Guest Post by Roger Tang
There's no doubt there's been a flood of whitewashing and yellowface on film, TV and stage recently. From a Tilda Swinton impersonating a Tibetan Ancient One to a theatre company performing The Mikado with all white casts, this inundation of cultural appropriation can be discouraging.
But don't let appearances fool you. The community can and does win victories against stereotyping. Slapping hashtags like @whitewashedOUT and #starringJohnCho on social media is only a beginning; activists are doing this and much more, making a definite difference against misrepresentation of Asians in the media.
Let's look at the stage. Everyone knows by now about the Seattle production of The Mikado by the Gilbert and Sullivan Society. An editorial by Seattle Times op-ed writer Sharon Chan kicked off this controversy, which saw daily picketing by grassroots protestors, pushback from the Gilbert and Sullivan Society, and a whole slew of feature articles and editorials, both pro- and against The Mikado.
What also happened, however, is that what followed was a forum involving the general Seattle theatre community. This forum discussed the balance of artistic expression versus responsibility to under-represented communities. Initial expectations were for a crowd of 30-50; instead, more than 300 people demanded to discuss the issue.