Simu Liu has no patience for racist casting announcements.
The “Kim’s Convenience” start and future Marvel superhero took aim at a casting call seeking a Chinese or Korean woman from New York-based talent agency Paladino Casting. The notice asked that both the adult actor and the actor playing her kid have eyes that are “almond-shaped” but “not too downturned,” and specifies “no monolid.” (A monolid is an eye shape where eyelids don’t have a visible crease. It’s common in East Asian countries.)
Liu’s response to the casting notice was simple.
“F**k you,” he wrote on Twitter, and signed his message “A Proudly-Monolidded Asian.”
He also took issue with the fact that the casting notice wanted Chinese or Korean actors whose skin was “clean, white and pinky.”
“I’ve never heard Asians described as ‘pinky’ in my entire life,” he wrote in a response to his initial tweet.
After receiving backlash from Liu and many other social media users, the casting agency apologized for not challenging the wording of the notice by the company who hired them to cast the ad.
“Posting this as received without pushing back against the language it contained was an inexcusable oversight by all of us here,” the company wrote on Twitter.
“Systemic racism runs rampant in the entertainment industry. As casting directors, if we do not refuse to accept racist breakdowns of this nature we too are culpable.”
Beauty standards favouring light skin and specifically European facial features are linked to colonialism and exclusion. Anti-Asian propaganda, like the kind that was spread to prevent Chinese immigration or to demonize Japanese people during the Second World War, has played heavily on mocking stereotypes around eye shape.
The pressure to have bigger eyes and double eyelids has led to massive sales for eyelid tape, which can temporarily give the impression of a crease, and over the last few years, a spike in blepharoplasty procedures — surgery that adds a permanent lid crease. It dates back to 1896, according to The Atlantic, when a Japanese doctor performed the first known double-eyelid surgery in order “to make the Japanese face ‘more attractive’ during a time of cultural transition.”
“I don’t think this idea of Western beauty is necessarily in the forefront of people’s minds. It’s very institutionalized,” a Korean-American woman named Cindy previously told HuffPost. “Lighter skin and big eyes are coveted because that’s gone through generations of being the default — even if we don’t know the roots of why we want to look like that.”
Some beauty industry insiders are embracing the monolid as a distinctive and attractive feature. Francesca Tanmizi of Jakarta, Indonesia grew up hating her eyes and almost got eyelid surgery, she told Vice in 2016. Her point of view changed when she worked with a makeup artist who taught her how to complement her natural eye shape, rather than try to change it. Her Instagram account Working with Monolids now has 28,000 followers.