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Leukocentric Hollywood: Whitewashing, Alohagate and the dawn of Hollywood with Chinese characteristics

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Hollywood’s long-standing practice of leukocentrism is condemned as a false and outdated adherence to an aspect of commercial determinism whereby whitewashing a film is held to ensure its profitability, universality, popularity and social meaningfulness, especially when it involves Asian and Asian American characters. Criticism of this practice came to a head in what became known as ‘Alohagate’, which started with the miscasting of Emma Stone in Aloha (2015) and continued with Doctor Strange (2016), Birth of the Dragon (2016) and plans for the live action version of Disney’s animated Mulan (2020 forthcoming). Asian American filmmakers protested via their #WhiteWashedOut Twitter campaign and drew attention to the targeting of Asians for racist jokes at the 2016 Oscars. The Hollywood response is one of innocent ignorance, which only highlights rather than dispels the deep-rootedness of leukocentrism. These individuals are identified as hūpō haole, Hawaiian for ‘clueless Caucasian/foreigner’, who are granted an opportunity to become enlightened by abandoning their leukocentric bias.
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Keywords: Alohagate; Hollywood with Chinese characteristics; commercial determinism; double Asian pivot; hūpō haole; leukocentrism; whitewashing

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: The University of Hong Kong

Publication date: April 1, 2018

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  • Asian Cinema is a seminal journal, which has been published since 1995 by the Asian Cinema Studies Society under the stewardship of Professor John Lent. From 2012 Asian Cinema will be published by Intellect as part of our Film Studies journal portfolio. The journal currently publishes a variety of scholarly material - including research articles, interviews, book and film reviews and bibliographies - on all forms and aspects of Asian cinema. The journal's broad aim is to advance understanding and knowledge of the rich traditions of the various Asian cinemas, thereby making an invaluable contribution to the field of Film Studies in general.
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