From this iconic Chinese Theatre in the heart of Hollywood to a famous old-time movie industry hangout named the Formosa cafe,
Hollywood has had a fascination with the Chinese culture and the Orient since the early days of the film industry.
Audience has given to this exotic glimpse of a land unknown to them and I think that’s started there.
Filmmaker Arthur Dong produced a film on this topic and wrote a new book called Hollywood Chinese,where he says the movie industries fascination with the Orient especially in the 20s, 30s and 40s translated into problematic 1-dimensional Chinese characters.
I saw Chinese characters on screen, but they were always playing servants, coolies, laundry men, and if there were women they were prostitutes or servants.
And white actors played lead Chinese characters.
You had the main actors in yellow face.
The yellow face meaning they actually literally yellowed up her skin.
They usually slanted their eyes with prosthetics.
Are you so foolish as to believe that you can oppose the will of Fu Manchu?
They included the villain Fu Manchu and in 1926 the character Charlie Chan debuted on the big screen.
这些角色包括坏人Fu Manchu，以及一九二六年Charlie Chan首次在大银幕的角色。
He was supposed to portray a more positive Asian American image.
He was smart and wise, but he was also very oriental in the word sense in that he was passive.
He was quiet. He was smart, smarter than anybody else which is a good attribute, yes but it was using the stereotyped way.
And he spoke in broken English.
Caucasian characters played lead roles in the 1937 film The Good Earth about rural Chinese farmers.
Even though Asian actors received parts in the film.
But it’s overshadowed by this yellow-faced casting of the main actors.
I think in its day, in the 30s that was a norm, that was that’s what Hollywood was doing.
But over the decades, Asian and Chinese Americans did find work in Hollywood and a few earned a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
But even recently some movie fans have been critical on social media of Hollywood casting white actors in main roles they believe should have gone to an Asian actor.
You’re cynical. I get it.
They include the 2015 film Aloha where Emma Stone played Allison Inge, a character of Asian descent.
But in 2018, Crazy Rich Asians hit the big screen with a majority Asian cast, an Asian-American director and an Asian as one of the writers.
The movie was a milestone.
The sensation of Crazy Rich Asians, both in its critical and box office success, is a sign that things are changing.
Filmmakers are being nurtured.
Attitudes are being nurtured and strengthened where we won’t take that yellow faced casting anymore,where we won’t take that kind of whitewashing attitude making an Asian character white.
Technology is also opening doors for Asian Americans to tell stories on their own terms.
We have so many more platforms, right, there’s the Netflix’s.
There is the Amazon Prime’s and Hulus.
With Asian Americans being the fastest growing racial group in the U.S.,
a new generation of Asian-American artists can use the different digital platforms to tell stories without being boxed in to a stereotype.
Elizabeth Lee VOA news Los Angeles
美国之音记者Elizabeth Lee 洛杉矶报道