Why are there so few Asian American actors in Hollywood? According to some casting directors, it's because Asians simply aren't expressive.
A Paste magazine article from last week quotes author Nancy Wang Yeun's book Reel Inequality: Hollywood Actors and Racism. Apparently, a casting director said to Yeun, "I work with a lot of different people, and Asians are a challenge to cast because most casting directors feel as though they're not very expressive."
After the Paste article about whitewashing Asian roles — and the casting director's quote — went viral, YA author Maurene Goo (@mauxbot) suggested the hashtag #ExpressiveAsians. The result is a slew of irreverent clapbacks from Twitter. Users began sharing images of expressive Asian actors, as well as non-expressive white actors.
While most of the hashtag is populated with jokes, memes, and tributes to famous Asian actors, many also used it as an opportunity to discuss the history behind the idea that Asian Americans are "expressionless."
"White people don't think we're "expressive" bc they're invested in Orientalist narratives that present us as all the same," writer Ju-Hyun Park began on a Twitter thread. He explained that this emerged from military tactics Western countries used during wartime. To rationalize the deaths of many "foreigners," the West conveniently categorized the people they were fighting as homogenous.
"Images of expressionless Asians also come from war narratives justifying genocide based on alleged lack of individuality," Park continued. "They need to see us as an unvariegated mass to justify colonialism & invasion. We're the borg to them."
Park makes a great point — the view is rooted in bias, which means we shouldn't need to provide examples to disprove the thesis. The thesis is moot because it is based in racial prejudice. Now, we have to work on getting rid of it.
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