Top-Grossing Films Rarely Have Asian And Pacific Islander Lead Actors : NPR

Few Asian and Pacific islanders are starring, with Dwayne Johnson being an exception, according to a new study. Joel C Ryan / Joel C Ryan / Invision / AP Hide caption

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Joel C Ryan / Joel C Ryan / Invision / AP

Few Asian and Pacific islanders are starring, with Dwayne Johnson being an exception, according to a new study.

Joel C Ryan / Joel C Ryan / Invision / AP

Not only is actor Dwayne Johnson saving the world that drives fast and furious, but he appears to be saving Hollywood from largely banning Asian and Pacific islanders from starring roles in films for the past twelve years, according to a new study.

“The Distribution and Representation of Asian and Pacific Islanders in 1,300 Popular Movies” is yet another account of the ubiquitous whiteness of the movie industry arriving in the middle of the Asian-American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month growing anti-Asian violence in the USA

As the title suggests, the study by Nancy Wang Yuen, Stacy L. Smith, and the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative analyzed 1,300 highest-grossing films to show the representation of API people on both sides of the camera and among company executives from 2007 to be followed up until 2019.

The authors say that what they found shows only 44 films – 3.4% – with an API lead or co-lead cast member, and only six films were directed or co-directed by an API woman. If you break it down further, the group’s work shows that of those 44 films, 14 starred Johnson. That’s a third of the movies with API people. In addition, almost 40% of the films reviewed had no API representation at all.

“People often ask me if the representation of Asian Americans and Pacific islanders is improving,” Yuen said. “Unfortunately, if representation looks like tokenism, Hollywood is doing what is necessary for inclusion.”

Yuen noted that in 2019, 30% of primary and secondary API characters were either the only ones in a movie or never interacted with any other API characters. “We need to see more than one API character on the screen that interacts with each other in a meaningful way,” she said.

Just over 7% of the US population identify as APIs, and yet the study, which was partially funded by Amazon Studios and the UTA Foundation, shows that they are almost non-existent in mainstream films. A closer look at the characters they represent reveals more daunting information. Over 41% of the API characters in the top 2019 films have experienced some degradation, including racist or sexist slurs. And 25% died by the end of the film.

“With the rise of anti-AAPI violence in the United States, the on-screen deaths of Asian and Pacific islanders are particularly worrying,” said Yuen, adding that the displays “can fuel anti-AAPI hatred.”

Only six of the 1,300 films analyzed showed an API girl as the leading or co-leading actress.

According to a poll, 42% in the US can't name a single prominent Asian American

The study follows a current survey This shows that nearly 80% of Asian Americans say they feel disrespected and are being discriminated against by their fellow Americans. In the larger pool of respondents, 42% of respondents said they couldn’t name a single prominent Asian American.

Research on film industry executives behind the scenes is also miserable, according to the report. Less than 4% of the 1,447 directors in the top 1,300 films were API.

“Forty-seven of these API director credits were held by men and three by women,” the study says.

That doesn’t include the director’s recent victory Chloe Zhaowho became the one this year most decorated filmmaker in a single awards season and the first Asian woman to win the Best Director Award for Nomadland Oscar. It also doesn’t include recent awards for actor Steven Yeun, who became the first Asian-American to receive a Best Actor nomination, and Yuh-Jung Youn who took home the trophy for Best Supporting Actress, making it only the second Asian actress to win an Oscar.

The report states that “not one API woman has been sole director of a live-action film in 1,300 of the highest-grossing films from 2007-2019”.

Smith, who co-led the study with Yuen, said, “Engaging the API community has been little more than lip service. Opening up behind the camera to the API community, and API women in particular, is critical to being more authentic to see humanized representations on the screen. ”

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