Actress Constance Wu calls out racist whitewashing for Matt Damon’s ‘Great Wall’
If you’re a fan of “Fresh Off the Boat”—the hit ABC show that, despite the fact that we are living in the year 2016, is unique and groundbreaking because it happens to center on an Asian-American family—you may know Constance Wu as the mom character, Jessica Huang. What you should also know is that Wu is very much not feeling Hollywood’s white savior nonsense, erasure of people of color or indefensible racism. A couple of months ago, in an interview with Vulture, Wu basically took the entire film and television industry to task for the pathetic job it does with representation. Throughout the interview, she offers thoughts that are smart, insightful and totally on-point. Seriously, very worth a read.
More recently, Wu took to Twitter to discuss The Great Wall, a new movie that casts Matt Damon in the lead of a story that takes place during the Northern Song dynasty in China. It’s an absurd and insulting casting choice, and a stellar example of whitewashing. Wu pulled not a single punch in her takedown of the film and the thinking that allows it. It’s pure truth, and she is awesome for saying it.
The original tweet is below, and there’s a transcription beneath, formatted and edited for easy reading.
Can we all at least agree that hero-bias & "but it's really hard to finance" are no longer excuses for racism? TRY pic.twitter.com/mvNet5PrtH
— Constance Wu (@ConstanceWu) July 29, 2016
“We have to stop perpetuating the racist myth that only a white man can save the world. It’s not based in fact. Our heroes don’t look like Matt Damon. They look like Malala. Gandhi. Mandela. Your big sister when she stood up for you to those bullies that one time.
“Money is the lamest excuse in the history of being human. So is blaming the Chinese investors. (POC’s choices can be based on unconscious bias too.) Remember it’s not about blaming individuals, which will only lead to soothing their lame “b-but I had good intentions! but…money!” microaggressive excuses. Rather, it’s about pointing out the repeatedly implied racist notion that white people are superior to POC and that POC need salvation from our own color via white strength. When you consistently make movies like this, you ARE saying that. YOU ARE. Yes, YOU ARE. YES YOU ARE. Yes, dude, you fucking ARE. Whether you intend to or not.
“We don’t need salvation. We like our color and our culture and our own strengths and our own stories. (If we don’t, we should.) We don’t need you to save us from anything. And we’re rrrreally starting to get sick of you telling us, explicitly or implicitly, that we do.
“Think only a huge movie star can sell a movie? That has NEVER been a total guarantee. Why not TRY to be better? If white actors are forgiven for having a box office failure once in a while, why can’t a POC sometimes have one? And how COOL would it be if you were the movie that took the “risk” to make a POC as your hero, and you sold the shit out of it?! The whole community would be celebrating! If nothing else, you’d get some mad respect (which is WAY more valuable than money).
“So MAKE that choice. I know that overcoming your own bias and doing something differently takes balls… Well don’t you WANT balls? Look. I know there are lots of POC who honestly don’t care. Who think I’M being crazy. Well excuse me for caring about the images that little girls see, and what that implies to them about their limitations of possibilities.
“If you were a kid, you should care too. Because we WERE those kids. Why do you think it was so nice to see nerdy white kid have a girl fall in love with him? Because you WERE that nerdy white kid who felt unloved. And seeing pictures of it in Hollywood’s stories made it feel possible. That’s why it moved you, that’s why it was a great story. Hollywood is supposed to be about making great stories. So make them.”