Asian Role: Jeff Ma
Non-Asian Performer: Jim Sturgess
Release Date: 2008
The problem of casting non-Asians in Asian roles has persisted to today; it just happens in more subtle ways. There is no more overt yellow face, but instead, roles that that were intended for Asian actors are simply recast. A name change here, a creative liberty there, and Asians don’t have to worry about being parodied; they only have to worry about being represented.
Take the movie 21 for example, which told the “true story” of an MIT blackjack team and their takedown of Las Vegas casinos. In real life, the majority of the team members were Asian in descent but somehow, in the transition from page to screen, Jeff Ma became Ben Campbell, who was played by white English actor Jim Sturgess. Ma defended the casting choice (he also served as a consultant for the film) but suffice to say, many Asian Americans were not pleased.