#StarringConstanceWu Continues the Conversation on Hollywood Whitewashing

Constance Wu photoshopped into the film poster for "The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2."
Constance Wu photoshopped into the film poster for "The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2."Courtesy of Jigme Ugen

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By Frances Kai-Hwa Wang

Hot on the heels of #StarringJohnCho — a social media campaign to show what blockbuster movies could look like with an Asian-American lead — comes a new hashtag aimed at taking the conversation about whitewashing in the media one step further: #StarringConstanceWu imagines "Fresh Off the Boat" star Constance Wu "starring" in a wide array of movie posters to show those who say they “can’t see it,” what it would look like to have an Asian-American woman lead in a film.

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The #StarringConstanceWu Twitter account and hashtag were launched by Bonnie Tang, a 17-year-old high school junior in New York City who was inspired after seeing the #StarringJohnCho posts in social media.

"When I was in middle school, I developed a passion for acting but I gave that up when it appeared I wouldn't go anywhere with it since there wasn't anyone in Hollywood that looked like me, especially on promotional posters for these blockbuster films," Tang told NBC News. "I hope to expose this racism in Hollywood and possibly contribute to increasing the amount of roles given to Asian Americans, as well as finally putting more Asians on Hollywood's promotional posters."

Both #StarringConstanceWu and #StarringJohnCho were created to show what giving more opportunities to all actors of color would look like.

With mounting frustration over the lack of substantive roles for Asian Americans in film and theater, along with the continued casting of white actors as characters that were originally Asian, Asian Americans have been speaking out against the lack of real representation in film, theater, and books, using several successful hashtags including #MyYellowfaceStory, #MyBrownfaceStory, #whitewashedOUT, and #StarringJohnCho.

“Campaigns like #StarringJohnCho and #StarringConstanceWu are a direct response to Hollywood’s false belief that there are no Asian-American actors to front major releases,” Jigme Ugen, president of the Tibetan National Congress and creator of several #StarringConstanceWu images, told NBC News. “When Asian roles are being appropriated, whitewashed and erased from their own narratives, it further exposes Hollywood’s deep-seated prejudice and its historic xenophobic designs that were prevalent long before Asian actors were permitted in Hollywood. As a Tibetan, I take profound offense on the whitewashing of the Ancient One in ‘Dr. Strange.’ Hollywood wants me to celebrate it as a victory on gender bending — but at the cost of quashing the identity of a marginalized group of people facing genocide?”

Some contributions to the hashtag by others did not even need Photoshop.

The images shared with the hashtag spoke to many people as a reality they could relate to, and something that the mainstream media misses by not casting Asian Americans.

Wu herself has been outspoken about the importance of diversity in the mainstream, having participated in the #whitewashedOUT and #MyYellowfaceStory Twitter conversations. Wu has also acknowledged #StarringConstanceWu, retweeting a Photoshopped image of the film poster for "Easy A," starring Emma Stone — an ironic image considering Stone came under fire in 2015 after she was cast as a multiracial Chinese Hawaiian-American character in the film "Aloha."

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