In 2016, I released a project called #StarringJohnCho. Using Photoshop, I reengineered famous movie posters and inserted Korean-American actor John Cho in them to demonstrate what Hollywood hits would look like with an Asian American lead. While a still image proved to be an impactful way to make this point, I saw an opportunity to bring my hopes for an Asian American movie star even closer to reality.
This May, I launched #SeeAsAmStar (short for “Asian American”), a collection of video clips that feature Asian American actors John Cho, Constance Wu, Arden Cho, and Steven Yeun in some of your favorite movies. From Captain America to Katniss Everdeen, #SeeAsAmStar reimagines the Hollywood landscape to reflect the growing presence of Asian Americans in this country. The goal of the project is to deconstruct the definition of a Hollywood movie star and show that Asian Americans can play these roles.
Using Deepfake technology, most recently incorporated to create Jordan Peele’s simulated Obama PSA, I superimposed Asian American actors and created video clips that provide a living depiction of Asian American as the heroes, romantics, and leaders that Hollywood refuses to cast because it “can’t see” Asian movie stars. The results are remarkably realistic, and I hope that in viewing them, you will reexamine your expectations of who can or cannot carry hit movies in this country.
Studies continue to show that films with diverse casts result in higher box office numbers and higher returns on investments for film companies, yet whitewashing and the marginalization of Asian American stories continue to exist. Even with the release of a movie like Crazy Rich Asians, the first film produced in Hollywood in two and a half decades to feature an all ethnically Asian cast, in August, there is still more work to be done to address Hollywood’s inability to include more Asian American stories. As Asian Americans continue to grow in population and buying power, there is a growing desire to see ourselves fairly represented in the stories we consume.