#StarringJohnCho highlights Hollywood's 'whitewashing'

  • 10 May 2016
Image copyright William Yu

Why not John Cho?

That's what social media users are asking, after a 25-year-old digital strategist created the website and viral hashtag, #StarringJohnCho.

The site is a collection of popular movie posters that have replaced the lead actor with John Cho using Photoshop.

"#StarringJohnCho is a social movement that literally shows you what it would look like if today's Hollywood blockbusters cast an Asian-American actor - specifically, John Cho - as their leading man," according to the website.

Image copyright @starringJohnCho

William Yu created the website and Twitter handle as a reaction to Hollywood "whitewashing" several movie adaptations of books and comics that would originally feature Asian leads - criticism that Hollywood is all too familiar with.

In a leaked email to studio executives, about why he didn't cast an Asian American as the lead for the movie "Flash Boys" - based on a book with an Asian American lead character named Bradley Katuyama - Aaron Sorkin wrote "there aren't any Asian movie stars".

"I'm tired of hearing from people that they can't 'see' an Asian American actor playing the romantic lead or the hero, so I created #StarringJohnCho to literally show you," he said.

Reactions on social media have been favourable - many tweeting that they would actually see some of these films if John Cho was actually in them.

Image copyright @Adatrix
Image copyright William Yu
Image copyright @Bosslogic
Image copyright William Yu
Image copyright William Yu

"If your reaction is 'Oh this is funny and weird,' then you have to ask yourself why is that weird or funny? He should be a star in all these movies." says Phil Yu (no relation to William Yu), creator of the Angry Asian Man blog. He first came across the site when they began to follow him on Twitter last week. "I decided to help it along. It deserved to be shared."

But has actor John Cho commented on this social movement? The #StarringJohnCho website notes that actor is in no way affiliated with this movement.

"Not yet!" says Yu. But he says that Mr Cho has followed the Twitter account along with other notable Asian American actors such as Ellen Oh, Ki-Hong Lee and Margaret Cho. "As much as the campaign is about John Cho, #StarringJohnCho is also about the greater conversation of how Asian Americans are represented in film," says Yu. "But I would love to hear from him!"

Blog by: Shefali S. Kulkarni