Guy Aoki of the Media Action Network for Asian Americans expressed frustration over Stone’s casting. “It’s so typical for Asian or Pacific Islanders to be rendered invisible in stories that we’re supposed to be in, in places that we live,” he told The Huffington Post. “We’re 60 percent of the population [in Hawaii]. We’d like them to reflect reality.”
A slew of other publications and activists also voiced their disapproval with regards to the film’s lack of diversity. From a superficial level, yes, Aloha lacks API presence and its cast is as White as rice, but if we compare it to every other movie Hollywood produces, it’s nothing unusual.
Granted, Aloha is not exactly Crowe’s best piece of work – some critics have even called it his worst film ever made – but it does not erase the other amazing films he has created. Movies like The Descendants are even more offensive to Hawaiian culture than Aloha, yet it did not get the same backlash. When Anthony Hopkins played a mixed person of African American descent in The Human Stain, did he face the same backlash for being a fully White British actor? Nope. Society’s perception of Asian Americans is one-note and that is the problem – not Cameron Crowe’s choice of leading ladies.
Another project Crowe is working on also suffers from the same problem as Aloha – a production with an all-white actress passing as Asian American. In this case, it’s the made for television movie Roadies, and the actress in question is Jacqueline Byers who stars as “Natalie Shin.” Again, people are complaining that Byers, much like Stone, doesn’t look Asian at all. But this reasoning is offensive in itself: To suggest that Asians must look a certain way in order to “pass.”
The stereotypical notion that all East Asians must have black hair, small eyes, and olive skin is bigoted. Using this argument, Sharin Foo from The Raveonettes and Alexa Chung don’t qualify as eurasian (even though both their dads are Chinese) because they doesn’t look like Kelly Hu or Olivia Munn. Even more distressing is that other Asian Americans are promulgating this notion.
Pretty much every movie involving API’s has the same formula: The White guy comes and saves everyone while getting the (Asian) damsel in distress. Crowe’s movie is no exception – except that he didn’t actually cast a real API actress for the lead. Honestly, is this any worse than casting a full Asian like Candace Wu or Jamie Chung to be objectified instead?
As an Asian American, I am more apathetic than outraged at Aloha and Roadies. What I do have a problem with are movies like Last Samurai, Red Dawn, Full Metal Jacket and Crash, which objectify Asian women, emasculate Asian men, and dehumanize Asians in general.
What’s the point in getting angry over Crowe when Hollywood either ignores or degrades API’s on a mass scale? It’s just another drop in the bucket.
Do you plan on seeing Aloha? If you already have, did you find it offensive towards API’s?