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    Asian American celebs take on Hollywood whitewashing with viral T-shirt

    “Scarlett & Emma & Tilda & Matt.” Four names; one instantly recognizable message. What do these A-listers have in common? They’re all members of what some are calling the Hollywood whitewashing club, and the Asian American community is not having it.

    A T-shirt emblazoned with the names of “Ghost in the Shell” star Scarlett Johansson, “Aloha’s” Emma Stone,” “Doctor Strange’s” Tilda Swinton, and “The Great Wall’s” Matt Damon went viral over the weekend when a photo of it modeled by actress Michele Selene Ang, one of the stars of Netflix’s “13 Reasons Why,” blew up on Twitter.

    Ang first posted the pic to her Instagram account back in February, but the release of Paramount’s big-budget “Ghost in the Shell” adaptation prompted renewed social media interest months later as the conversation around representation in Hollywood returned to the spotlight.

    The whitewashing shirts were originally made by L.A.-based comedian and performer Will Choi for a comedy showcase for Asian performers he created in response to Johansson being cast as the Major, a character who is Asian in the original “Ghost in the Shell” manga and anime.

    The comedy show, co-hosted by "Gilmore Girls"' Keiko Agena at the Upright Citizens Brigade theater and dubbed “Scarlett Johansson Presents: Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month,” was so popular that the creators turned it into a series. New installments have been timed to the release of subsequent Hollywood blockbusters with whitewashing issues, including Marvel’s “Doctor Strange,” Universal’s “The Great Wall” and Paramount’s “Ghost in the Shell.”

    Will Choi, comedian and creator of "The Asian AF Show" and "Scarlett Johansson Presents" (Rebecca Aranda)
    Will Choi, comedian and creator of "The Asian AF Show" and "Scarlett Johansson Presents" (Rebecca Aranda)

    “The purpose of [the shirt] was to address the whitewashing issue in a comedic way,” Choi, who also runs the “Asian AF Show,” told the Times on Monday. Interest skyrocketed so much over the weekend that Choi has now made the shirt available online at $25, with proceeds going toward the cost of staging the “Asian AF Show” -- the first Asian American variety show hosted at UCB.

    His friendly advice to studio execs developing future projects that borrow from Asian or Asian American stories, settings, characters, and culture?

    “Hollywood just needs to try a little bit harder to include us in stories that take from Asian elements," he said. "You’re using our culture as set pieces or accessories, and that is unfortunate. I hope things will change.  

    “I’m not angry about it,” Choi added. “But this is a thing that’s happening and I’m going to call it out, because that’s what we have to do to be heard. To approach it in a way that’s fun and clever, I think, gets more traction than just being angry about it by going off on Twitter. This is a way to address it in a way that’s not just me yelling at someone. It’s more, ‘You think there are no Asian or Asian American stars out there? You’re wrong! We have so many at these shows.’

    “The hunger is there. People really want representation -- especially Asian Americans.”

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