Hollywood and The White Male Savior Complex

If you had asked me what I would think 2016 would be like a decade ago, I would’ve said that we’d having flying cars and maybe world peace.

Unfortunately, none of that is true, and we still have racism. 

Racism won’t ever be eliminated if we continue to disregard that it is a persisting problem in our nation. What’s been bothering me the most lately is the need for Hollywood to cast white actors in roles not meant for them. 

Broken Blossoms

In college, I watched a 1920s film called, Broken Blossoms aka The Yellow Man and the Girl. The movie was about racism and the bond between a Chinese man and an American woman.

Of course, back in the day people didn’t know any better and cast a white dude to play a Chinese man.

They taped his eyes, had him smoking opium and walking hunched over.

I wasn’t shocked that an old film about racism was in and of itself racist, but it was still hard to stomach. 


Whitewashing in Hollywood

Fast forward to 2016, and we have a new form of subtle and not so subtle racism in Hollywood films. 

-How come Emma Stone gets to play a mixed Asian-American when she isn’t one? 

-Why do Tilda Swinton and Scarlett Johansson get cast in roles that were for Asian characters? 

-Do we need Matt Damon to save China in the upcoming film, The Great Wall?

-Can’t Bruce Lee be the main character in his biopic?

-Why does Mulan need any white people in the movie at all?

Wake-Up Call

Asian-Americans aren’t going to stay silent to all the injustices brought upon them.

We aren’t here to continue to play problematic roles and be typecast as whatever backward perception of Asians you might have.

We are the heroes of our narrative, and we don’t need a white savior.

There’s no reason to make it seem like Asians are weak and need a white person to make everything better. 


I question why a movie about one of China’s national heroes can’t be made without casting a white guy. Mulan was a warrior who defied gender and traditional Chinese expectations to fight for her country.

A white man in the live action movie doesn’t need to swoop in and save the day.

The response of, “Well, the person playing Mulan will be a Chinese actress” doesn’t justify having a white male lead in the film.

The movie doesn’t need a white actor to overshadow Mulan and her achievements. Mulan is a legend, let her tell her story. 

Stop making Asians secondary characters in their narratives.

We don’t need a white savior, we never have and we never will. 


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