At this year's Emmy's, co-creators of Netflix's "Masters of None" Aziz Ansari and Alan Yang walked on stage to collect their award for "Best Writing in a Comedy Series". The two rightfully used the platform to shed light on the typecasting minorities in Hollywood regularly have to face with Yang quipping, "There's 17 million Asian-Americans in this country, and there's 17 million Italian Americans...They have The Godfather, Goodfellas, Rocky, the Sopranos. We got Long Duk Dong".
Of course, Yang was referring to the cringe-worthy character of Long Duk Dong in the 1984 film "Sixteen Candles". When Asians aren't being forced to play the role of the clumsy foreign exchange student, you see them swinging swords or portraying emasculated villains like Fu Man Chu who have nothing better to do than prey on hapless young white females. This colonial mindset carries itself over to female roles as well, where Asian women are most often sexualized and fetishized– for the taking and ready to be conquered.
It's not only that Hollywood fails to create humanizing, multi-layered roles for minorities. It is that even when these roles already exist, they are given to predominantly white actors. When Ridley Scott was asked about the casting choices made for his film Exodus, with a white Moses battling a white Pharaoah, he replied “I can’t mount a film of this budget... and say my lead actor is Mohammed so-and-so from such-and-such.” In Hollywood white-washing is okay, it seems, because money talks louder than sense.
Alas, Hollywood has created the worst kind of Catch-22 for it's minorities. You won't find Asian stars filling big roles with complex characters because they're not bankable. But the only reason they aren't bankable is because there are no opportunities for them to be cast as superstars in the first place.
Here, we take a lot at the few Asian stars, past and present, who are aggressively trying to break through this bamboo ceiling clouding over Tinseltown.