Why the name change for the New Super-Man
briefly in the fifth installment of Impossible starring Tom Cruise.
Her Mission Impossible appearance was met with backlash. Her casting was initially announced as “a major role” in the film, but Zhang played a CIA analyst who had no more than several minutes of screen time. Many attributed her involvement in the film to it having a major Chinese backer — e-commerce giant Alibaba.
“What you have are more and more famous Chinese faces and stars in these American productions, but only for three seconds. They still want to keep [the movie] kind of white, but they want the Chinese to back with money,” said Long Bui, a professor of American studies at Wesleyan University.
“So in a weird sense, Chinese financiers and producers have more say in Hollywood now, but that doesn’t mean that Hollywood is going to comply and actually incorporate more Asian bodies and people. It’s like a tacit assessment of China’s power, but not necessarily multiculturalism,” he said.
Despite producing some of the most recognizable actors and stories consumed by audiences around the world, Hollywood has had a troubled history with the casting of Asian actors in roles that aren’t racist or stereotypical.
The oft-cited example of Mickey Rooney as a Japanese man in Breakfast at Tiffany’s is one of many instances of “yellowface’’ in Hollywood, the practice of putting makeup on white actors to make them look Asian for roles. In the 1937 movie adaptation of Pearl S. Buck’s The Good Earth, two white actors were cast as Chinese farmers in a story about their struggle to survive.
The portrayal of Asians as villains was also popular in early Hollywood, and continues to be prevalent in movies and television shows today. Early in the 20th century, Hollywood responded to people’s fears of “Yellow Peril’’ — a xenophobic perception that the East posed a threat to Americans.
John Dower, an American history professor, wrote that the fear “derived not from concern with any one country or people in particular” but from a “vague and ominous sense of the vast, faceless, nameless yellow horde: the rising tide, indeed, of color.” Mission
Dr. Fu Manchu
The image most associated with the Yellow Peril is Dr. Fu Manchu — a cunning genius introduced in the early 1900s. The Fu Manchu character was smart, but used his intelligence to plot murders and commit crimes, participating in the drug trade and trafficking white slaves. He was described as having a “face like Satan” and was portrayed as having a mustache that many now refer to as the Fu Manchu mustache. But even then, in movies only white actors like Christopher Lee and Nicolas Cage played Fu.
Today, yellow face and obvious stereotypes like Fu Manchu have fallen out of favor, though whitewashing is still a persistent issue, where studios will often cast white actors for Asian roles. With the rise of social media, problematic casting issues have been criticized quickly, leading to further conversations about the place of Asians in American pop culture.
Last year, white American actress Emma Stone was cast as a US Air Force pilot in Cameron Crowe’s movie Aloha as Allison Ng, who is half-Chinese and one quarter Hawaiian. Criticism for casting a caucasian actress for a part-Asian character led Crowe to apologize for the casting choice.
Most recently, initial stills were released from an upcoming American remake of the Japanese story Ghost in the Shell, which stars Scarlett Johansson as a Japanese character. Fans of the original manga were upset that the character was being played by a Caucasian actress. Director Max Landis defended the casting choice, saying that there are no
The New Super-Man will be a Chinese teen from Shanghai named Kenan Kong, making it the first time that Superman is Asian.