By now, you’ve probably heard of Cameron Crowe’s latest film Aloha. You also may have been excited for the star-studded cast which includes Bradley Cooper, Rachel McAdams, Bill Murray and John Krasinski.
But we’re also going to bet that much of that excitement was replaced by confusion, apprehension, or even anger after finding out that the film, which takes place in Hawaii, barely has any actual Hawaiians and worst of all, has Emma Stone playing a woman named Allison Ng who is a quarter Hawaiian and a quarter Chinese.
Oh c’mon Crowe, did you honestly think this was a good call?
The public, especially the Asian and Polynesian community, made their outrage loud and clear. Just take a look at what they had to say:
“Emma Stone is many wonderful things. She’s an incredibly talented, Academy Award-nominated actress. She’s a Broadway star, and a very smart cookie. She is not, however, Asian American – a fact which didn’t stop director Cameron Crowe from casting her as a person of Chinese-Hawaiian-Swedish descent in Aloha.”
“The twisted logic in ‘Aloha’ almost seems to be that since there’s a wide berth in the ways a person of mixed Asian descent could look, it would be fine, then, for a white person to play one of them. Being that it’s so rare to see roles that reflect mixed-race parentage, it’s disappointing that a plum opportunity went to a white actress. Yes, even in a bad Cameron Crowe film.”
“It’s so typical for Asian or Pacific Islanders to be rendered invisible in stories that we’re supposed to be in, in places that we live,” Guy Aoki told The Huffington Post. “We’re 60 percent of the population [in Hawaii]. We’d like them to reflect reality.”
“In order to process this idea of Stone as a bi-racial character, as someone whose genetic lineage can be traced back to the Middle Kingdom by way of Polynesia, you must first get past the obvious stumbling blocks: her alabaster skin and strawberry blond hair, her emerald eyes and freckles-past the star’s outwardly unassailable#Caucasity-if only because the movie hammers home her cultural other-ness in just about every other scene.
If Ng’s Hawaiian pedigree is so crucial to the movie’s plot, why not simply cast an actress-Olivia Munn for instance-whose racial profile is within the genetic ballpark? Or, if the endgame was to hire a proven box-office draw like the Birdman and Amazing Spider-Man co-star, why not back-burner the issue of Ng’s race while focusing dialogue around her cultural heritage as a native Hawaiian?”
Media Action Network for Asian Americans (MANAA):
“Caucasians only make up 30 percent of the population [of Hawaii], but from watching this film, you’d think they made up 99 percent. This comes in a long line of films (‘The Descendants,’ ’50 First Dates,’ ‘Blue Crush,’ ‘Pearl Harbor’) that uses Hawaii for its exotic backdrop but goes out of its way to exclude the very people who live there,” MANAA founder and president Guy Aoki said in a press release. “It’s an insult to the diverse culture and fabric of Hawaii. [The native Hawaiians featured in the film] didn’t even have names. How can you educate your audience to the ‘rich history’ of Hawaii by using mostly white people and excluding the majority of the people who live there and who helped build that history – APIs?”
“They should’ve known that Aloha wouldn’t end well as soon as Emma Stone was cast as a woman named Allison Ng who is a quarter Hawaiian, a quarter Chinese and a quarter Swedish. The Swedish part must have eaten the Chinese and Hawaiian parts.”
“But I think the real problem, for me, is that I’m finding this super fucking boring instead of upsetting. The problem for me is I’m that used to it. Asian erasure is so normalized (and much worse, codified in patterns of professional advancement) that I can’t even get my blood up about the idiocy that allowed these castings: Emma Stone as Allison Ng, but also Josh Hartnett as anInuit sheriff, Jake Gyllenhaal as the Prince of Persia, Carey Mulligan as the “Latina” love interest in Drive, Scarlett Johannson as the Asian lead of Ghost in the Shell-all the while audiences happily flip their shit about, say, Cinna and Rue in the Hunger Games being black.”
“Then there is the way Hawaii and its indigenous people are used as an evocative, superficial backdrop for the troubles of white people. This is standard Hollywood procedure, but the conceit that Ms. Stone’s character, Capt. Allison Ng, is supposed to be a quarter Hawaiian doesn’t really help.”
“Crowe’s efforts to make Hawaiian culture part of this story are a bit convoluted and feel forced.”
“If you have a romantic comedy about the military in Hawaii … but a title that says ‘Aloha,’ I can only guess that they’ll bastardize the word,” said Walter Ritte, a Native Hawaiian activist on the island of Molokai. “They’re taking our sacred word … and they’re going to make a lot of money off of it.”
“The trailer is an example of “typical Hollywood,” where Hawaii is the verdant background for white fantasies,” said Ty Kawika Tengan, chair of the ethnic studies department at the University of Hawaii’s Manoa campus. “It’s been so appropriated in so many different ways – made into a commodity, made into a slogan,” he said of the word aloha. “It gets so divorced from important indigenous Hawaiian context. … It’s romanticized, literally, into a romantic comedy.”
“We’ve had a century of misrepresentation, of misunderstanding, of miscommunication of who we are,”State Film Commissioner Donne Dawson said of Hawaii’s role in the movies that dates to 1913. “We have fallen prey to the stereotypical ideas … that people have about Hawaii. It’s not based in truth and it’s not authentic.”
Does this mean everyone was insulted. Of course not. If fact, there were even some who stood up for the movie and claimed that the public was simply overreacting:
“Hawaii residents, including Native Hawaiians, worked behind and in front of the camera on the movie.” said Brenda Ching, executive director of the Hawaii local of the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists.
“If you look at what aloha means, how can it be bad no matter how it’s used?” said TV and radio personality Kimo Kahoano. “I think Hawaii is the best place in the world. And the reason is aloha.”
“This is just so stupid. It’s a movie, for heaven’s sake,” said Michael W. Perry of KSSK’s Perry & Price Show, Hawaii’s most popular radio morning talk show host. “Any time the vocal minority gets upset, and the media puts all five of them on the front page, you would think the entire state is up in arms and were not.”
“While some have been quick to judge a movie they haven’t seen and a script they haven’t read, the film Aloha respectfully showcases the spirit and culture of the Hawaiian people. Film-maker Cameron Crowe spent years researching this project and many months on location in Hawaii, cultivating relationships with leading local voices. He earned the trust of many Hawaiian community leaders, including Dennis ‘Bumpy’ Kanahele, who plays a key role in the film.”
“I read some of the stuff that’s been said and I just think, ‘I can’t wait for you to see the movie,’ because we certainly know the power of Aloha and what Aloha means, and you know, didn’t choose the title randomly.”
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Feature image courtesy of YouTube.