I was wrong.
As a long time avid fan of the franchise, I am completely in the wrong. Judging someone not by their performance but simply by association of race/looks/gender. Star Wars taught me better than that. Yet, I’ve fallen to the dark side. By the end of this article, I have a new hope (ah-Thank you) in bringing some sort of light to a very dark subject matter: Why Asians matter in films.
In a recent interview with the New York Times, actor Kelly Marie Tran, best known for her role as the controversial Rose Tico in Star Wars: The Last Jedi, spoke out about why she up and quit all of her social media.
“It wasn’t their words, it’s that I started to believe them,” Tran wrote. “Their words seemed to confirm what growing up as a woman and a person of color already taught me: that I belonged in margins and spaces, valid only as a minor character in their lives and stories.”
As an Asian actor myself, those words ring too true for me and hits home very hard. It’s a constant struggle for Asian Americans to find on-camera work in the fairyland of Hollywood. Unless you’re Korean, Viet, or know kung-fu, there is very little work for Asians.
If we’re not playing the stereotypes, lord knows we’re gonna be playing some sort of ching-chong archetypes to help get us some IMDB cred.
Look at the history of Asian roles and I can pinpoint it to one of the following: A cook, a person who’s good at math, a terrible driver, another form of a cook, a person who deals with food, or Jackie Chan. Like seriously?
Not the first, certainly not the Last
Kelly went on to say “Their words reinforced a narrative I had heard my whole life: that I was “other,” that I didn’t belong, that I wasn’t good enough, simply because I wasn’t like them. And that feeling, I realize now, was, and is, shame, a shame for the things that made me different, a shame for the culture from which I came from. And to me, the most disappointing thing was that I felt it at all.”
In the mob mentality society we live in now, it’s hard not to let one’s troll comment affect you. Yet here we are, living in the hypocrisy of “We should all be equal!” but in the same breath spew “that slant eye bitch should die”. A real quote in the comments section of her now-defunct Instagram by the way.
Even with the recent success of Crazy Rich Asians, which is currently tracking at 93% on Rotten Tomatoes, lead actress Constance Wu was ridiculed by Ellen DeGeneres on her show recently. When asked by Ellen where Constance is from, “Richmond, Virginia” she replied. To which Ellen gave her a face.
Even to this day, I’m still asked: “So where are you from originally?”
“Los Angeles.” Which leads to “No, but like where is your family from?”
“Walnut, California.” And immediately they get frustrated because I can’t seem to satisfy the undertone racism happening here. What do you expect me to say? RURAL CHINA?!
Yellow is the new Black
“I want to live in a world where children of color don’t spend their entire adolescence wishing to be white…where women are not subjected to scrutiny for their appearance, or their actions, or their general existence. I want to live in a world where people of all races, religions, socioeconomic classes, sexual orientations, gender identities, and abilities are seen as what they have always been: human beings.” It’s a strange and familiar concept Kelly points out here. We all want the same thing, yet we as a society have not moved forward with this outlook. Until we can move on and see actors as themselves instead of gender/color/sex, I blame the racism squarely on YOU. The viewers.