Marvel star slates Hollywood over casting-related racism
Back in 2008, a comic book movie hit cinema screens that changed the genre forever. Iron Man, starring Robert Downey Jr as Tony Stark, was a huge success both critically and commercially, and since then, we've seen the likes of Captain America, Ant Man and Thor hit the silver screen.
As good as Marvel Studious has been for the health of comic book movies and as strong as the films have been on the whole, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has come in for some criticism that is symptomatic of the entire film landscape over the past few years.
Some people believe there is a lack of diversity in the MCU; especially when it comes to casting. While Black Panther and Captain Marvel will both come out next year in 2018, some of Marvel's offerings have been criticised for pandering to the white male audience.
Despite being around for nearly 10 years, Captain Marvel will be the first female-headed movie from the MCU, while last year's Doctor Strange featured a character played by Tilda Swinton that was an Asian male in the comics. Now, one of the stars of the Marvel television show Agents of Shield has spoken out against Hollywood casting practices, describing them as "racist".
Whitewashing is an issue that's been particularly prominent over the last few days, with the upcoming Hellboy reboot the latest to come under fire. Actor Ed Skrein was initially signed on to appear in the film, but after he found out the character he was going to play was originally of Asian heritage, he pulled out so that "the role can be cast appropriately".
Chloe Wang stars in Marvel's Agents of Shield, and while she praised Skrein on Instagram for his noble decision to step down from Hellboy, she relayed her own experiences of racism in the acting world. Chloe Bennet is half-Chinese, and she said that she's had to change her last name from Wang to Bennet in order to get work in Hollywood.
An Instagram follower enquired about Wang's name change, and the 25-year-old set the record straight, saying: "Hollywood is racist and wouldn't cast me with a last name that made them uncomfortable".
"Changing my last name doesn't change the fact that my BLOOD is half Chinese, that I lived in China, speak Mandarin or that I was culturally raised both American and Chinese... It means I had to pay my rent. I'm doing everything I can, with the platform I have, to make sure no one has to change their name again, just so they can get work."
Wang has previously spoken about having to get her name changed, and it's a similar stance to now; speaking to the Daily Beast, Wang told us how changing from Wang to Bennet led to an instant change in fortunes.
"Oh, the first audition I went on after I changed my name, I got booked. So that’s a pretty clear little snippet of how Hollywood works. I want to be clear because some of my Asian-American fans seem to think I did that [changed last names] because I didn’t want to known as Chinese, but it’s so the opposite. I just wanted to be known as me and let my personality define who I was, rather than my ethnicity."
You can catch Chloe Wang on Marvel's Agents of Shield, whose fifth season debuts later on this year. In the meantime, let's hope Ed Skrein's brave decision to step down from the Hellboy remake is the catalyst we need for improved diversity in the Hollywood casting landscape. But recently it seems that whitewashing has gone beyond casting and become an issue of identity. One activist has recently gone so far as to declare herself a members of an entirely different race from that of her birth.