As was recently reported on Vulture.com, the renowned and much loved actor, director, author and activist, George Takei, who is perhaps best known for his iconic portrayal of Star Trek’s Hikaru Sulu, recently had some very harsh criticism for Marvel and Hollywood’s good old boy casting system.
Takei took to social media, which serves the internet savvy personality quite well when he wishes to get his message out to his legions of fans throughout the galaxy, and expressed his disapproval and disappointment over Marvel’s casting decision to hire a white actress Tilda Swinton, as the Ancient One in the upcoming Doctor Strange film.
In his Facebook post Takei did not hold back any punches and it is clearly evident that his perspective comes from a much informed first hand experience after having lived a life within the Hollywood system he denounced saying, “. . . we are talking about the systematic erasure of Asian faces from film and media. It is so prevalent that even when there IS an Asian role that could be played by an Asian actor, it is given instead to a white actor. Do you not see the issue here? We are talking about systemic exclusion, lack of opportunity, and invisibility of a whole segment of our society, because Hollywood is afraid to take chances with ethnic actors. Instead, we are the butt of jokes (as the Oscars telecast showed) or are cast only in certain roles that continue to marginalize us and send signals to society that we are not leading men and women. I have a real problem with that, and I’m the happy exception to all of this. But I feel for my fellow Asian American actors who cannot find work because what little work there is gets “whitewashed” for others to play.”
While Takei did not have anything negative to say about Tilda Swinton herself per se, he was quite clear to point out that in his opinion, Swinton was cast, “. . . because they (the studios) believe white audiences want to see white faces. Audiences, too, should be aware of how dumb and out of touch the studios think we are.”
Takei seemed to get to the heart of the issue in his social media commentary when he said, “To those who say, “She an actress, this is fiction,” remember that Hollywood has been casting white actors in Asian roles for decades now, and we can’t keep pretending there isn’t something deeper at work here. If it were true that actors of Asian descent were being offered choice roles in films, these arguments might prevail. But there has been a long standing practice of taking roles that were originally Asian and rewriting them for white actors to play, leaving Asians invisible on the screen and underemployed as actors. This is a very real problem, not an abstract one. It is not about political correctness, it is about correcting systemic exclusion. Do you see the difference?”
Never one to shy away from inequality or injustice, the much respected and iconic Takei clearly has the credibility and voice to raise the issues of ‘. . . systemic exclusion, lack of opportunity, and invisibility of a whole segment of our society . . .” when describing the unfair treatment actors of Asian decent are subjected to in Hollywood.
The real question however is not so much whether or not Takei’s comments will in anyway alter Marvel’s decision to cast Swinton in Doctor Strange, but rather how much longer this twisted Hollywood mentality will continue to prevail within what Takei describes as Hollywood’s culture of systemic exclusion of Asian actors!? At the very least however, Hollywood’s unseen and underemployed population of Asian actors has one very important thing working for them and that it would seem is their very loud and very proud, Gay Uncle George!
You can read more of George Takei’s thoughts on a number of issues at: http://georgetakei.com