#StarringJohnCho Flips Hollywood Whitewashing With Photoshopped Movie Posters
The Twitter campaign invites you to imagine a world in which Asian-Americans are viable leading men, using actor John Cho.
In a world devoid of Asian-American movie stars, one brave Twitter campaign is proving that there is another way.
@StarringJohnCho has been tweeting film posters that have been expertly Photoshopped to feature beloved Asian-American actor John Cho as, for example, Captain America in The Avengers, James Bond in Spectre and the male lead, Sam Claflin, in the upcoming Emilia Clarke romance Me Before You. The campaign has gone viral during a span of time that has seen several signal boosts on Asian-American media representation, from the backlash to the Oscars' Asian jokes to recent prominent examples of Hollywood whitewashing.
New York-based digital strategist William Yu, the man behind the movement (which is not affiliated with Cho himself), tells The Hollywood Reporter that he started the #StarringJohnCho campaign to help Hollywood and others who might have a "perception issue" about visualizing Asian Americans in lead roles.
"The goal was to spark discussion and get people to question [themselves]," Yu says. "If you're laughing at John Cho as James Bond, why does that seem so outrageous?"
Picking Cho (who indicated his approval of the project via a heart emoji tweet to the StarringJohnCho account) as the face of the campaign was a "tactical choice" on two fronts, Yu says. "John — or Mr. Cho — has been critically praised, so as an actor he does carry that presence that a leading man needs. Then there's the argument that if Hollywood sees in green, how are you justifying casting John Cho as your leading actor?" Yu notes that in addition to serving as a core castmember for the blockbuster Star Trek franchise, Cho's Harold and Kumar trilogy (in which he and fellow Asian-American actor Kal Penn starred as the titular stoners) grossed more than $90 million against a combined $40 million budget.
Yu is considering his next steps for the movement, including using other actors or doing a female version with someone like Fresh Off the Boat's Constance Wu or Orange Is the New Black's Kimiko Glenn. In the meantime, he's been most encouraged by other people taking the concept and creating their own movie posters starring John Cho (a version depicting the actor in Jake Gyllenhaal's Southpaw role was a particular favorite).
Yu says that seeing Asian-Americans in lead roles has ramifications beyond entertainment. "If I don't see someone who looks like me being the leader, the captain, the person who is providing strength and courage to the people around them, it's hard to think, 'Oh, those are the traits that I can have, and that's the type of person I can embody,'" he says. "It's about how we perceive Asian-Americans in our society."