Jon Chu, an Asian American director, decided that he would not let Hollywood ‘whitewash’ the historic Thai cave rescue mission. One day after Pure Flix Entertainment, an independent Christian film and television studio, Chu announced that he would be working on a second original movie, thwarting the possibility of an inaccurate representation.
“I refuse to let Hollywood #whitewashout the Thai Cave rescue story,” Chu wrote in a tweet on July 11. “No way. Not on our watch. That won’t happened or we’ll give them hell. There’s a beautiful story abt human beings saving other human beings. So anyone thinking abt the story better approach it right and respectfully.”
Chu is best known for directing the movies Step Up 2, Step Up 3D, Now You See Me and the upcoming film, Crazy Rich Asians.
According to Kollaboration, a non-profit organization, annual talent showcase and grassroots movement to disrupt the status quo of mainstream media, the term ‘whitewashing’ can refer to an individual who (intentionally or unintentionally) casts off their cultural practices, background or both, in order to fit into the cultural norms. In the context of Chu, the term is used to call-out Hollywood’s malpractice of casting Caucasian actors and actresses as characters that are not intended to be ethnically white.
The most recent case of whitewashing in Hollywood is the 2017 movie Ghost in the Shell. It’s an American science fiction action film directed by Rupert Sander and based off the Japanese manga of the same name. Critics heavily criticized the film for casting Scarlett Johansson as a leading character named Major, who is supposed to be of Asian descent. Johansson found herself in another controversy last week, when the movie Rub and Tug cast her for the transgender role of Dante Tex Gill. However, on July 13, she chose to “respectfully withdraw” from the film.
“While I would have loved the opportunity to bring Dante’s story and transition to life, I understand why many feel he should be portrayed by a transgender person, and I am thankful that this casting debate, albeit controversial, has sparked a larger conversation about diversity and representation in film,” Johansson wrote in an exclusive statement given to Out, an LGBT fashion, entertainment and lifestyle magazine.
Other cases of whitewashing can be found in the movies Wanted, Aloha, The Last Airbender and Edge of Tomorrow.
Chu was not alone when he expressed his sentiment to create a second movie about the rescue mission. He garnered the support of the Ivanhoe Pictures, a motion picture and television financing and production company, as well as cooperation from the Thai Navy and government.
“Why did it take me 38 years to realize… we can fight back,” Chu tweeted on July 11.
There isn’t much information about the film just yet, since the boys and the coach were only saved last week. But Asian American actors, Henry Golding and Ken Jeong, and thousands of other Twitter users have showed their support for Chu’s decision through the platform as well.
“Get it @jonmchu, stories like these need to be told as true to source as possible. Asian voices need to be heard,” Golding tweeted.