Cameron Crowe has caused a stir amongst the politically-correct crowd by casting Emma Stone in a role portraying a character of part Hawaiian, Chinese, and Swedish descent. Evidently “Asians and non-Asians alike asked why they didn’t pick an Asian actress to play a character who is part-Asian”. Once again we see the multiculturalists’ real-world accuracy for me, not for thee attitude when it comes to the portrayal of race in popular culture.
First of all it’s worth noting that actors are indeed actors. They, by definition, pretend to be someone else for a living. If one is to complain about Emma Stone portraying someone from an ethnic group to which she in fact does not belong, why should one be satisfied with Brits playing Americans, or straight people playing gay people, or twenty-year-olds portraying seventeen-year-olds, or 21st century human beings portraying 2nd century human beings?
This is apparently lost on the multicultural crowd, who demand that non-white characters be played by non-white people. What’s astonishing is that the very same people do not bat an eyelid when it is suggested that Idris Elba should play James Bond. Ah, but “‘whitashing’ casting differs from ‘colour-blind casting'”, the BBC so helpfully reminds us, “where a role is cast when factors of race or ethnicity are irrelevant to the character or plot”. Perhaps, but in practice “colour-blind casting” is almost always a case of a non-white actor being given the role of a character traditionally thought to be white. The BBC itself gives the example of Lucy Liu portraying Dr. Watson in the US series Elementary.
Arthur Conan Doyle may never explicitly state that Dr. John Watson is a white man, but that is because he doesn’t need to. This is a character in a series written the United Kingdom in the late 19th century, you know, before the age of mass third world immigration, when 99.999% of people living in the British Isles were actually English, Scottish, Welsh, or Irish, a character who is a physician and veteran of the Second Anglo-Afghan War. The fact is that until European countries started letting in non-Europeans en masse, European writers never particularly specified the race of their characters because they didn’t need to, unless of course they weren’t white and European.
Likewise, Ian Fleming never explicitly states, “James Bond is a white man”, but the character’s occupation, history, and family, not to mention the pro-Imperialist nature of the Bond novels themselves and the context in which they were written, make it pretty obvious that James Bond is probably not a black man.
This is just part of a wider pattern of the, for lack of a better word, brown-washing of Western culture. Multiculturalists routinely demand the anachronistic inclusion of minority characters in period dramas, and in most TV shows and films today, the frequency of non-white characters is usually disproportionally high compared to actual demographic figures. Traditional European fairy tales are often re-written for ethnic minorities; even the works of The Bard himself are not spared this absurd treatment.
The fact is that while there are certainly strange casting decisions from time to time when it comes to white actors playing non-white characters, it is foolish to think this sort of thing doesn’t go both ways. “White” roles are routinely given to non-white actors, and “white” stories are routinely re-written for non-white audiences.
This is the 21st century. If Bruce Jenner can be a woman in the “real world”, I see no reason why Emma Stone can’t be an Asian in a film.