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Ed Skrein leaves 'Hellboy' role after realizing his character was originally Asian

It's no secret that Asian people often get sidelined in Hollywood. Any time a white actor can be cast instead of an Asian, that's usually what the studio does. I mean, Tom freaking Cruise played the Last Samurai. And in the 2015 movie Aloha, white actress Emma Stone played Allison Ng, a tri-racial Asian pilot.

Asian people often end up drawing the short straw in the whole identity politics debate. For all intents and purposes, they get considered white, and in college admissions, they have to over-perform dramatically to have an equal chance of admission with white students.

makoto whitewashing ghost in the shell Scarlett Johansson Credit: Digital Spy

The live-action (and widely-panned) Death Note film, of course, was moved to America, with Light Yagami becoming Light Turner. And who can forget Scarlett Johansson playing a Japanese cyborg in the Ghost in the Shell movie? For that matter, why does Hollywood think a white Western version of animated fiction is a good idea? I just pray they don't come for Cowboy Bebop, or Neon Genesis Evangelion. Could you imagine the cringe?

So, latest person to be involved in the controversy of white and Asian film roles is Ed Skrein. The white actor played the villain Ajax in Deadpool, as well as Daario Naharis in Game of Thrones. Cast in the latest Hellboy film, he took the role of Ben Daimio, which is a Japanese name based on a Japanese character from the Hellboy comics.

Skrein posted a note on Twitter announcing his resignation from the film, after finding out that he was cast to play a Japanese character:

"I accepted the role unaware that the character in the original comics was of mixed Asian heritage. There has been intense conversation and understandable upset since that announcement, and I must do what I feel is right."

Skrein characterized his choice as a moral decision, to open the role to a Japanese actor. Of course, Asians lose film roles to white actors all the time. But Hollywood white-washing has a lot of other reasons behind it.

alt Credit: Buzzfeed

Hollywood is a corporate complex, and corporations aren't really the closest friend of diversity. Generally, audiences respond to the films that feature characters who look like them. Deeper than racism, it's simply the human brain relating more to people who resemble those the person grew up with and currently lives around.

For a film being marketed to a majority-white American audience, Hollywood, trying to make money, puts up majority-white actors. Yet, this logic is suspect, as the Chinese market is the biggest one in film today. The Chinese box office is where blockbusters are made - the US total is usually dwarfed by international profits for gigantic Blockbusters.

bellboy asian actor white controversy Credit: Moviehole

However, the Hellboy series in particular seems to appeal to the United States more than any other country. Perhaps that led to the casting choice? Skrein continued:

"It is my hope that one day these discussions will become less necessary and that we can help make equal representation in the Arts a reality. I am sad to leave Hellboy but if this decision brings us closer to that day, it is worth it. I hope it makes a difference."

What do you think? Is Skrein right for abandoning the role? Do you think it will now go to a Japanese actor who could use a big break?

  • Aug
  • 1.1K shares
  • Alexander Blum