TCHS Rampage

Temple City High School


February 27, 2017


Having grown up in Temple City, seeing Asians wherever I go has become a familiar sight. Meeting so many Asians around me has sparked a sense of identity—I am proud to be who I am: an Asian American. However, recently, this identity has been misrepresented by Hollywood. One such problem is that movies will often showcase non-Asian actors as Asian characters.
This has been dubbed yellowface, an old term that describes white actors playing Eastern characters, using features such as yellow makeup. However, the term yellowface itself, in my opinion, has found a new definition during these modern times—a definition completely different from its original meaning. I find that people often use yellowface as a blanket term to describe any instance of Asian misrepresentation.
This distortion of the word is extremely disrespectful since it references blackface, a term with a long history of racism and violence behind it. Comparing Asian misrepresentation to blackface is like comparing two entirely different worlds.
One movie that has been accused of yellowface is the currently unreleased “Ghost in the Shell,” in which  the main protagonist, Motoko Kusanagi, is played by Scarlett Johansson. Many people are complaining that Johansson, a white woman, should not play the role of Kusanagi, a Japanese woman.
The way I see it is if Johansson can pull off the role better than anyone else, then why not let her do it?
The main issue here shouldn’t be her race, but rather how Hollywood simply slapped Johansson’s name onto the movie, and the new direction this movie is taking. To me, it seems that using Johansson’s famous name and face is nothing more than a simple cash-grab.
From the trailers, it is obvious that the direction that this movie takes is different from the original storyline. From what we can see, the movie is much more action-packed than the source material. If there are complaints, I feel that they would be better aimed at the new direction the movie seems to be taking.
“The Great Wall,” directed by Zhang Yimou is a recent release that has been receiving criticism since its first trailer. Many of the complaints allege that the movie is racist because the protagonist, played by Matt Damon, is white. People see this to be racist towards the Chinese because they assume that the movie is another typical white-savior story, where the white man saves the day in the end.
However, that is simply not the case. For starters, Damon is not a white man dressed up as an Asian character. In fact, out of all of the characters, only two, Damon included, are white. The choice to include white characters in this Chinese-dominated movie, in my opinion, is beneficial. Not only does Damon’s presence bring in the American audience, but the casting of several well-known Chinese actors has helped to make the movie interesting to an international audience.
Damon’s William, the protaganist of the movie, is a flawed character who learns how to adapt to Chinese culture. Commander Lin Mae, played by actress Tian Jiang, teaches him moral values and ethics. In the end, SPOILER ALERT: William isn’t even the one who saves the day, but rather Commander Lin Mae herself.
This movie actually shows a friendly relationship between white and Asian people, which is often hard to find in period pieces. Not only was the storyline a pleasant surprise, but the movie actually showed a strong female character, which is rare for action films.
As always, issues like that of Asian representation are not black and white—nor yellow—but rather multicolored. No doubt there are problems with Asian representation in the media, I won’t deny that; however, in order to solve these problems, it takes more than just a blanket statement of yellowface and refusal to watch movies based on assumptions. It takes open minds.
Although the Great Wall seems like another white savior story with actor Matt Damon saving the Chinese people, the movie is more about how Damon helps the Chinese people out with their problems, and in return, the Chinese teaching him how to trust people. Also, SPOILER ALERT: Matt Damon isn’t even the one to save the day. The true hero of the story is Commander Lin Mae, played by actress Tian Jiang. If anything, this movie shows the partnership between white and Asian people.

About the Author

Nicholas Sulistio



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