Being the Change: #StarringJohnCho
May 24, 2016
By Alexa Day
Why not John Cho?
William Yu took this question to Twitter a little while ago. If Hollywood knows that diversity sells, Yu says, why isn’t Hollywood trying harder to achieve that diversity? In fact, Hollywood seems to be running away from diversity with regard to Asian characters. Emma Stone made news when she was cast to play an Asian lead character in Aloha, and the news since then has not gotten better.
So what’s the problem? Yu points to a leaked email from Aaron Sorkin, in which the writer explains how hard it is to adapt stories with Asian leads for the screen because “there aren’t any Asian movie stars.”
Wow. Hard to believe that someone who works in the industry at that level was willing to go there, even in an email not intended for public consumption. That’s something else.
Yu responded to this by creating #StarringJohnCho, a Twitter campaign designed to help people better visualize Asian leading men by Photoshopping one onto a whole lot of movie posters for some popular films. We need no longer imagine an Asian leading man. We have — we have always had — an Asian leading man in John Cho.
(Better yet, we had an Asian leading man long before this: check out #StarringJamesShigeta. And we have an Asian leading lady today in #StarringConstanceWu. But I digress.)
It’s not just that John Cho is pretty to look at, although I will not now be heard to deny that he is just as hot as the day is long. John’s smart. He’s funny. He has an impressive range — he’s played a legendary stoner in the Harold and Kumar series and he’s the reason I started watching Sleepy Hollow. And while he seems fairly down to earth — not many people would respond to a Twitter movement like this as quietly as he has — he’s not afraid to say what needs saying.
Stop turning Asian roles white. It's bullshit and we all know it.— John Cho (@JohnTheCho) March 25, 2015
That was a little more than a year ago, long before #StarringJohnCho.
My point is that I’m not just interested in John Cho’s presence in these mocked-up movies. I’m interested to see what John Cho would bring to these roles as the incomparable actor that he is.
So why not John Cho? We’re not really waiting for Aaron Sorkin to get the memo, are we?