Thursday, May 12, 2016



Actor John Cho is not affiliated with this campaign.

John Cho is best known in the Harold and Kumar movies and
as Sulu in the updated Star Trek franchise. 

I don’t know of a time when Hollywood WASN’T a diverse jungle. “Ethnic” back in the 60’s and 70’s perhaps meant African-American or Latin/Hispanic-American.  Sure, times have changed and roles for Asians and Asian-American actors are becoming…again B-E-C-O-M-I-N-G…more abundant. Growing up, “Asian” movie characters – at least in movies or on television – fell into one of four buckets. If there was a woman’s role, she was either the submissive, exotic temptress who waited to be rescued (and/or hid her lethal martial arts talent and only used them when the hero arrived) OR she ran the brothel.  Men’s roles boiled down to either the archetypical evil genius bent on world domination OR were the martial arts expert seeking revenge on the killing of your immediate family.  Ok, maybe I’m pushing the envelope here just a bit, but my bottom line is that protagonist roles for Asian and Asian-American men and women in Hollywood were categorically stereotypical, limited, one-dimensional and un-integral to the plot (unless you were Bruce Lee and you WERE the plot).

I think there has been change since then. Asian-Americans are portrayed on television (“Fresh Off the Boat”, “Dr. Ken”, “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” ‘Hawaii Five-O”, etc.) and in movies (“Star Trek”, “The Joy Luck Club”, “Slum Dog Millionaire, etc.”) in leading or supporting roles with much more room for more!

After much hullabaloo at this year’s Oscar’s presentation about diversity [note: when non-Asian people speak of “diversity”, are they including Asian-Americans in that definition?] and gender equality when it comes to representation both in front of and behind the lens, there hasn’t been much ado about anything that I can see. Until now….

William Yu, a 25 year-old digital strategist, has started #StarringJohnCho, a project imagining what big movies and blockbusters would look like if Asian-American actor John Cho had a starring role. I’m actually very impressed by this campaign because not only does it put an Asian-American face in a mainstream movie, it subliminally makes me, and hopefully others, think about the possibility of casting an Asian-American in more leading roles.