If you've been on Twitter recently, there's a good chance you've seen #WhitewashedOUT scroll through your timeline at least once or twice. Coined by the website Nerds of Color, the hashtag is a response to the longstanding tendency of Hollywood to cast white actors in roles originally conceived of as Asian (see: Ghost in the Shell and Dr. Strange).
Nerds of Color explains:
For nearly one hundred years, Hollywood has been whitewashing characters, and particularly Asian characters, on the screen. So when several consecutive films debut or are announced featuring whitewashed characters, it is time to say ‘enough is enough.’ Because there already isn’t enough Asian representation in films to begin with, we cannot allow the few roles that do exist go to white actors. We’re tired of Hollywood acting as though Asian Americans don’t exist, and want to let them know that we aren’t watching these whitewashed movies.
Timed to coincide with Asian Pacific American Heritage month, #WhitewashedOUT has become a social media rallying cry. On Tuesday afternoon, author Ellen Oh and comedian Margaret Cho joined Nerds of Color's Keith Chow to get the conversation started.
Soon, hundreds of Twitter users were speaking up, and adding their own whitewashing experiences to the narrative.
Some called out the larger, systemic issues at play beyond the casting couch itself.
Many pointed out how important it was for them as children, and for their own children now, to see people like themselves represented on screen.
Some used the opportunity to point out instances of positive progress in Asian representation in media, as well as identify other opportunities for diversity
The #WhitewashedOUT campaign comes just one day after an event in New York City focused on specifically on whitewashing within the world of theater. Entitled Beyond Orientalism: The Forum, the evening featured a nine-person panel of actors, directors, and playwrights, with actor B.D. Wong speaking candidly about the impact of whitewashing on the Asian community.
"The tradition of white actors transforming themselves, playing whoever they want, crossing across race, painting themselves up, and doing all sorts of things like that," explained Wong, "is as deeply entrenched in them as our pain is in us."