Actress Michele Selene Ang has spoken powerfully about the problem of “whitewashing” in the entertainment industry — without opening her mouth.
The star of “13 Reasons Why” posed for an Instagram post in a new T-shirt protesting Hollywood’s practice of using white actors to play characters who were originally people of color. The black shirt simply lists the first names of four white actors — Scarlett (Johansson), Emma (Stone), Tilda (Swinton) who have all played Asian characters. It also displays the name “Matt,” in reference to Matt Damon, who came under fire for playing a white savior in “The Great Wall,” released in December.
Complaints about whitewashing have mounted with several high-profile casting choices, including Johansson’s lead in “Ghost in the Shell,” based on a Japanese manga character. Stone played Alisson Ng, a woman of Hawaiian and Asian heritage in “Aloha” in 2015 and Damon played the lead in “The Great Wall” of China.
In November, the Media Action Network for Asian Americans blasted the casting choice of Swinton in Marvel studio’s “Doctor Strange.” She plays Doctor Strange’s mentor, The Ancient One, who is a Tibetan man in the original comic book. The role should have been played by an Asian, it said. “White actresses are seen onscreen more than Asians of any gender. And Tilda Swinton can afford to turn down roles,” the MANAA said in a statement.
The network again spoke out against whitewashing on Friday, ahead of the release of “Ghost in the Shell.” “Apparently, in Hollywood, Japanese people can’t play Japanese people anymore,” MANAA president Robert Chan said, according to Variety.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article misstated that Damon had played an Asian character.