But the cover did more than just reveal details of the shocking death of one of the show’s most popular characters. It gave an Asian actor some much-needed exposure in an industry that continues to underutilize Asian talent and whitewash fictional Asian characters, while still practicing the offensive yellowface.
Yeun is only one of three Asian male actors to appear by themselves on the cover of Entertainment Weekly since its first issue in 1990, according to Fusion.
It’s about damn time.
Hollywood seems to cling to the idea that male Asian actors simply can’t play the leading role, let alone be typecast as a heartthrob. A 2014 report revealed that Asian characters represented a mere 5.1 percent of speaking or named characters in film, TV or digital series.
The entertainment industry’s perpetuation of this belief doesn’t help the stereotype that Asian men aren’t masculine enough to be considered hot ― an assumption that even actor John Cho, twice included in People magazine’s list of Sexiest Men Alive, has experienced.
“Girls would say, in an almost benevolent tone, that they just had zero attraction to Asian men,” Cho said in a 2015 interview with Public Radio International.
That’s why Yeun’s Entertainment Weekly cover is so important for Asian American actors ― it proves that an Asian male can be both a leading actor and a decided heartthrob.
So, Hollywood, we have a proposition for you: Follow Entertainment Weekly’s footsteps and find an Asian male actor that can do both.