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Asian culture is still ignored by Hollywood — 9 stories that deserve movie or TV adaptations

Olivia is a New York City transplant from Berkeley, California, who loves movies and TV almost as much as her own family. She's in a committed relationship with Captain America and the Marvel Cinematic Universe and loves to write about p...

#1/10:

We need more Asian-American stories in Hollywood

FayesVision/WENN.com
#1/10:

We need more Asian-American stories in Hollywood

When Alan Yang and Aziz Ansari got up onto the stage to receive the Emmy for Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series for their show Master of None, it was not only a win for them but a win for Asian-Americans who have been waiting to see themselves represented on-screen. In a time when a majority of films and television shows still feature all-white casts, Master of None's Emmy win feels like a huge step forward. But before Hollywood could give itself a pat on the back for celebrating one Asian-American show, Yang reminded us that this Emmy was really only a small step in the right direction. "We have a long way to go. But I know we can get there. I believe in us. It's just gonna take a lot of hard work," Yang said after noting that the greatest example of Asian characters in pop culture history is Long Duk Dong from Sixteen Candles (well-known as one of the more racist depictions of Asians in Hollywood).

Yang's call for greater representation of Asians and Asian-Americans in Hollywood ring true for many. Despite the great strides made in television regarding Asian representation, Asians and Asian-Americans are oftentimes forgotten in the world of Hollywood film. Asians tend to be the forgotten minority in Hollywood, a result no doubt of many factors, including the model minority myth and the idea that Asians are somehow not American but foreign, unlike, for example, African-Americans. Racism against Asians, specifically in pop culture, is normalized by the whitewashing of Asian roles — like the casting of Scarlett Johansson in the Japanese anime adaptation of Ghost in the ShellNot to mention the fact that Asian actors are oftentimes relegated to stereotypical roles, like the Asian nerd or the foreigner or the terrorist. And yet we don't hear Asians being included in conversations about diversity in Hollywood — conversations like those surrounding #OscarsSoWhite, in which the fact that only a couple of Asian actors have been nominated for an Oscar in the past 20 years was completely ignored.

We need more Asians and more Asian-American stories to be told in Hollywood, and since many Asian-American stories are often swept under the rug or forgotten, here are a few true stories that would make perfect movie subjects.

#3/10:

Bhagat Singh Thind

#3/10:

Bhagat Singh Thind

Bhagat Singh Thind was an Indian Sikh who sued for the right to be a citizen under the Naturalization Act of 1906. In his 1923 case, United States v. Bhagat Singh Thind, he ended up essentially arguing that he should be considered a white man under the law. He lost the suit, and the U.S. continued to contend that only white or Caucasian people could be citizens of the country. Now that's a riveting drama if there ever was one.

#4/10:

Japanese internment

Buyenlarge/Getty Images
#4/10:

Japanese internment

After the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor in 1941, FDR passed the Executive Order 9066, which ordered that thousands of Japanese-Americans be rounded up and essentially arrested for fear that they might be Japanese sympathizers. Over 100,000 Japanese-Americans on the West Coast were forced to abandon their homes, jobs, possessions and savings and moved into internment camps. Most internment camps were barely habitable, with limited medical care and food — forget about jobs or even school for the children. There are hundreds of stories of Japanese-American families being broken down by Japanese internment, and yet it's rarely been the topic of a major motion picture. Occasionally stories about Japanese internment will appear on television shows (Hawaii Five-0Teen Wolf), but it's a relatively untouched subject, and that needs to change.

#5/10:

Yuri Kochiyama

#5/10:

Yuri Kochiyama

Put simply, Yuri Kochiyama was a badass civil rights leader. Kochiyama became an activist after her father died during Japanese internment, when she and her family were interned after the attacks on Pearl Harbor, along with thousands of other Japanese-Americans. As an activist, she led protests, worked with Malcolm X and lobbied for Japanese reparations. Kochiyama was not without her controversies, however, which would make her a great biopic subject. 

#6/10:

Arthur and Estelle Ishigo

#6/10:

Arthur and Estelle Ishigo

We all know Hollywood loves a good love story (really, who doesn't?), so what about a love story that just so happens to take place in a Japanese internment camp? Estelle Ishigo was a white artist married to Japanese-American Arthur Ishigo (at the time they were married, interracial marriages were illegal in California, where they lived) during internment, who decided to follow her husband to the camps despite the fact that leaving meant living the rest of their lives in poverty.

#7/10:

Chinese Exclusion Act

Albert Dressler/Wikimedia Commons
#7/10:

Chinese Exclusion Act

After the United States, particularly California, saw a surge in Chinese immigrants from the 1840s to the 1860s, the U.S. passed the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882. The most restrictive immigration policy at the time, the Chinese Exclusion Act served to make it close to impossible for Chinese immigrants to enter the U.S. by enacting immigration quotas and harsh standards, and made it illegal for Chinese immigrants to become citizens. 

From stories about Chinese workers who were discriminated against during the Gold Rush to Chinese immigrants desperate to enter the U.S., there are hundreds of stories related to the Chinese Exclusion Act that would make Hollywood gold.

#8/10:

Angel Island

#8/10:

Angel Island

The Chinese Exclusion Act led directly to the creation of Angel Island, California's version of Ellis Island, photographed here in 1935, where countless Asian immigrants underwent harsh questioning as to the reason for their coming to America as well as medical tests, all orchestrated in an effort to limit Asian immigration. The intense questioning, meant to weed out any immigrants not rejoining family or returning after entering the U.S. legally the first time, led to the creation of "paper sons" and "paper daughters." Paper sons and daughters were immigrants who paid U.S. citizens for the opportunity to use them as their "family." They had to memorize facts about their homes, their lives, etc., all to prove to the officers at Angel Island that they were really family and thus should be allowed to enter the U.S. Some made it through; others didn't. Either way, it's a great film subject that deserves a bit of exploration.

#9/10:

Vincent Chin

#9/10:

Vincent Chin

Vincent Chin was the victim of a hate crime in 1982, when he was murdered by two white men who beat him to death allegedly because they were angry about the Japanese auto industry's success in Detroit. Chin was Chinese-American and only 27 at the time. The two white men, Ronald Ebens and Michael Nitz, evaded prison and instead were convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to three years of probation each and ordered to pay a fine of $3,000. Chin's tragic death sparked protests and rallies across the U.S. and proved to be a devastating moment for Asian-Americans. It wouldn't make for a particularly uplifting movie, but then again, not every movie has a happy ending.

#10/10:

Michelle Kwan

Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images
#10/10:

Michelle Kwan

There's nothing more Hollywood than a sports movie, am I right? A biographical sports movie is even better. Michelle Kwan is one of the most decorated figure skaters in history. Competing on Team USA in the Olympics, she won medals in 1998 and 2002 and won five World Championships and nine U.S. Championships. She's arguably the best figure skater we've ever seen, and she just so happens to be Chinese-American. 

Michelle Kwan isn't the only Asian-American celebrity who deserves to have their story on the big screen. There's Vera Wang, George Takei, Justin Lin and countless other Asian-Americans who are living Hollywood movie-worthy lives. It's on Hollywood to see that Asian-Americans and their stories get the big screen attention they deserve.

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